Food Friday: Winter Root Vegetables

It has been a very odd winter. When I first planned this column I had imagined that we would still be digging cars out from snow drifts and warming our hands on big frothing mugs of tasty hot chocolate. Instead, we have taken off the wool sweaters, stashed the turtle necks, and opened up the windows to some delightful spring-like weather. And now I have to spend the weekend washing windows, because the short bit of winter we did have has covered them with a lot of schmutz and dust.

Part of my vision for this week was going to be a lively little rummage through our vegetable bins, pulling out all the winter-y root vegetables I could find for some quick and easy roasted vegetable dishes, or some lively stir fries. Instead, I think we need to pursue the more topical discussion: Gins and Tonic vs. Vodkas and Tonic. Who needs a hot toddy during this last week of February? Bring out the tall glasses, the limes, and lots of ice from the freezer, and let’s meet on the back porch for sunset cocktails!

Still, there is the pesky matter of dinner. We can’t let those cocktails go to our heads. We can still have crunchy salads, roasted veggies and a stir fry feast.

I love the way Bon Appétit has complete confidence in our mandoline slicing skills. And I just love these croutons – much healthier than my usual recipe which calls for frying the bread in bacon fat. This is just a beautiful salad, especially with the addition of jewel-like pomegranate seeds.

Crunchy Winter-Vegetable Salad

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
½ garlic clove, finely grated
4 cups ½–¾-inch pieces country-style bread
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Dressing and Assembly
½ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ garlic clove, grated
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 head of Treviso or Chioggia radicchio, leaves coarsely torn
1 large head fennel, very thinly sliced
2 medium golden or red beets, very thinly sliced
8 small white turnips, trimmed, very thinly sliced
8 cups torn lettuce leaves (such as red oak or Little Gem)
½ cup pomegranate seeds

•Preheat oven to 350°. Mix oil, butter, thyme, and garlic in a small bowl. Scatter bread on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle oil mixture over. Toss, squeezing oil mixture into bread; season with salt and pepper.
•Bake, tossing occasionally, until croutons are golden brown and crisp, 20–22 minutes. Let cool.
•Do Ahead: Croutons can be made up to 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
Dressing and Assembly
•Shake oil, vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a jar to combine. Add 2 tsp. tarragon; season dressing with salt and pepper.
•Toss radicchio, fennel, beets, turnips, and lettuce in a large bowl to combine. Drizzle dressing over and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper.
•Toss in croutons and pomegranate seeds and serve topped with more tarragon.

For a heartier appetite – especially for those who have been compelled to do spring cleaning a month ahead of time – this is a substantial, hearty meal of roasted chunks o’root vegetables:

And if you want to add some sizzle to your meal, our household god, Mark Bittman, has a tempting recipe for stir fry root vegetables: Be careful with the box grater, though. I have a few raw knuckles from being too enthused about this dish.

It looks like the next week is going to continue to be warm during the day, and cooler at night. I hope I am not being premature in starting some of our seeds. In addition to washing windows this weekend we are finally going to built a raised garden bed. I started some seeds yesterday in peat containers: coleus, nasturtium, basil, lettuce and some pole beans. In a few months I will be looking for a lot of basil recipes – I found four seed packets for basil in my little stash…

Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen!

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
–Albert Einstein

Profiles of Our Community’s YMCA: Shania Gregory

Over the course of the next twelve months, the Spy will be presenting several profiles of individuals who make up the YMCA family on the Mid-Shore. Almost since the Spy started in 2009, we have been exceptionally impressed by the unique success story of the YMCA of the Chesapeake and its leadership, programming, and sense of civic responsibility. From chess classes near Chincoteague to rumba instruction in Cambridge, diabetes prevention in Denton, yoga in Centreville, swimming in Elkton, senior fitness in St. Michaels or even pickleball in Easton, the Y stands alone in the scope and scale of their work.

We decided to start our series with one of the more moving examples of how this regional resource has changed lives with the story of Shania Gregory. Growing up in Easton with her three brothers and a single mom with multiple jobs, Shania’s family had limited recreational options until her mother, determined to give her children a safe place to play, reached out the YMCA and found an organization eager to help make that happen regardless of costs.

