“Franny and Zooey” Cheeseburger

by Cara Nicoletti on June 24, 2014

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When J.D. Salinger passed away in 2010, a media frenzy broke loose, rehashing every lurid detail of the intensely private Salinger’s life, and adding previously unknown biographical tidbits—none of them particularly flattering. It was during this time that I learned about his tumultuous relationships with young girls, his religious practices, his work habits, his sexual dysfunctions, his paranoias. I learned, too, about his eating habits, which included a strict, organic and macrobiotic diet. He avoided cooking any of his food, if possible, believing that “cooking food robs it of all of its natural nutrients,” and when he did cook it, he was very specific about his methods and his cooking oils. He avoided pasteurized dairy products, “refined foods like sugar and white flour—even whole wheat flour, honey, and maple syrup.” His famously spurned lover, Joyce Maynard, said in her memoir that for breakfast they would eat whole grain bread and frozen peas, and for dinner, “bread, steamed fiddlehead ferns, apple slices, and sometimes popcorn.” If they had meat, it was “barely cooked organic ground lamb.” Maynard also claims that after going out to eat pizza with his son, Salinger would make himself vomit in order to “rid is body of impure food.”

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A Coconut Cake for Emily Dickinson

by Cara Nicoletti on June 10, 2014

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This post has been a long time coming. I’ve baked and photographed and eaten this coconut cake three times with the intention of sharing the recipe here, but up until now, you have not seen it. The problem wasn’t that the cake or the photographs weren’t good enough, the problem was that I couldn’t decide which story to connect this cake to. There is coconut cake in Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, William Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, it even recently got a small mention in Ruth Reichl’s new novel, Delicious! I’ve been avoiding what I know is the best option—Emily Dickinson’s poem, “The Things that never can come back, are several”– which she wrote in scratchy but elegant handwriting on the back of a recipe for coconut cake. It is one of my favorite poems, but gut-wrenching enough that a giant, flamboyant coconut cake has never felt appropriate. This is hard when a giant, flamboyant coconut cake is what your heart craves, and nothing else—not even homeliest but most delicious coconut quickbread—will do.

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“Harriet The Spy” Tomato Sandwich

by Cara Nicoletti on May 22, 2014

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There are a handful of things that I do when I’m feeling really, really bad. I take a walk to the Brooklyn waterfront and climb the flimsy fence to sit on a rock and look at Manhattan across the water. I go to the farmers market to squeeze things, or the bookstore to smell things. I find the saddest plant in the hardware store and bring it home to my sunny kitchen to re-pot it, even though my windowsills are full. I make something my mom used to make me when I was a kid, like milky breakfast tea and cheese-toast, or I scrub my apartment until my knuckles hurt.
A lot of people (Beyonce included) like to say that all they want in life is to be happy, and that’s a good, honest desire, but just wanting it isn’t always enough. The thing that no one likes to say, is that sometimes you have to work at being happy.

When none of my usual happiness tricks work, I turn to the books I know best for comfort—the ones whose bindings are burst and pages are frayed. Often they’re serious, grown-up books—Slouching Towards Bethlehem or “The Fact of a Doorframe,” but the other day it was Harriet the Spy that pulled me out of my pity-hole.
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