Nan was what some call “a good soul.” Conversations with Nan were like an interview with Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised on Mars by Martians who came to Earth and changed the course of humanity: Nan grokked. She always listened intently to her partner in conversation and seemed to understand immediately and intuitively the other person’s point of view. The term “grok” and the character Smith come from Robert A. Heinlein’s 1961 work Stranger in a Strange Land, a novel I read in that decade and never forgot. In the 1980’s, Nan and I became friends when we both … Continue reading Nan

Passing of Memory’s People

My readers will know how often I have mentioned the impact of my third college year in the Toscana region of Italy, principally in Siena and Firenze. Most pieces drew on my acquaintance with the Vivante family at Villa Solaia near Siena or my Florentine host family, the Chellinis. I rarely mentioned a regular guest at the Chellini’s Sunday dinners, Gustavo’s son Roberto. Then in his mid-twenties and as yet not married, he shared his passion for good food, wine, and cigars whenever he could dominate the table talk. We American ‘paying guests’ enjoyed his conversation and argued with him … Continue reading Passing of Memory’s People

Fragrant Things

Mise en place—this French phrase describes the first step a mindful chef or cook takes in preparing a meal. Many cookbooks instruct those who follow their recipes at home to do so. When preparing ingredients based on taste, experience, or the tyranny of a recipe, a cook will sort, wash, chop, dice, mince, julienne, measure, sift, or melt each item for the intended dish. She also will ensure that all pots, pans, cutting boards, knives, stirrers, sorters, and smashers are in place before preparation begins. My go-to mise en place for nearly every hot dish I cook (yes, even pancakes) … Continue reading Fragrant Things