So it was particularly exciting to note Shania returned to her beloved YMCA as part of the staff and more recently she was named as the Y’s membership director whose primary responsibility is to encourage families, like her own years ago, to become involved and stay active.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the YMCA of the Chesapeake please go here

A Special Wall Comes to the Mid-Shore​ with Kenley Timms and Royce Ball​

While the Eastern Shore is only about one hour and 30 minutes from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., it is a fair statement to say that most of the veterans of the Vietnam War have not taken that journey to see the highly revered Vietnam War Memorial Wall dedicated to those who lost their lives in that conflict.

There are many reasons for that. One is perhaps the simple aversion to traffic or travel costs, but for other vets and families, it is their emotional trepidation of reconnecting with their past in unfamiliar surroundings that prevent them from visiting this remarkable masterpiece of remembrance and honor.

Volunteers Kenley Timms and Royce Ball wanted to make it easier for those local vets to connect with the wall and their memories after hearing about The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall project. They immediately joined forces to bring a near replica of the Wall to Easton later this year.

Kenley, a Vietnam war veteran, and Royce, co-founder of Mid-Shore Recovering Veterans Group, are working with several veteran groups to install the traveling exhibition on the VFW grounds from May 31 to June 6, 2018. The Spy caught up with both of them at Bullitt House last month to talk about their plans.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For those interested in supporting the project, volunteering, or participating in the reading of the fallen, please contact Kenley Timms at, Royce Ball at or their Facebook page here




The Playroom by George Merrill

My mind is slowing down. It’s retaining data more selectively. The missions I assign to my mind take longer to complete than before. The whereabouts of a misplaced pen, the glasses I just put down, determining why I went from the den to the living room; although irritating, fortunately these quirks are not crippling. Negotiating life’s basic tasks just takes a little longer, that’s all. And then, of course, living life is all about our use of time, anyway.

As my thought processes slow down, I’ve grown more interested in just how my mind performs for me, in the way we pay greater heed to our dwindling resources than we did before when they were plentiful.

As I was searching my mind for ideas the other day, I drew blanks. This happens regularly. The process always leads me to wonder about the creative process itself and how it works. I think people associate creativity with the arts or sciences but I believe the phenomenon is universal – a part of our humanity – and it appears in varying degrees in all of us. The laborer is creative, as is the salesmen, the politician, the artist, the clergyman and of course, writers. Then there’s the stay-at-home mom whose capacity for creativity is tested every minute. With a house full of kids, all of whom require strategic interventions of one kind or another, mom’s creativity is stretched to the max. Children, however, have the greatest capacity for creativity. They are the least likely of any of us to place constraints on their imagination. Kids love to just let it rip.

Of all our spiritual attributes, creativity is the most arbitrary. It doesn’t do well when forced.

My potentially creative imagination invariably bombs if I go at it full bore and try to squeeze it for some immediate project. In my experience creativity is activated the way seeds grow. First you plant them, let them be for a while, until you see something emerge. The fruits of creativity arise from imagination and surface only at their own pace.

Take creativity as it’s demonstrated in the biblical book of Genesis; the creation narrative proceeds ex-nihilo; it comes from out of nowhere, from nothing. God seems matter of fact about his momentous achievements of creating a universe but most of us would greet such special creative moments with ecstatic expressions like, ‘Eureka,’ or ‘Hot damn.’

In 1950, the legendary science-fiction writer and author of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, wrote “The Veldt.” In it he describes a playroom “with television monitors lining each wall and the ceiling. Walking into such an environment, a child could shout: River Nile! Sphinx! Pyramids! And they would appear, surrounding him, in full color, full sound and why not? Glorious warm scents and smells and odors . . . All this came to me in a few seconds.”

Whimsical? Kid’s stuff? Absolutely. He’d had that vision in his mind’s eye since he was a small child. As an adult, it all came back to him in a flash, “in a few seconds.”

Augmented reality has long sounded like a wild futuristic concept. I read recently in the New York Times that Augmented Reality is here to stay and The Times is offering it on line. AR is all about superimposing computer-generated images on top of our view of reality, thus creating a composite view that augments the real world. In effect, excepting for smells, this describes Bradbury’s playroom to a T. And I bet smells will soon be on the way.

This is one among many instances of our mind’s capacity for the kind of imagining that reaches well beyond exigencies of time and place to see into a reality that has not reached its moment in history. In Bradbury’s case I would say his Playroom vision was a byproduct of wonder. Our minds have an insatiable appetite for awe and wonder. They feed on it.

