TEN TASTY FISH

Living a few miles inland from the Atlantic, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to fresh fish. Just be sure to stock up on lemons and melted butter and maybe a few spices and fresh parsley.

  1. Cod. Once available in unbelievable quantities, it’s become scarcer and costlier. Still, it’s classic – especially as scrod.
  2. Haddock. Makes a great sandwich or flaky fish ’n’ chips.
  3. Monkfish. Like lobster tail.
  4. Dayboat dogfish shark. It’s a favorite in England for fish and chips. A different texture than haddock. Nothing like a little variety, right?
  5. Trout. You don’t have to be near an ocean.
  6. Salmon. Now we’re talking.
  7. Striper, so I’ve heard. This one’s purely for sport fishermen and their friends and family. Or the cormorants and osprey and bald eagles that follow them upriver.
  8. Flounder. We have some good species at hand.
  9. Dabs or American Plaice. Now we’re into a cooperative program to protect the local marine resources through more responsible practices. These less popular but more populous alternatives make for fine fresh eating.
  10. Hake, flounder, pollock, or king whiting. Ditto, ditto, ditto, and, yes, ditto. Depending on the week they come in.

For details on some of these, check out the New Hampshire Community Seafood site. The cooperative’s introduced us to some delicious but largely unknown species that are abundant in our own waters, and it’s devoted to sustainable community.

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When it comes to fish and shellfish, what are your favorites? Any special way of preparing them, too?

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Continuing the poetry parade, see what’s new at THISTLE/FLINCH.

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EVEN WITHOUT A FAIRY GODMOTHER

In my new novel, What’s Left, her aunt Pia arrives as a kind of Cinderella, but, my, how she arises from the ashes!

Gone from the final version is this tactile stroke:

When she starts exhibiting her love of fabrics – and textiles – as delights to both the eye and the touch, we could add weaving to her bucket list.

Along with this photographic suggestion:

And Thea Pia, perhaps Baba’s second favorite subject, after us kids, produces some of Manoula’s most insightful remarks. He did have some great models at hand!

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Well, as it turns out, Cassia’s father had a number of favorite subjects in the family. Pia would have to come down a few spots, but it’s still quite a trove Cassia uncovers. Each of the women in the family can be seen embodying a unique style.

What is your idea of uber-feminine?

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Roasted chicken and Cretan wine served for Christmas lunch in Greece. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

In the family, Cassia may have had food like this.

INTRODUCING THE ELEMENT OF ORTHODOXY

For most Americans, Christianity is contrasted between Protestant and Catholic. In the past, or so it seemed, you were born into one or the other, and in my neighborhood, it took a long time to mix. Even now I find many people are surprised to discover how much variety exists on the other side of the line. (Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, etc., or Italian, Irish, Polish, German, Hispanic, French, French-Canadian, etc.)

It takes some doing to realize just how different Eastern Orthodoxy is from the strands of Western Christianity we’ve known. And then you get into the variations there, starting with Greeks and Russians.

In my new novel, What’s Left, the family lives at a distance from the nearest Greek Orthodox church, so its connection to the faith is stretched thin at the beginning. Still, it’s part of their identity.

While I do relate some of the customs they rediscover, I don’t do much with the dietary limitations for Advent and Lent – essentially, vegan with no oil or alcohol. How’s a professional cook supposed to do his job if he can’t sample the food? (Any of you facing this conundrum are invited to tell us how you address it.)

So what about other traditions of dietary limitations? Kosher, for instance?

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Do you observe any dietary restrictions? What’s your experience? Have you ever fasted? How long?

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A large Queen Anne-style house with a distinctive witch’s hat tower something like this is the headquarters for Cassia’s extended family in my new novel, What’s Left. If only this one were pink, like hers. (Manchester, New Hampshire.)

TEN THINGS I LIKE ABOUT AUGUST

  1. High Summer arrives … gloriously, breaking the oppression of July. Days and nights are nearly perfect.
  2. Annual week of sessions at New England Yearly Meeting.
  3. Homegrown tomatoes. Who needs bacon? Good bread and mayonnaise set them off perfectly. I add a dash of Old Bay in memory of Baltimore.
  4. Lobster prices come down.
  5. Same-day corn on the cob. Boil it in the same water before or after the lobster. Eat both in the Smoking Garden, where a mess is quite easy to clean up.
  6. Apples and peaches at Butternut Farm.
  7. Ice cream.
  8. Body surfing at Long Sands.
  9. Two weeks of swimming laps in the city’s 50-meter outdoor pool while the indoor pool undergoes annual maintenance. On my backstroke, especially, I watching for bald eagles in the distance or count the contrails of jetliners heading for Logan – one a minute.
  10. Instead of a profusion of birdsong in the morning, it’s now crickets fiddling in the night, starting a crescendo that will end only with the first killing frost.

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What do you like about August?

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Shriners in an annual parade, Castleton, Vermont.

WHO HAS THE WARMTH FOR THIS ROLE?

If we were casting a movie version of my new novel, What’s Left, who would you have play her uncle Graham? Who has the warmth and the gentle classiness for this role?

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People performing a traditional line dance at the Greek festival in Belmont, California. (Photo by Dvortygirl via Wikimedia Commons.)

Cassia’s roots included inspiration like this.

WHEN YOU MEET THE BUDDHA ON THE ROAD TO THE RESTAURANT

A central suggestion arising at the end of my first novel, which then shapes my new one, What’s Left, is that her father will be crucial in guiding the family in its embrace of Buddhist practice. Even if I cast that as spirituality rather than religion, it’s a big challenge.

In the course of multiple revisions, this was greatly toned down and redirected.

While Cassia’s concerned with more fully defining who her father was, the novel’s primary focus is on her. Here’s some background that’s much fainter in the final version:

Where had he come from, what prompted his interests, what were his pet peeves, what made him truly angry or truly delighted?

To make this little more concrete:

Some people contend my Baba was a lama. Not the camel-like pack animal from the Andes but a Tibetan Buddhist born in a humble city along the Mississippi, of all places. After college in Indiana and a broken heart, he looped into Dharma by way of, well, a hippie farm where Thea Nita also lived. And then he found refuge in something like a monastery. And then he magically returned here. You thought a monk couldn’t get married? Technically, no, though we’re dealing with an American twist in the mechanics of reincarnation. Or so they’ve told me.

In the end, much less of the responsibility falls on him. Rather, he helps establish an institute having a resident teacher, Rinpoche, who becomes his colleague.

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For Cassia’s father, religion is a way of engaging life more fully. He might even say it is liberation from the tangles of daily life.

Let’s open our range of focus a bit wider.

Where do you go or what do you do to be free? Can you describe the feeling?

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A large Queen Anne-style house with a distinctive witch’s hat tower something like this is the headquarters for Cassia’s extended family in my new novel, What’s Left. If only this one were pink, like hers.