the seriously soft food diet

Well, this has been a depressing month. Back at the end of October I was sentenced to gum graft surgery, something which I had never heard of before and hope to never experience again. The surgery itself went fine, and apart from the general unpleasantness of having stitches all over my mouth, weird putty bandages on my palate and one particularly nasty evening of uncontrolled bleeding from the graft donor site after said bandages came off, my recovery went well. Things went south when I was laid off from my day job, which admittedly was a mixed blessing, since the job was one of those things that seemed perfect for me on paper but was turning into a sort of living hell, then things got even more thrilling when I turned out to be allergic to the antibiotics I was taking. Through all of this, I was completely unable to eat solid food or drink any quantity of alcohol. Here’s what my diet looked like for those first couple of weeks (I know these pictures are hideous, but this kind of food doesn’t deserve good photography):20151030_121645

Day one. Post-op instructions, lots of painkillers, a completely numb face, and a banana smoothie with protein powder. I ate a lot of bananas, particularly since I couldn’t have any sort of acidic fruit or anything with little seeds. Continue reading

what’s going on here, anyway?


I know it’s been a little quiet around here. I’ve been trying to decide what this blog is really for. After over five years of writing Food on the Brain, I’ve figured out that I’m not cut out to be a professional blogger. I went to a food blogger conference a few years ago where they convinced me I needed to own a privately hosted website and monetize it, but I’ve finally realized that – for me, at least – they were wrong. I don’t want to run flashy ads, or instruct people on how to make lasagna with careful step-by-step photographs and clever SEO that draws the whole lasagna-recipe-seeking internet to my door. I might write about a particularly delicious lasagna that we had for dinner, but that doesn’t mean that was the only way to make one. I don’t need to be the go-to site for lasagna. Or anything else.

I’m fascinated by the world of food, but I don’t consider myself to be an expert in anything. My original intent was to share great eating experiences, write down some of my more successful cooking projects so I’d remember what I’d done, and generally have a record of my life in food. Unfortunately I’ve allowed myself to be intimidated by the way other bloggers set themselves up as authorities and start informing people what condiments they need to use and the final word in chocolate chip cookie recipes. I personally don’t think that there’s any right answer to what any one person should like best. I just want to share the journey of discovery.

What I would like is to reclaim this space for myself. I’ve been using facebook for off-the-cuff updates instead of putting them here, which is ridiculous. If no-one comments, that’s fine – honestly, I’m used to it – but I don’t want that to stop me from writing what I want. I do write actual cooking articles and restaurant reviews and farmer profiles, and you can see all of my professional work through my other website, but that’s not what this site is for. Let’s see where it goes.

happy thanksgiving

May your Thanksgiving be warm and cozy! We did our turkey dinner last weekend, so tonight is a little different to keep things interesting: pork roast, spinach gratin, mashed potatoes, and pear-pecorino ice cream. What’s on your table tonight?


As you know, we lost our sweet cat Griffin a couple of months ago. He was almost more of a dog than a cat, following me around the house and keeping an eye on me at all times. When he died he left a huge hole that our other two cats, wonderful though they are, couldn’t quite fill for me. So we went looking for a dog.


This is Gracie. She’s a two-year-old (ish) lab mix, sweet-tempered but also very fit and bouncy. She was abandoned and picked up by Animal Control, and we got her from the local Humane Society shelter nearly two weeks ago. It’s been a busy, exhausting and rather expensive time, but I think we’re all beginning to settle in.

from a safe distance

The cats are still suspicious, but Stella has been making frequent forays to investigate the intruder. As of this writing, Mickey has set up his own bachelor apartment in the basement and seems uninclined to leave – hopefully he’ll get bored soon and come out to meet the dog.

tired Gracie

why are we stopping?

Fortunately for all of us, Gracie is a good dog. She loves couches, and car rides, and treats, and long walks in the woods. Many, many long walks.

a good shake

We also just discovered that she likes muddy lakes. A lot.

belly rub!

And belly rubs. Don’t forget the belly rubs.

not an abused dog

I think we can make a good life for this dog.

a quick note


Things are a little frantic around here as we’re bringing home our new adopted dog this evening. Yes, the cats will be horrified. They’ll get over it (we hope). In the meantime, here’s a nice plate of summer: grilled grass-fed angus ribeye, grilled corn, and a warm potato salad with lots of parsley. What’s everyone eating in this hot weather I hear everyone’s getting except us?

back from the void…


You’ve probably been wondering where I’ve been…actually, I haven’t gone anywhere, but this website sort of drifted off into the void thanks to a Dreamhost web server swap gone pear-shaped. Thankfully I was able to keep in touch with some of you over on the Facebook page and Twitter (thank goodness for social media) and let folks know what was going on. Now we seem to be back! Things are still working a bit slow but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to pick up where we left off.