There are people whose imaginations have the capacity for a special kind of creativity. They are able cut through the illusions which imprison us and see clearly into the future. They, too have visions of wonder, but their kind is more about hope. There are three biblical prophets I immediately think of who shared a similar vision pertaining to the future of the Jewish people. I read it also as a vision of our destiny as a human family. The prophetic proclamations are introduced with the phrase: “In the last days” meaning these proclamations are to come about at a future time. It is a vision of the way the human family will ultimately live together, but only after time.

Especially today, in the climate of war mongering and national arrogance, this prophetic chapter from Isaiah I find simply stunning.

“And many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Similar visions appear written in the prophetic books of Joel and Micah, as if the idea captured the minds of the ancient world which was as contentious and war-torn as ours is today.

The bronze sculpture “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares,” created by Soviet artist Evgeny Vuchetich, was presented to the United Nations on December 4th 1959 by the Government of the USSR. The sculpture, depicting the figure of a man holding a hammer aloft in one hand and a sword in the other. It’s an inspiring work of art.

This remarkable vision of hope still lives in our human consciousness after first appearing around 800BC. That’s a long time ago.

Do you suppose as Bradbury once imagined his ‘Playroom’ as a young boy, and saw it realized as an adult, and that Isiah’s vision, conceived early in the life of the human family will be realized “in the last days? “The vision is now indelibly planted in human consciousness. Generation after generation the vision keeps reappearing. It may not be realized yet, but neither after all this time has it gone away.

I believe it will have its day when the right time is here.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Presidential Foods

President’s Day is giving some of us a nice three-day weekend. Another day to linger over the papers, to make breakfast and enjoy ruminating about having a little unusual leisure time. And if you have young ‘uns at home, you can have an educational moment and make some of George Washington’s favorite Hoe Cakes for breakfast. Isn’t it nice to know that he didn’t subsist on that mythical cherry pie?

Hoe Cakes were cooked like pancakes on the back of a garden hoe, or on a griddle. Use whatever you have at hand.

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups white cornmeal, divided
3 to 4 cups lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Melted butter for drizzling and serving
Honey or maple syrup for serving

Mix the yeast and 1 1/4 cups of the cornmeal in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the lukewarm water, stirring to combine thoroughly. Mix in 1/2 cup more of the water, if needed, to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200°F.

When ready to finish the hoecakes, begin by adding 1/2 to 1 cup of the remaining water to the batter. Stir in the salt and the egg, blending thoroughly.

Gradually add the remaining 1 1/4 cups of cornmeal, alternating with enough additional lukewarm water to make a mixture that is the consistency of waffle batter. Cover with a towel, and set aside at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat a griddle on medium-high heat, and lightly grease it with lard or vegetable shortening. Preparing 1 hoecake at a time, drop a scant 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle and cook on one side for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. With a spatula, turn the hoecake over and continue cooking another 4 to 5 minutes, until browned.

Place the hoecake on a platter, and set it in the oven to keep warm while making the rest of the batch. Drizzle each batch with melted butter.

Serve the hoecakes warm, drizzled with melted butter and honey or maple syrup.

As long as you are entertaining President Washington for breakfast, you should invite President Lincoln to come along, too, since one of his favorite foods was bacon. I can’t imagine a tastier companion to hoe cakes than a few sizzling rashers of bacon.

We’ll ask President Jefferson to bring a covered dish of mac and cheese to the cookout we are going to have later this afternoon. He made macaroni and cheese a popular dish, but he also championed Champagne. Also coming with his own Crock Pot is President Obama, who is bringing his world famous chili.

President Franklin Roosevelt, who once served hot dogs to the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when they toured the United States, has offered to be grill master.

President Theodore Roosevelt is ready to shuck a couple of bushels of oysters. President Van Buren is getting ready to help; he’s making a pile of ice chips.

President Lyndon Johnson is going to flip the steaks, since he had the first White House cookout and knows the ropes. They are a presidential favorite; also eager for a steak are Presidents Grant, Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan:

Dessert is going to be easy. Ice cream for everyone. Thank you, President Washington who spent an extraordinary $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790 ( President Jefferson built an ice house on the White House grounds to be sure he had easy access to ice cream all year long. We should also thank Dolley Madison, who was married to the fourth president. She had festive White House parties that featured elaborate ice creams. I don’t think TR is going to donate any oysters to her favorite Oyster Ice Cream, but he’ll be happy for a dish of vanilla.

Many of the livelier American presidents have enjoyed their cocktails. Jefferson, Madison, Tyler, and Grant were all very fond of Champagne. Which seems like a suitable way to toast President’s Day.

