Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

September 3rd, 2015
Me holding my advance copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's forthcoming Big Magic when it arrived at the Hawthorne Books office.

Me holding my advance copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s forthcoming Big Magic when it arrived at the Hawthorne Books office with a sweet handwritten card from Liz.

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s forthcoming book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear due out from Riverhead Books on September 22nd in the early spring and I’ve been rationing my reading of it ever since because I want to take full advantage of all the inspiration and motivation it gives me. Big Magic speaks to me like very few books on writing do and I’ve read a lot of great ones. Some of my favorites include Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Carol Sklenicka’s Raymond Carver biography, David Lipsky’s Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own ++.

If you are a published writer, an aspiring writer or madly in love with a writer (good luck!) get Big Magic and read it cover to cover and then read it again as I’m going to do. Here are some of the most important takeaways from the book for me: honor and feed your creative curiosity always, the idea of and celebration of the suffering artist/writer is harmful at its core and writing can and should be enjoyable and involve play, fear is boring — conquer it, don’t worry about being original focus on being true to yourself and your voice and then your writing will always be original, in honor of Wernor Herzog: quit complaining and do the work.

I want to tell you why Elizabeth Gilbert means so much to me. I visited San Francisco in the spring of 2012 to meet with my soon-to-be at the time publisher McSweeney’s — they published the Toro Bravo cookbook in 2013. A lot of fantastic things happened on that trip (The “Hurry up and get over to the office. David Byrne is bringing us ice cream!” text from my editor Rachel Khong. What the fuck?! For real.) and one of them was a dinner with Elizabeth Gilbert. She was on tour for her McSweeney’s book — a new edition of her great grandmother’s out of print cookbook At Home on the Range which I wrote about here — and the sweet lovelies at McSweeney’s organized a double Liz tour of the McSweeney’s office followed by drinks at a nearby bar and then dinner at Mission Chinese down the street from the office.

At dinner I got to sit next to Liz and please know this — she is as beautiful and sweet as she seems — even more so in person. So much so, in fact, that I was a little off-putt at first. Let me explain. Despite the fantastic trip I wasn’t in the best of spirits. I’d been working on a novel for a couple years that was going nowhere fast (it didn’t help that I referred to it in an insulting way during the duration of writing it as my “novelish”) and I wasn’t too happy in my long term relationship which ended several months later.

I’m pretty good at best foot forward but Liz obviously sensed my deep down bluesy blues and she worked on me in her big magic Liz G way. She asked a lot of questions about my novel — so many that it felt a bit like a writing therapy session — and I answered them with some seriously low self esteem where my fiction was concerned answers. After dinner and in front of the restaurant in the sparkly spring Mission night she gave me a big hug and said please don’t give up on your fiction. Yep, she’s that generous.

After I returned to Portland I read her short story collection which my editor Rachel Khong had raved about (I loved it too), I watched her now famous TED talk, I picked up Eat, Pray, Love where I’d put it down, I cooked from her great grandma’s book and I wondered when I’d get to see her again. A few months later and a hand-wrapped advance copy of her novel The Signature of All Things arrived with an oh so sweet handwritten card from Liz and I devoured it. This spring a copy of Big Magic arrived with the same and I rationed it.

When Big Magic arrived several months ago I was well into the writing of my current novel — the one that I dig and truly enjoy working on and the one that I’m FINALLY going to finish. In fact, the copy of her book arrived right before I set off for my first writing residency at The Sou’wester for it. I don’t take Liz Gilbert’s advice for and faith in me lightly. Of course I don’t. And now that her Big Magic is about to publish I have a second Sou’wester residency lined up and I’m 30,000 words strong with the novel. I know that there’s a lot of Liz G big magic at play where my fiction is concerned. So grateful to her.

Liz’s book comes out in a couple weeks and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you are a writer or creative person I think you’re going to love it. Even if you aren’t there is much to learn about living life to the fullest in it. Oh, and she’s coming to Portland for the book for an event sponsored by Powell’s at the Newmark on October 4th. Get a ticket to that and a copy of the book is included.

A couple passages from Big Magic that I love:

“Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc.). It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind.)”

“What you produce is not necessarily always sacred, I realized, just because you think it’s sacred. What is sacred is the time that you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life.”

Cheers to Liz G, Big Magic and YOU! XOXOXO

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
By Elizabeth Gilbert
pub. date Sept. 22nd

Sixth Annual Portland Fermentation Festival 2015

August 20th, 2015
Keep on rockin' in Neil's free world and in our fermented world.

Keep on rockin’ in Neil’s free world and in our fermented world.

