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working without a recipe...

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The air is crisp today, much needed rain falls, turning the temperature a chilly 15-degrees cooler than we might otherwise expect…

Brian and I look at one another over breakfast and decide soup for dinner is the perfect thing. (not even done with one meal before we dream of the next…)

It’s the cusp of summer becoming fall, so we create a hybrid of one of our favorite fish stews… Halibut from the Pacific, local zucchini, garlic, and potatoes, with carrots, leek and tomatoes. Broth, wine, and fresh herbs. Simple.

I cook while Brian writes the story for the day (and Yoshi gives me a look of betrayal as I offer him raw zucchini).

I veer away from my usual prep, choosing to sauté in butter that our neighbor brings us from France (he’s a pilot and this is a regular route for him – when he saw the giddy joy we embarrassingly displayed the first time he surprised us with a small chunk of yellow gold, he now agrees to a regular trade…).

The swap from olive oil to a butter/oil combo makes a difference, and adding fresh garlic not only at the beginning, but later as well, deepens the flavors.

Freed from working with a recipe, smell and taste determine the next step. It’s one of the loveliest versions of this particular stew I’ve made.

This was not always my experience in the kitchen. It’s taken years of botched recipes, a few shocking successes, but more mundane versions to understand what and when, how and why… How the same dish radically changes when cooked in New York, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, and now Montana.

It’s a dance. Not only with what is fresh and local, affordable and in season – but with myself, and the grace of the learning process. It took time... effort, humor, doubt, fear, curiosity, and a willingness to be wrong more often than I wished. 

Dedicated time and authentic desire. 

I try to remember this whenever I cook or bake - failure is necessary, humility, and deep gratitude from all the hands of strangers that worked so hard to make each ingredient available.

The stew came together rather quickly, but really, it took me nineteen years…

always in motion, 


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  • Even though my inbox gets too inundated, I keep Flying Edna coming in. And I get rewarded, especially today when I read your story. The set up is effective, the last few lines sublime. Thank you for reminding me that although my life looks like a lot of starts and stops, it is all coming together nicely. Bless you.

    Brenda Newberry on
  • Fia. Simple. Lovely.

    Thomas on

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