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
– Harry S. Truman

Editorial: Not so Wild a Notion – A Small Grocery Store Can Work in Easton

There is probably not a day that goes by in downtown Easton when at least a few of the pedestrians that pass the now abandoned Safeway on Harrison Street don’t shed a tear for that missing food store. While a few might have some affection for the food store chain itself, it is more than likely that much of the grief is felt for the end of an era when walking or biking to a grocery store was an real option.

Since Safeway’s departure, a solid core of downtown residents now must now pile into their cars (if they have one) to head off to the larger food stores off the Bypass or Route 50, adding to Easton’s traffic pressures and rush hour congestion.

What makes this a particularly melancholy affair is the growing feeling that the old Safeway will not be occupied anytime soon with a replacement. In fact, it is more likely that no large food chain, even if permitted to locate there, would find it cost-effective to establish a such a small footprint venue.

This predicament is not unique to our community. With a return on investment in doubt and competition severe, these corporations are electing to drop their small stores and expand the number of “superstores” outside downtowns, allowing more parking and easy access for cars.

The result for Easton, sadly enough, is a substantial retail gap in our downtown district and, more importantly, quality of life.

But maybe it is not so wild a notion to imagine a return to a smaller scale, traditional grocery store (think of the beloved Todd’s on Aurora Street) capable of serving Easton’s growing pedestrian community and provide a modest profit.

The fact of the matter is that there are several models, in all different types of settings, that show that one does not need a 50,000 square-foot grocery chain store to succeed.

One remarkable example can be found on Race Street in downtown Cambridge. The Simmons Center Market has been serving its community since 1937 with marginal parking and a less than a convenient location for motorists. But with a regional reputation for quality meats and reasonable prices, the Central Market continues to strive notwithstanding its proximity to a Walmart Superstore and Food Lion chain store in the same town.

Looking beyond the Eastern Shore is the extraordinary story of the Bi-Rite grocery store in San Francisco, which provides no parking in a community without parking, and yet yields $4,000 per square foot. By contrast, traditional supermarket revenues are said to produce $200 to $300 per square foot while a Whole Foods store brings in $900 to $1,000 per square foot.

A four minute mini-documentary on Bi-Rite Market

It is with these kinds of case studies that should encourage one of our many local entrepreneurs (and their potential investors) to see a way forward to offer a similar experience for Easton’s downtown. We can only keep our fingers crossed that they do.


Mid-Shore Arts: Heather Harvey and her Trash

There are very few better examples of the remarkable art community axis that exists on the Mid-Shore between Easton and Chestertown than visual artist Heather Harvey. By day, Heather commutes to Kent County from her home on Hanson Street to assume the role of the Chair of Washington College’s Department of Art and Art History. But other times,  she can be found at the Davis Art Center in Easton working on projects in her massive second-floor studio with everyday materials to make the familiar strange and renewed.

Academically trained as an archaeologist, Heather came to realize that her greatest passion centered more around the philosophical questions that emerged as a result of an archaeology dig, or the “poetry,” as she puts it, that was found. And that search for poetry was found  with old materials, even trash found around Easton, that have spanned different moments in time and human memory.

The Spy sat down with Heather a few months ago to talk her most recent work which was inspired by her recently being awarded the highly prestigious Maryland State Arts Council individual artist award in 2017.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Heather Harvey’s work please go here


Oops by George Merrill

There was an incident years ago, when my son was ten. I handled a situation with him poorly in a way that I have been not been able to completely forgive myself. When I think of it, I feel the sharp pain of remorse. He was needy and confused then and as we had recently moved, was trying to figure out his relationship with two of his new friends. When I look back, I can see that I didn’t get it – all the more ironic since I am a clergyman and psychotherapist. I treated his concerns casually. Rather than taking the matter more seriously and encouraging him to talk about it I didn’t hear what he was trying to tell me. It was a lost opportunity. Simply put, I blew it.

He has not forgotten it nor have I. Time and a frank discussion years later have alleviated much of the pain of that time for both of us. And even though I know that blaming myself is not helpful either for him or for myself, when I think about it I’ll still instinctively castigate myself for not getting it right.

I’ve often wondered why it is so difficult even though I may know God will forgive me, and for the most part my son has, that I find it so difficult to forgive myself. It’s as if I hold myself to impossible standards of perfection. I should never make mistakes. I’m supposed to get it right all the time. Even as I write that sentence it sounds absurd. As I think about it, there’s a perverse pride in such thinking. Taken to its logical conclusion, I’m actually saying I’m perfect, or if not, I should be.

