Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I’ve written about my recent tradition of buying one or two Irish soda breads from Whole Foods every year. This year, however, WF changed their game, and at first I wasn’t sure I liked it. Having tried another soda bread, from Formaggio Kitchen, I think it’s still pretty tasty. (I am a huge fan of Alice, the baker at Formaggio–excellent granola.)

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Anyway, I finally made my own soda bread this year, something I’d been promising myself I’d do for some time. The recipe is from the Food52 blog. An easy-to-follow recipe with some excellent tips from the author and from the community, it turned out a very nice dough, and I think would have been perfect if I’d used the correct pan size and some lemon oil. The pan I used was too small, and I realized about halfway through baking that the center was going to take a lot longer than the edges.

The bread tastes great, and mostly has a decent texture and crumb, although it does not slice cleanly. As I suspected, it is a bit too gummy in the center, but if you toast it and butter it the problem disappears. So next time I’m making 2×8″ loaves instead of one.

I will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by running a half-marathon in New Bedford, Mass., and thinking about Moby-Dick and the soda bread I will devour afterward. Slainte!

Five Easy Places


Watertown, Massachusetts, has been my hometown for 25+ years. It’s not the kind of place where you would go for a night on the town, it’s a bit gritty and not uniformly scenic, but it’s also right on the banks of the Charles River and is home to the historic and beautiful Mount Auburn Cemetery, the final resting place of Buckminster Fuller, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But if I had to quickly say what I love about Watertown, I’d have to go with the food.

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Watertown has a large Armenian community, and also sizable Greek and Italian populations, which, combined with the local custom of independent retailers, makes for some delicious food choices. And one good thing about being a densely populated town, you don’t have far to go to enjoy a variety of cuisines.

To get you started, here are five reasons to spend an afternoon in Watertown: Iggy’s Bread of the World (Iggy is from Siberia), Sevan Bakery (Armenian and Middle Eastern), Fastachi (sublime roasted nuts and chocolates), Sofra (Turkey, Lebanon, and Greece), and Sophia’s Greek Pantry (Yogurt!). And even though Iggy’s is now in Cambridge, it all started in Watertown, so we can lay some claim there.

This short video features noted Boston chef Ana Sortun, talking about how her love of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices led to her celebrated restaurants, Oleana and Sofra.

You could make a nice walking tour of four of the five places I mention here. I had to include Iggy’s, which is a short drive away, because I am loyal to my first local love. Iggy’s breads are available in many supermarkets and grocers, but going to the source is worth a trip. For a quick bit of background, check out this short article I wrote for the food blog Eat With Me, A Short Love Letter: Iggy’s Pecan Raisin Rolls.

 


Sun and Shapes

At the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MassachusettsNov. 23, 2012
At the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
Nov. 23, 2012

Just started taking photos of interesting shapes illuminated by sunlight or artificial light. Really only practicing, capturing stuff I like. These three were taken on the same day in Salem, over Thanksgiving weekend.

PEM lobby #2
PEM lobby from another angle

 

 

 

PEM lobby #3
And yet another angle

 

 

 

 

 

I took this photo on Dec. 23, 2012, after a 7.25-mile run along the Charles. Fabulous run, topped off by a view I never tire of.

Cambridge Boat Club, Dec. 23, 2012
Early morning light on the CBC boathouse

What I Think about When I Think about Running

I’ve been listening to Haruki Murakami’s book, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running. Murakami is a far more serious runner than I am, logging 30 or more miles a week, compared with my average of, say, 15. He talks about the rhythms of running and how the discipline involved in running regularly mirrors the kind of discipline you need as a writer. He loves the simplicity and freedom of running, and the fascination of watching your body change shape as your running speed and style evolve. Today, as I ran in the 36th Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women, I thought about a few things myself.

Tufts 10K finish area
Should I try the kids’ race next year?

The Tufts 10K, a Boston institution, takes place every Columbus Day. The course runs through downtown, and loops over the Charles River. Thousands of women run/walk/wheel the USTAF-sanctioned course. Today, Joan Benoit Samuelson came in second in my age group, with a pace of 6:11/mile. Let’s just say I’m a tad slower.

So, what did I think about today?

Mile 1: Way too crowded. Lots of elbowing. I can’t get any speed going. Still, fun to be in the pack. Legs a bit tired. Sciatica. Quads.

Mile 2: Yep, I’m tired! Heart rate and pace decent but not up to what they were my last 10K—the Lone Gull in Gloucester. Running over the Mass Ave bridge is less intimidating than rowing under it. Sciatic pain goes away at about Mile 2.5. Yay. On to quads…

Mile 3: I’m warmed up now. Should be hitting my stride but not quite there. How can people actually be carrying on conversations at this point? About party dresses? Aieeee! The cut-through on the Mem Drive median strip looks very tempting. Did not do it! Did I have the optimal breakfast? Too long ago? Not long enough ago?

Mile 4: Am I really going to toss my cookies? Why did I have that beer last night? Will I ever write a book? A decent blog post? A good shopping list? More than one woman is wearing a tutu. Pink, as if there were another color.

Mile 5: OK. How is this woman, looking about my age, just sailing on past me like I’m standing still? Did she start at Mile 4? Trying to sprint a bit as I notice the heart rate going down. Little kids extending hands for high fives. Too zoned out to play.

Mile 6: Almost there! I am not going to break 1 hour. Recording of a girl-group singing “We Are the Champions”! Whoa…

Post race: Lost my bearings looking for the Park St. station. Why not walk around an extra half hour?

I guess what I have in common with Murakami is a real appreciation of running, and how it can build a structure, a foundation. When I run on my everyday solo runs, I solve problems without meaning to, remember things I said I’d do but haven’t, think of people I need to see or talk to, imagine what I’d like to do when I have time/money/opportunity. As Murakami said in his memoir, he doesn’t really think about anything in particular when he runs, but somehow the rhythm, the habit, and the love of it gives him something to put in his pocket for later. You don’t remember it, but you remember it.