This weekend is the vernal, or spring, equinox. I know this because Rob forwarded me the latest newsletter from The Fermentation School, a very cool organization run by women fermentation experts. I have no idea how he ended up on their mailing list but their emails are delightful. The most recent dispatch reminds us that the equinox is when there are equal amounts of light in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. It’s a moment of transition between seasons, and, incidentally, a great time to take up a fermentation project. While Rob is our resident fermentation expert (he makes an excellent version of Sqirl’s Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce), I am definitely the expert on transition.
And I do feel the shift. Things are changing. (Not the news — that is still so catastrophically bad. So much to be sad and upset about.) But the bulbs that my dad planted last year have sprouted green stalks, friends are gathering without texting negative Covid tests, and we’re planned our first big plane trip for this summer. The kids feel the shift too, and with them it comes through in maniacal joy and giddiness.
It’s time to shed something, even if it’s just a few layers, and move forward. I’m ready and excited for a new phase.
Here are some of the things I’m jazzed about right now:
A book worth immediately rereading: My friend Becca recommended Cloud Cuckoo Land, describing it as “so good, I don’t want it to end.” I loved it just as much. It follows a handful of characters across time and geography (from Constantinople to outer space) and takes on themes like happiness, climate change, and passage of time. It’s also a love letter to physical books and took me back to my childhood trips to the library, enthralled with the possibility held in a card catalogue.
Sahadi’s forever: If you follow me, you’ll know that I am a Sahadi’s superfan — both Rob and I cried the first time we were able to return to in-store shopping after lockdown. It’s a true wonderland: bulk bins of nuts, dried fruits, and candies; all the olives, pickles, and briny things you could desire; wide-ranging pantry staples, from spices to tinned fish to dried beans. Becca (see above) recently sent me a huge Sahadi’s delivery as a thank-you. It included their cookbook, Flavors of the Sun, which is a celebration of all the ingredients that they sell. In addition to the vibrant recipes (Salmon Kebabs with Nigella; Layered Bulgar, Fennel, and Mint Salad), I love the sections on “ten more ways to use…” ingredients like feta, aleppo, or dukkah.
Briny birthday tradition: Whenever we visit my parents in Maine, we always sneak up to Portland for oysters at Eventide or Island Creek’s The Shop. We’re spoiled by how gorgeously fresh the oysters are, and rarely eat them outside of these trips. But last year Rob had the great idea to brighten up my pandemic birthday by ordering a hundred oysters from Maine Oyster Company. We invited a bunch of friends to the backyard, appointed a couple shucking captains, and ate our fill. It was so fun that we did it again this year (125 this time!) and will hopefully make it a tradition.
A cookie after my own heart: My friend Emily knows I love alternative flours and recently brought over a batch of Molasses and Buckwheat Chocolate-Chunk Cookies from Jesse Szewczyk’s Cookies: The New Classics. They were delicious and more sophisticated than your usual chocolate chip, with a ton of nuttiness from the buckwheat. Clearly, I picked up a copy of the book and am excited to cook my way through it. (If you’re looking for a more classic version, see here — and definitely swap in whole wheat or spelt flour.)
Retinols, better late than never: Despite working in the beauty world for many years, I somehow missed the memo on retinols. My skin was generally fine so I never felt the need to add them to my routine. Two kids and a global pandemic later, my 39-year-old skin is decidedly less youthful and more furrowed. So: retinols! I have two I like: Sunday Riley A+ Serum and Alastin’s Renewal Retinol. With both, I worked my way up from twice a week to every other night (I started with Sunday Riley, then switched to Alastin when I ran out), and have really noticed my skin is smoother and brighter. My forehead lines are clearly still there but it feels like someone has given me a freshness filter and I appreciate that.
Soups for in-between seasons: In absence of any new cooking inspiration (waiting on spring vegetables), Rob and I have been doubling down on healthy-ish soups that we can feed to the kids and freeze for later. In the last couple weeks, we’ve made Andy Baraghani‘s Chicken and Red Lentil with Jammy Onions and Hawa Hassan‘s Digaag Qumbe. Then, one recent weekday morning Rob decided to procrastinate emails by rolling dozens of tiny meatballs for Italian Wedding Soup.
Becoming a student again: I’m a big fan of George Saunders’ short stories and recently found out about his most recent book, A Swim in the Pond in the Rain. It’s essentially the distillation of the writing class he has taught at Syracuse for years, and walks you, page by page, through seven short stories by Russian literary greats. As someone who wishes they could go back and retake many of my college courses, I am delighted by the form and the novelty of being a student again. My friend Nam told me his Substack, Story Club, is just as wonderful so I just signed up for that as well.
Misc spring things: Heading into the new season, we’re stocking up on old faves: Primary leggings in a million colors for both kids (feel free to use MOLLIE20 code for 20% off first orders); Bubbsi Coconut Oil balm because it’s the only thing that helps with Finn’s ezcema and keratosis pilaris; and fresh sneaks from See Kai Run. I also just picked up The Case of the Curious Scouts. the hotly anticipated second book in Veronica Mang’s Secret Spy Society series, for Lilly, and I am the Subway, Kim Hyo-Eun’s gorgeously illustrated trip on the Seoul subway, for Finn.
Thank you for reading! See you in official spring.
P.S. Old editions live here, as soon as Rob updates my site.