Getting it wrong, making mistakes of all kinds is so fundamental to the human experience that rites of forgiveness have been central to religious practices for centuries. For Catholics, there is the sacrament of confession and in Judaism, the observance of Yom Kippur. Both rites help penitents to own their failings, express their contrition with others, and to put things right with self, with God and our fellow man. Each of these rites has an implied assumption; not only am I never going to get it right every time, but my efforts are probably better spent in managing my mistakes with a combination of contrition and a gentle spirit.

I characterize my routine mistakes simply as ‘oops.’ These are the annoying glitches that insinuate themselves into daily life; the lost key, the grocery bag left at the market, missing receipts, forgetting to lock the door, stepping in dog doo and the like. I shrug, get irritated, mutter under my breath and feel relieved that no one else has noticed. After making the appropriate corrections, I go about my business as usual. To make case in point when I wrote about stepping in dog manure, I wrote it first as ‘dog dew.’ My wife said I was mistaken, that it was ‘dog doo’ that I stepped in. For a moment, I wasn’t sure I had it right and I felt slightly intimidated. I googled it. In fact, I had stepped in both.

Strangely, inadvertent mistakes (the one’s committed in total innocence, with not a hint of guile and even with good intentions) can go badly and cause pain to others as well as to one’s self.

Not getting it right can be a mortifying experience. People often remark that when they suddenly realize they’ve really gotten it wrong they wish they had died on the spot or that the ground would have opened up and swallowed them. That’s one powerful emotion.

Kathryn Schulz, in her thoughtful book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, tells a story of a mortifying incident suffered by a journalist friend of hers. He was a seasoned writer on environmental issues and attended a lecture by a prominent environmentalist.

She made a brilliant presentation although pessimistic in content. He noticed how although her prognostications for the future of the planet were grim, that she was also pregnant. In his write up he commented that she was pregnant indicating that what he saw was her affirmation of life despite the gloomy picture she painted of the future. His article was published, made first page news and was widely circulated. Great, except the presenter wasn’t pregnant. Forty years later and he was quoted as saying “Truth is, I’m still mortified when I talk about it.” It turned out the woman was gracious about it but the journalist could never quite forgive himself for an innocent mistake, kindly disposed as it was.

I suspect that deep down many of us are aware of our failings, but try hard to disown them because we ourselves are not easy with them. The result can be that we’re intimidated by people who come across to us as on top of their game, competent, all together. It’s as if their togetherness were a judgement on us. The word ‘loser’ that has become such a popular insult today I guess underscores the contemporary obsession that in order to be of any account, you have to always get it and be winners no matter what.

Regarding mistakes, a look at how scientists behave may be instructive for getting along with our mistakes more skillfully. Many scientific researchers will routinely publish results making them accessible to other scientists knowing full well that what they’ve put out there may be flawed. That’s part of the strategy. If flaws can be identified so much the better. In the long haul, they’ll stand better chances of getting their project right.

So, since we are never always going to get it all right, what do we do? Ask for help if our mistakes have been harmful to ourselves or others, if we can. If not, accept, shrug, forgive, and keep a sense of humor.

Remember, to air is human, to forgive, divine.


Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Mid-Shore Gardening: Ruth Clausen’s Campaign for Pollinators

In yet another example of how the Mid-Shore seems to attract some of the very best in their chosen fields for their retirement homes, horticulturist Ruth Rogers Clausen has found her way to the Delmarva after a long and distinguished career as a gardening writer, lecturer, and the horticultural editor for the highly regarded Country Living Gardener in New York City.

Raised with a love of gardening while growing up in Wales and England, Ruth has spent her entire professional life educating thousands of inspiring gardeners of the important elements of a successful garden, or, as she says, “a garden must be something beyond looking beautiful.”

And one of her primary passions is for gardeners to do everything they can to design their projects with pollinators in mind. With 35 percent of the world’s crop production requiring pollination, gardeners can do their bit by planting flowers that are specifically designed to help such pollen transporters as bees successfully complete their work.

