And by the perfect roast chicken, I mean the version of roast chicken that I can truss up with my eyes closed and consistently please a small gathering of people with a juicy, flavorful bird.
I’m sort of embarrassed that I don’t already have a go-to version. I think I’ve been overwhelmed by all the "best" ways. I've read that Thomas Keller likes to roast his on a bed of root vegetables. Alice Waters goes with olive oil and herbs. Edna Lewis uses only butter. So many more!
I will give a few variations a spin, but I based the following experiment on this Birmingham blogger’s recipe. Her goth pic helped sell me.
It might be hard for me to beat this one.
I also hope to find my groove in biscuit-making and pie crusts this year (earlier efforts have had my grandmother rolling in her grave).
As for last year, I’m extremely grateful. But it also has been one of the wildest years for me so far. I’m glad to move into the next phase, and this year I’m hoping to follow Leonard Cohen's advice about becoming the sea rather than letting it make me so seasick. I've definitely had a few green moments hanging over the rail.
But here are some things I loved learning about and writing down in journals last year. It’s not a “best of” list –- just a few things I liked thinking about.
-- Is it possible to "find" inspiration? Thomas Keller said it's just about staying aware, so that we can recognize the good ideas when they come. And then later I read this quote on one of my favorite blogs, Brain Pickings: "Inspiration is for amateurs -- the rest of us just show up and get to work." -Chuck Close
-- There's this:
-- “I cannot say this too strongly: Do not compare yourselves to others. Be true to who you are and continue to learn with all your might.” – Daisaku Ikeda
-- “Gotta have more 'want to' than 'don’t want to.'” - my friend Kevin’s dad
-- I also still love Cat Power:
-- “The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” – Dalai Lama
-- I can’t name my favorite meal of the year, but my favorite drink came from La Condesa in Austin (thanks to Lindsay Taub for turning me on to it). It’s the manliest tasting, sexiest cocktail I have ever tasted.
El Cubico = Whole leaf tobacco-infused cazadores reposado, vanilla infused brandy, lemon, grilled pineapple juice, mescal essence, volcanic-saffron-infused salt rim
-- "...it took me some years to discover what I was. Which was a writer. By which I mean not a 'good' writer or a 'bad' writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means." -Joan Didion (also from Brain Pickings)
-- “To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel
-- “Sometimes you need to just step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.” - anonymous
-- I went to Marfa, Texas this year.
So odd and sparse. I loved it.
-- I can see the draw for minimalist Donald Judd here, but I loved learning about John Chamberlain's art and hearing how he learned about the importance of selectivity, working quickly and trusting intuition from studying poetry in North Carolina.
-- I also loved the dust devils in West Texas. I had never seen these spontaneous mini-tornados, and I love how they just kick up in a swirl out of nowhere giving you something to look at on the horizon and making the wind real. I didn’t catch a dust devil on video, but I do have some of this West Texas eeriness. It's the Museum of Electronic Wonders and Latenight Grilled Cheese Parlour.
-- This annual trip to Mississippi never fails to guide me back toward the tracks:
-- Lastly, thanks to an Allison Glock essay in Southern Living, I loved learning that Dolly Parton wrote "I Will Always Love You" for Porter Wagoner. She turned down Elvis Presley’s request to record the song because he wanted half the rights. In an act of confidence, she trusted her instincts giving us a beautiful example of believing in self and going with the gut.