Speaking of which, what’s everyone been eating lately?

my Griffin


There’s an empty space in our household where Griffin used to be.

baby Griffin

When we got him his eyes were still blue, and squinty and watery with conjunctivitis. His fur was a mess and he still had tar stuck between his toes despite multiple baths – he had been found stuck in fresh tar on a hot day, presumably abandoned by his family. He grew up to be a beautiful orange lion of a cat, with coppery ears and huge fuzzy white feet.

dignity (or not)

He answered to Griffin, Griffley-Whiffley-Woopsie-Poo, Bunny, Puppy-Cat, and frequently Doofus. When I spoke to him he always spoke back, usually just a soft quack to acknowledge me. He gave long, surprisingly musical nighttime arias at the base of the stairs ten minutes after we had gone to bed. He carried his toys around the house, squawking loudly at the same time (we could always tell from his tone of voice whether he had a stuffed animal in his mouth). He assigned himself jobs: every morning he led the way to the closet and supervised our showers, and every evening he sat on the kitchen stool and watched us make dinner. Usually watching was all he did, but if the butter dish was left anywhere on the kitchen island he would always go for it (prompting my husband to dub him the Butter Cat). When I came home from work he always came running to the door to greet me. He was a happy cat and held his tail high, like a fuzzy banner.

Griffin in his box

He never seemed to quite realize how big his butt was. We kept an Ikea silverware box on a shelf just for him to sleep in, even though he always stuck out around the edges. He also had to be retrieved from guitar and bouzouki cases on several occasions.

talk to the paw

He was not a particularly well-behaved cat. He often got on the table when he thought we weren’t looking, and he liked to scratch our most expensive rug. He loved to eat flowers, and frequently knocked over vases of lilies in the middle of the night. But he was always sweet-tempered and never held a grudge, even when we had to scrub his chin daily with acne medication or were stuffing pills down his throat.

what now?

He didn’t like to be held, but he always wanted to be near. We set up perches for him near the dining table so he could keep an eye on us. He slept on the bed, but always at the far corner, right by the fan. He preferred to be cold, and often acted as a draft stopper in doorways, or sought out cool tile to lay on instead of pillows. But he adored nesting in blankets, or a pile of my scarves, and would spend a great deal of time kneading them into a proper Griffin-shaped configuration. Wherever I went in the house, he was nearby, watching.

window cat

Even with two cats still here, the house is very quiet. Nothing will be the same without my Griffin.


ups and downs


On the plus side, the weather was very mild for us this Christmas. It snowed a little, not amounting to much, and the roads melted clear before we had to leave. The sun even made a few appearances. I read the entire Dark is Rising sequence, sitting near a roaring woodstove with a cat nearby. We had some great food – my father and I made fresh pasta for lasagna, there was salumi and good cheese, fresh grapefruit and satsumas, and piles and piles of Frangos. For Christmas dinner I made sweet bao dough and a pork-bean sprout filling, and my father made a cucumber salad with fresh ginger and the ma la oil we made for him.


On the not-so-plus side, my husband and I both came down with bad colds, so I couldn’t go visit my grandfather, and on Christmas day a family member became very ill and needed to go to the ER. That evening was spent cooking the hum bao we had started earlier in the day, keeping the woodstove going, and waiting anxiously for the phone to ring. I don’t really recommend it. The best thing about it was that hum bao and cucumber salad are both really ideal when you have to reheat food at midnight for people who have been sitting in a hospital for five or six hours.

boxing day

We’re really hoping next year is an improvement on this one.


winter branchesChristmas snow

Christmas day walk

happy holidays!

Christmas ornamentwith glasses off

Merry Christmas, happy Channukah and/or midwinter festival to everyone! We’ll be celebrating with family, and there will be stollen, pecan pie, lasagna and salumi, among other things. What are you cooking this holiday weekend?



Everyone’s favorite question for the past week has been “Are you ready for Thanksgiving?” and my answer has been a resounding NO. The weather’s been nasty, our old snow tires turned out to be worn out and needed to be replaced, the basement drain clogged and had to be snaked out, there was an art show to put up and take down, and I have homework to do, and it’s frankly been a little difficult to think about Thanksgiving in any serious way. But I did thaw a large chicken, and I plan to stuff bay leaves under the skin and pretend it’s a very small turkey. We have lots of wine. Everything else will get figured out.

afternoon sun