The Spy spent a few minutes with Ruth at the Bullitt House last week in preparation of her lecture at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton on February 14 sponsored by the Adkins Arboretum to talk about this mission.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Ruth’s lecture please go here



Food Friday: Getting Organized

Last year we moved into a one-story brick house that we helped to renovate and remodel. It is a tiny place, just right for the two of us, the 70-pound dog, several linear miles of books and the odd visitor or two. We are enjoying the newness of it. New bathrooms, new appliances, clean expanses of walls without anyone else’s children’s footprints or schmears of snot. I am still running around with touch up paint whenever we ding a wall. I still can’t remember where the light switch is in the powder room. I wipe down the range every night, because even boiling water splatters and is unsightly. And my children can’t believe that I am paring down and organizing and enjoying the novelty of tidiness.

We cook most nights, as you know. Mr. Friday takes over on the weekends and is the Grill Master during the summer. I test Spy dishes often during the week. We have a white china dish next to the range that holds the bare essentials for cooking: a bottle of fancy olive oil, a tiny blue bowl of Maldon salt, a pepper grinder, some matches and a couple of cloves of garlic. (We can’t agree where the garlic should live – Food52 says in the fridge, Mr. Friday says next to the range…)

We keep cooking utensils in a nearby drawer instead of in a container on the counter. We are trying to avoid countertop clutter. Except when we are both cooking though, when the place looks like an explosion in a shingle factory. I wash up as I go along. Mr. Friday abandons his spent utensils and sticky bowls in the sink, waiting for that magic kitchen fairy to come along. Or exasperated me, who might just need that tomato-crusted slotted spoon or the colander.

This week we have both gotten the cold that seems to be sweeping the country. Which is better than falling victim to the flu. I cannot complain too much, but since I do have the Food Friday podium, I will. Mr. Friday had big plans for cooking a pork roast last weekend. He hunted and gathered the ingredients, which were numerous and expensive, and then he started running a fever. And then he started coughing and sneezing. Well. Our Sunday dinner turned into a chicken noodle soup event, and I volunteered that I would cook the pork roast for Monday dinner.

On Monday morning I found I had been mistakenly led to believe that this was a slow cooker recipe. I even located the slow cooker at the bottom of the pantry, where it was propping up a bag of dog kibble. The ingredient list promised an irresistible aroma: 4 cloves of garlic, black pepper, ground cumin, dried oregano, ground coriander, lime juice, orange juice and white white vinegar.

Further steps had me scoring the fatty side of the pork shoulder, rubbing the spices into the grooves, marinating the meat in a plastic bag in the fridge, turning “occasionally” from eight hours to overnight. Eight hours? It was noon! And then there was the small matter of the half hour that the meat needed to rest, while coming up to room temp, and another two and a half hours in the oven. Not a word about an easy peasy slow cooker meal!

It was going to have to be Tuesday night’s meal now. And it was just as well, because Mr. Friday came home from work early Monday afternoon, and needed another evening of chicken soup, Saltines and warm flannel sheets.

After I read the recipe through again I started to gather up all the aromatics that would fill the house with Cuban-style cooking smells. There is a little corner lazy-Susan corner cabinet next to the range, where we keep the spices. The ones used most often (Slap Ya Mama, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, kosher salt, basil, dried parsley and dried red pepper flakes, oregano) tend to be in large, Costco-sized containers and are easy to find amid the welter of tiny spice jars. The others that I needed were scattered chaotically and uncategorically on that shelf. Cinnamon was next to nutmeg which was adjacent to tarragon which was butting up against the green sprinkles.

In disgust, and because I am trying to be a better person this year, I pulled everything out of the cabinet, and lined up the jars and boxes and tubes in alphabetical order on the counter. I know, Martha would have had a minion with a top-of-her-line label maker organizing in a flash. I stuck with a black Sharpie and a silver Sharpie, and put the names on top of all the lids. And then I alphabetized. I hope. (I also tossed out a few that were well past their sell-by dates. I once found a 10-year old tin of Old Bay tucked away among my spices. Which I am sure would still be delicious…)

All the baking products went in one clear plastic container: baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, almond extract, peppermint extract, sprinkles, dragées and birthday candles, and cupcake papers…

And then I put the alphabetized and newly-labeled jars into three other clear plastic containers, starting on the left with Allspice, and winding my way down to Thyme and Tumeric on the right.

I hope Mr. Friday is ready for leftover pork roast tonight, because I have the cold now, and I am sticking to chicken soup.

You could go out and buy a matchy-matchy set of spice containers, but where would the fun be? Don’t you need a nice, calming, time-wasting exercise in organization that won’t cost you any money? It is very therapeutic.

“A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold.”
– Ogden Nash