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Coffee in Ireland: The Travel Guide

It's been nearly two months since I came home from Ireland and I'm finally getting life together enough to start writing about it! This endeavor definitely deserves some caffeine so of course we're going to begin by throwing together an illustrated travel guide to to coffee along our route. 

Besides a clean bed to sleep in at night and a rolling suitcase, what could be more essential to comfortable travel than being properly caffeinated? Contrary to my life now, I can remember the first time I ever walked into a Starbucks - it was the first coffee shop I'd ever been to in my life (if you can call Starbucks a proper coffee shop). Growing up we had this arbitrary rule that you couldn't drink coffee until you were thirteen, and even then you could only drink coffee while on a camping trip. Now, of course, my coffee habit is so pronounced that the manager of my favorite coffeehouse asked me to paint the trashcans and I frequently have dinner with one of the baristas and his wife. In America we're used to seeing coffee-shops on every corner - if not a craft coffeehouse, a Starbucks. If not a Starbucks, a walk-up counter with takeaway coffee. Ireland was a bit less this way the farther we traveled from hubs like Dublin, Galway, and Belfast, but we still managed to find and enjoy a wealth of coffee shops as we made our way through the Republic of, and Northern Ireland.

I Have A Brioche Body: The Power Of Being A Bigger Girl

You know, I've been thinking: my body makes perfect sense in the context of my job as a pastry cook. It is in my job description to eat cake. I have wide hips and soft curves in all the right places (and a couple of the wrong ones). Were I thirty pounds lighter you'd call me “sculpted.” As it is, I appear to have been shaped beautifully out of dough and then left somewhere warm to rise; same lines, somewhat less distinct. Soft. Wholesome. Real. I'm not chubby, I'm proofing.

Mas Sal: How Salt is Changing The Way I Cook

“Get used to the way the salt falls from your hands; experience the illicit thrill of using so much of something we’ve all been taught to fear.” - Samin Nosrat, Fat, Salt, Acid, Heat
"Mas sal! Mas sal!" My chef gestures to the finely chopped potatoes I am seasoning - or trying to season. He's not Hispanic, and I'm not Hispanic, so by the time I've finally understood that he wants me to add more salt to the potatoes, he's reverted to English:
"You need more salt
"How much more salt?"
"A lot more."
I pick up perhaps a teaspoon of salt and sprinkle it into the potatoes then begin to mix it in with my fingers. "Sorry, I don't speak Spanish."
Chef rolls his eyes. "That's bullshit. Every line cook speaks Spanish."

Ottolenghi's Baked Mint Rice With Pomegranate And Olive Salsa

I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd written a new blog post until I logged into Blogger and saw the unpublished drafts, the posts waiting for good photos, all the aborted ideas that almost became content for the blog and just...well...didn't. "Use Wordpress," they say. "Blog posts write themselves on Wordpress," they say.

Mhmmm. Sure thing.

The Five-Second Rule and Lemon Tarts

Sometimes, as a creative exercise, I like to write about what I'm doing that very moment; where I am, the things I'm thinking about, what I see and hear and smell or hope for from that day. I  grab my battered, glucose-stained, weather-beaten recipe notebook and turn to a new page. I hope I have a pen - if not, I'll use a Sharpie. If not a Sharpie, there might be a broken pencil in the detritus at the bottom of my purse. If I'm honest, I'm nearly always thinking about food. Whether because of work, or reading, or hunger, some of these pieces end up being food-centric. And it struck me that I could share any of it here, if for no other reason than to invite you to celebrate the occasional greatness of perfectly ordinary weekdays. Also, I believe in the five-second rule when it comes to docks, grass, or clean pavement. Just saying.

the tart in question from Hummingbird Macarons, Norfolk, VA

// stream of consciousness. october 18, 2018 . norfolk, va //


Today is a pristine day. Every street corner feels like the edge of the explored world; a day of infinite possibility and promise. I perch on the sea wall, squinting across the blue glare of the Elizabeth River to where Portsmouth lies moored among her half-built ships.
A boy with pretty blue eyes gave me my coffee for free. I'm almost sure he mistook me for my sister, but it was still nice. To encourage the unexpected holiday theme I put the unspent coffee money toward a lemon meringue tart which I am now munching as I sit on a sea wall and listen to the boats and the flags and the waves clapping lazily against stone.
Take big gulps of air today: big as your lungs can handle. For once there is nothing there but salt and October and pine or so. It is clean air - clean as the taste of the lemon tart and just as bright. Isn't it almost indecent to sit by the river at 10 AM, eating clouds of meringue and sipping coffee - free coffee from the blue-eyed boy? It is Thursday: a workday. But here I am: tart, coffee, olive green coat, cerulean river, ships half-finished in the background.
Perfection (even the distinct perfection of a lemon tart in the sun on a Thursday morning) does not last forever; one strong gust of wind and everything is upended onto the dock below. All but the coffee which I didn't pay for, but saved anyway. There on the bleached green pier lies the tart - meringue-side down, crisp pastry sticking jaggedly up from the spill of lemon cream. It could be worse - the tart could have dropped into the water. So I jump down, coax the pieces back into the box, and join the tart down on the dock where it's warmer and drowsier, sheltered by the wall at my back. I don't see any seagull poop. Or fish guts. Besides, I paid $7 for that tart. I am definitely going to finish eating it, who cares about weird looks from passing joggers.
Two men and a curly brown dog pass in a boat. They are sorting crabs; the crabs are lifted one by one, comically spread-eagled in midair for a moment, then flicked into the proper bin. I crunch on shattered pieces of tart and watch. Meringue is on my fingers. I'd like the draw that dog...meringue is on my jacket. I wonder where they'll sell those crabs? Does the dog always ride on the boat? Can the fishermen swim well if their crabbing boat tips over in the middle of the Bay?...meringue is in my coat zipper and all over the dock and nobody brought napkins. Then the boat is gone and the tart is gone, and it's time for me to wander back uptown and stow myself away in the restaurant for the night. I get up creakily, fold the empty brown box, wipe meringue from the worn wood, climb back up the sea wall to the brick walk above. We're all a mess: my hands, my coffee which ran in rivulets up my sleeve as I walked, the dock, my jacket. But I've never met a happier solitude.