Since 2009 my friends David Barber, George Winborn and I have put on the annual Portland Fermentation Festival with/at Ecotrust and every year it gets bigger and better. This year we’d set the date for Wednesday, October 7th until earlier this week when Neil Young announced his tour dates for his October tour of The Monsanto Years album. When is he playing Portland for it you ask? Wednesday, October 7th! (Tickets on go on sale for the University of Portland show tomorrow at 10am PT!) So we did what any Neil loving fans would do — we changed the date so we and YOU can go! Below are all the details for this year’s stinky good time — the 6th Annual Portland Fermentation Festival.

FULL PRESS RELEASE

Organizers & Media Contacts:

Liz Crain
lizcrain at gmail dot com

George Winborn
gw dot winborn at gmail dot com

David Barber
briney at picklopolis dot com

Sixth Annual Portland Fermentation Festival
NEW DATE!! Tuesday, October 27th 6-9:30pm
Ecotrust’s Billy Frank Jr. Conference Center
Rooftop food and drink sales and music
721 NW 9th Ave. Portland, OR
All ages, open to the public, $10-$20
Children 12 and younger attend for free
www.portlandfermentationfestival.com

Earlier this week Neil Young announced the October tour dates for his The Monsanto Years album and guess when he’s going to play in Portland? Yep, on Wednesday, Oct. 7th at the University of Portland — the very night we had planned to host this year’s Sixth Annual Portland Fermentation Festival at Ecotrust. As lifelong fans of Mr. Young we have a strict no-compete clause with him in our heart of hearts so we’ve changed the Portland Fermentation Festival date so that no one in Portland has to choose between rockin’ in Neil’s free world and rockin’ in our fermented world. You’re welcome. Tickets for Neil’s tour go on sale this Friday at 10am by the way. See you at the PDX show!

So, please, please join us now on the evening of Tuesday, October 27th at Ecotrust for Portland’s annual, open-to-the-public, all-ages celebration of fermented food and drink. Bring kraut, try kraut. Bring miso, try miso. Come out for Portland’s fermented food and drink skill sharing, recipe sharing, and tasting event of the year. We are very pleased to announce that this year’s special pre-tasting event is a panel of fermentation experts soon to be determined.

Come celebrate pickling season at the Sixth Annual Portland Fermentation Festival at Ecotrust. Taste and share live, fermented food and drinks made by professionals and home fermentation enthusiasts at the annual event that brought out more than 600 attendees in 2014.

Talk to fellow fermenters, exchange cultures and recipes, get advice from local food fermentation enthusiasts, attend fermentation demo’s and sample everything from sour pickles, miso and kefir to cheese, hard cider, and mead.

Admission for the 7:00 or 8:00pm Tuesday tasting sessions and fermentation demos is $10.
For $20 attend the 6:00pm panel of experts on all things food/drink fermentation in addition to the 7:00pm tasting and fermentation demos. Enjoy rooftop music, food and drink from Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider and Bingo Sandwiches and others TBD.

Visit http://portlandfermentationfestival.com/ for more information.

Festival coverage past and present:

KGW
http://www.kgw.com/media/cinematic/video/15892130/pdx-tonight-fermentation-festival/

Photos from last year’s festival Food Lover’s Guide to Portland
http://www.lizcrain.com/foodloversguidetoportlandblog/2014/10/portland-fermentation-festival-2014-redux/

Cooking Up a Story
http://cookingupastory.com/annual-fermentation-festival-opens-world-ferments

KBOO Food Show
http://kboo.fm/node/24469
http://kboo.fm/content/foodshowon10151983

Portland Monthly
http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/eat-and-drink/articles/four-reasons-to-get-excited-about-the-portland-fermentation-festival-september-2014

Willamette Week
http://wweek.com/portland/article-18099-how_to_pickle_almost.html

Portland Mercury
http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2014/10/15/fermentation-fest-what-microbobes-can-do-for-you

OPB
http://www.opb.org/artsandlife/article/portland-fermentation-festival-offers-diy-techniques-tips

www.portlandfermentationfestival.com
Twitter @PDXFermentFest
Facebook Portland Fermentation Festival

Yard Fresh Pt. 31

June 19th, 2015
My new batch of miso salted in and in the crock! The oldest I have now that's still fermenting is 5 years old.

My new batch of miso! The oldest I have now that’s still fermenting is 5 years old.

Well, well, well, it’s been a year since I did one of these installments. Time flies when you’re having fun and I’ve been having a lot of fun lately. Candle both ends as usual. The last Yard Fresh I wrote in May 2014 right when my kitchen was going into remodel surgery. That seems like years ago — so many parties and dinner parties and cooking fun has transpired in it since. I am so grateful to my good friends at St. Johns Design Build for making my kitchen dreams come true. I couldn’t love my kitchen more or recommend these fellows more highly for any home remodel project.

I’ll get to the food photos in a second but here’s a quick recap. of the past few months. I got to do my very first writing residency for my novel at The Sou’wester in April and it was awesome. I cranked out 3,000 words a day on average and even managed to cook and eat all kinds of tasty treats that you’ll see below. I also got to go to San Francisco in early May to interview one of my food heroes Mark Bittman for a magazine I’ve subscribed to and loved for years. That interview won’t publish for awhile and I’ll be sure to let you know when it does.

For now, I’m still loving my work at Hawthorne Books which recently merged with Dzanc Books, working on my novel one day a week, we just finished the Tasty Cookbook proposal (we originally proposed a brunch book but now it’s AM plus PM dishes mmmm) and our agent is sending it out, I’m working on a hard cider book with someone near and dear, we’re about to set the date for the 6th Annual Portland Fermentation Festival this fall and get cracking on that again, I’m doing all kinds of fun things with Team Gorham as always, and I’m working on something with the fine folks at Inkshares this summer. Sheesh. That’s a lot.

This summer I plan to be the river rat that I always am when the days are long and this time around it will often be with my sweet, sweet fellow Jimbo. That makes me very happy. I also plan to camp and cook outside a lot and use my pie irons often. We’re going to the Outer Banks with my family in a month. I have 200 bottles of homemade plum wine to bottle this year from the Brooks Plum tree in the front yard. And, you know, drink. Friends make the world go round so I will be playing in the sun with them a whole heck of a lot in upcoming months.

Hope you’ve been working on good projects, having fun with friends and family and cooking and eating delicious food. I harvested my garlic one month early this year — so hot these days! — and now I have flashy trout’s back lettuce and kale and soon tomatoes, chiles, zukes etc. SUMMMMMMMMMER! Love to you and hope you have an incredible summer. Do all the fun things as much as you can. Summer is magic and it always goes fast.

I didn't actually cook this buuuuut isn't it pretty?! My super talented friend Tom Humphrey designed it and John G and I and his team worked our arses off putting this FIFTY page book proposal together. Going out to publishers this week!

I didn’t actually cook this buuuuut isn’t it pretty?! My super talented friend Tom Humphrey designed it and John G and I and his team worked our arses off putting this FIFTY page book proposal together. Going out to publishers this week!

Potato taco time! My friend Raquel's late mom Anna taught me how to make these. These mean summer and love to me.

Potato taco time! My friend Raquel’s late mom Anna taught me how to make these. These mean summer and love to me.

Potato tacos at night aaaaand potato tostadas in the morning! With soyrizo and eggs. Yummmmm.

Potato tacos at night aaaand potato tostadas in the morning! With soyrizo and eggs. Yummmmm.

Plum wine bottling and drinking with my housey and friend. And the White Wolf. Only 25 more gallons to go!

Plum wine bottling and drinking with my housey and friend. And the White Wolf. Only 25 more gallons to go!

Plum wine in Grolsch bottles and getting fizzzzzzy.

Plum wine in Grolsch bottles and getting fizzzzzzy.

Flashy Trout's Back lettuce from Territorial Seed. Have twenty this size in the backyard. Salad Dayzzzzz

Flashy Trout’s Back lettuce from Territorial Seed. Have twenty this size in the backyard. Salad Dayzzzzz

Straining my homemade vinegars -- plum wine vin and grapefruit. My friend Gilion gave me the vinegar mother and I've made a bunch of these and pineapple vinegar so far. Love them.

Straining my homemade vinegars — plum wine vin and grapefruit. My friend Gilion gave me the vinegar mother and I’ve made a bunch of these and pineapple vinegar so far. Love them.

Nettle pesto fixings -- olive oil, toasted hazelnuts, asiago, olive oil. Added bonus: flash boil the nettles for the pesto and you get nettle tea too.

Nettle pesto fixings — olive oil, toasted hazelnuts, asiago, olive oil. Added bonus: flash boil the nettles for the pesto and you get nettle tea too.

Nettle pesto orzo with home canned tuna and pickled peppers.

Nettle pesto orzo with home canned tuna and pickled peppers.

Beach Bloody Mary and oyster bar with friends. And TINY TABASCO!

Beach Bloody Mary and oyster bar with friends. And TINY TABASCO!

Backyard garlic harvest one month early this year.

Backyard garlic harvest one month early this year.

Razor clam deviled eggs!! Sou'wester owner Thandi brought the clams to my trailer and I made us these with preserved lemon, pimenton and lots and lots of olive oil. One of my best deviled eggs to date and I LOVE deviled eggs. Dreamy.

Razor clam deviled eggs!! Sou’wester owner Thandi brought the clams to my trailer and I made us these with preserved lemon, pimenton and lots and lots of olive oil. One of my best deviled eggs to date and I LOVE deviled eggs. Dreamy.

Mr. Bittman's wacky good Manchurian Tofu and Cauliflower from his latest cookbook How to Cook Everything Faster which I love and have cooked a ton from.

Mr. Bittman’s wacky good Manchurian Tofu and Cauliflower from his latest cookbook How to Cook Everything Faster which I love and have cooked a ton from.

Leftover mac and cheese from Dig A Pony with my kimchi and eggs. I want this now!

Leftover mac and cheese from Dig A Pony with my kimchi and eggs. I want this now!

I'll leave you with this picture of spring/summer happiness: solo early eve Sazerac on my trailer stoop at the Sou'wester. Life is sweet.

I’ll leave you with this picture of spring/summer happiness: solo early eve Sazerac on my trailer stoop at the Sou’wester. Life is sweet.

Yard Fresh Pt. 30
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Yard Fresh Pt. 27
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Yard Fresh Pt. 1

Willamette Week’s Eat Mobile 2015

April 17th, 2015

Wednesday, April 29th 5-9pm. Tickets $40. Come!!

I get asked what my favorite Portland food carts are A LOT and I have a few spots that I always say but I don’t really eat at carts all that often. I used to when I worked downtown but now that I don’t they just aren’t a regular thing for me beyond this one by my writing studio. That’s why I asked my friend Brett Burmeister of Food Carts Portland to write the food cart chapter for the second edition of my Food Lover’s Guide to Portland and lucky for me he did.

Sooooo, I’m really looking forward to the eighth annual Willamette Week Eat Mobile (Wednesday, April 29th from 5-9pm) because I’m going to taste my way around TWENTY FIVE different PDX food carts. Yeah, yeah, yeah! Also at the event: music from DJ Short Change and Clarinet Cat Box and tasty beer from Baerlic Brewing Co. Strangely enough, I’ve never been to Eat Mobile — really looking forward to it.

Here’s a video from last year’s. For EM volunteer inquiries contact aboucher at wweek dot com and for sponsorship or press inquiries contact sbarnhart@wweek.com.

Here’s the scoop poop straight from WW. Tickets are available now and there are only 400 this year so get them while you still can:

This year, instead of bringing the carts to the people, the festival brings the people to the carts. Guests will enjoy samples from carts at two SE Portland pods, Tidbit and A La Carts Food Pavilion (Himalayan Food cart at this pod is one of my VERY FAVORITES!! So good.). Tickets are available here and admission is $40 and includes a wristband for more than 25 food samples, two free drinks, live music and shuttle service between pods.

“This festival is a flagship event for Willamette Week and we’re excited about the change,” said Steph Barnhart, events and marketing manager. “We want to allow the cart owners to do what they do best in their natural environment, and let guests taste something from nearly every cart at two pods we love.”

Attendees will get samples from carts as the vendors compete for the coveted Carty Award, selected by Eat Mobile guests and judges. Guests will also vote for one pod to win “Best Pod Experience.”

GET TICKETS
Willamette Week’s 8th annual Eat Mobile
Wednesday, April 29th 5-9pm

My St. Johns Design Build Dream Kitchen Remodel

February 26th, 2015

Before the remodel...

After!

This past summer/fall I got my kitchen remodeled by my good friends at St. Johns Design Build and I still haven’t recovered from the excitement of having my very own dream kitchen. It was such a long time coming considering I bought my house in 2006 and cooked on the shitty original electric stove, walked on the mustard and baby diarrhea colored linoleum and diced and sliced under the ugly fluorescents in it until 2014. That’s a long time for someone to cook in a crap space with a bum stove who cares so deeply about food, who works as a food writer for fuck’s sake.

My excuse for that long delay in remodeling whenever anyone asks — well, money primarily, you big dummie — and I never wanted to half-ass it. I could’ve done this, that and the other to improve it along the way but I figured why be piecemeal when I had a vision? I’d just wait until that vision could be fully realized. And now, it has! I’m lucky enough to call St. Johns Design Build owner/contractor Brian McVay a dear friend, along with his partners in crime Clarence Jacobs and Rude Graves, so rather than write any more about this here I’m going to give it to you straight from the source.

Below is McVay’s Crain Kitchen Recipe — his words interspersed with my photos. I can’t recommend St. Johns Design Build highly enough for any home or business remodel project — these folks are the best and the brightest. (I also can’t recommend the fellows as SJDB highly enough for draaaanks and great conversation on my front porch, OR at the Red Fox, OR anywhere else in North Portland that’s up all night. That’s just the way we roll.)

CRAIN KITCHEN RECIPE
by Brian McVay (as crafted in my HAUS by Brian, Clarence Jacobs, Rude Graves ++)

Objectives — Create a kitchen for a food genius (these are definitely not my words) food lover, affordable, bring a group of artisans together to work on this project, respect the age of the home, use local/reused/recycled content materials.

After our initial meeting/walk-thru with the group it was obvious you had a great space, an open mind, and a pretty decent existing kitchen layout. Seeing that the cabinet boxes were reusable we set out to simply resurface the room. I personally love this era of home (built in 1907) and this is an easy part of the country to source materials that are historically appropriate. One of my favorites is Douglas Fir — clear vertical grain (CVG) Douglas Fir. This material has such a history in this part of the world, and it also tells a story of its age by the density of the lines or grains i.e. if there are more than 10 vertical grains per inch that piece came from an old growth tree in an ancient forest.

I had been shopping at a local lumber reuse outfit called Green Star International and they had recently received a shipment of bleacher seats so I had my inspiration. Clarence hand made everything in our cabinet shop in SE portland.

The cabinets were to be new CVG drawers and door faces, naturally finished in shellac. We reused the cabinet boxes and the shelves. The shelves were covered with a vinyl tile in deep red.

Clarence Jacobs installing the cabinets he made from the CVG Doug Fir bleachers.

The counter, installed by our magic man Rude, (Rude also did all of the tile-work in the kitchen) comes from a company called PaperStone and their little known “bargain panel division”. When you pick up the material your self it means big savings, thrift stores, and really good Chinese food (I scored a pair of rad green pants! Someone else might have really wanted to score something else green).

Paperstone is one of the few architectural solid surface materials certified to FSC standards by the Smartwood program of the Rainforest Alliance. It’s made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper that has been saturated with their proprietary Petro-free phenolic resins and selected natural pigments on our treater lines. After trimming to length, resin-saturated sheets are stacked and moved into a press where they are fused together under heat and pressure. Paper sheet count determines the thickness of the finished panels.

Paperstone pick-up in Hoquiam with these fine fellows -- John Wenderoth (left), Brian McVay and Rude Graves's tiny head in the back of the Sprinter.

Rude, John and Brian checking out the goods.

My future paperstone counter!

Your kitchen sink came from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Tillamook.

Thank you John W!

Stove and hood, obviously The ReBuilding Center.

My dream Dynasty/Jade range and Viking hood! Heart of the kitchen. Aaaaand they scored it for a quarter of the price.

The floor was removed by Minority Abatement Contractors out of Vancouver. I feel it important and try to hire sub-contractors that are either women, minority, or emerging small businesses.

So happy once that baby diarrhea linoleum was pulled up there was beautiful, original Doug Fir flooring!

Brought back to life!

Electrical panel was replaced by Coho Electric. Track lights fro you know who (John Gorham! He gave them to me when he was building out Mediterranean Exploration Company. So lucky/grateful). The lighting scheme needed to go from mood lighting to kitchen lab at the flick of a dimmer.

Electrical panel surgery.

Thank you John G! Let there be light.

Custom metal work was designed by me, welded by Clarence. The table top material came from a local favorite — Salvage Works.

Beauty.

Custom blacksmith work came from our shop mate Scott Rash.

I've always loved the J&M Cafe's mug tree and this is our understated version of that. Love it!

My very own custom built and blacksmithed pot rack!

More photos from the pre/post-remodel that I love…

All of my Ice-O-Matics in one place!

Clarence built me a drawer for my secret spice stash!

Yep.

Another one of my favorite features -- the kitchen table storage benches. The one on the right was the original refaced and Clarence mimicked it on the left.

Yes! Keeping a lot of my canning supplies and canned foods in there.

So beautiful.

Me and the White Wolf soaking it all up. Happy.

Chunky maple chopping block!

And while my kitchen was out of service I did things like…

Make pickles in my...bathroom!

Use the hell out of my rice cooker.

Make Bloody Mary mix on plywood.

And once it was a wrap I had a big birthday/kitchen warming party. I’m so happy to have my dream kitchen and honestly a little sad that all the boys are gone. I guess I need to dream up another remodel project…

Cheers! Eat, drink and be hairy!

St. Johns Design Build
www.stjohnsdesignbuild.com
brian AT stjohnsdesignbuild DOT COM
971.678.3619
Who you gonna call? St. Johns Design Build!
You ain’t afraid of no ghost.