Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cactuseaters reader photo of the week

A Cactus Eaters reader in Carmel Valley sent in this alarming photo of gefilte fish in reference to my  comparison between the mountains along the Southern California section of the Pacific Crest Trail and a certain cold and slimy soul food, purchased in jars and consumed at Passover with mountains of horseradish to cover up the nasty taste. Quite a photo. You can see the gelatinous brine shining on every little dumpling. Thank you, and keep those cards and letters coming.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Amy Ettinger's essays and articles: Huffington Post and beyond

So far Amy has received 313 comments on the article in the Huffington Post not including Facebook messages and emails. I guess she hit a nerve. And I'm not kidding when I say the comments continue to pile in, every other second, on the web. If you'd like to read more, here is another great one: Memoir Horror: Can You Break Up With Your Life's Narrative? which tells you all you need to know about being married to someone who is obsessively writing a warts-and-all memoir concerning a previous phase in his life. Writers and writer's spouses, you may wish to clip and save her essay. Also, here is her cautionary tale, which appeared in the New York Times, concerning those lovely but lead-infested Victorians of San Francisco. If you've got a little kid and you're living in one of those beautiful Princess Anne confections, take our advice and get out right away. Just for fun, here's her take on pursuing vintage finds in San Francisco for New York magazine. She also has a thought-provoking essay about what it's like to live in a two-writer household. The title is "It's not a competition." The essay cannot be found anywhere online but it is available in an anthology called the Secret Lives of Lawfully Wedded Wives, also including a Cheryl Strayed piece you won't find anywhere else (as far as I know). Stay tuned for more Amy stories.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Those who sign up for my writing class ...

... will get a mini-anthology consisting of three travel essays (actually, two essays and an excerpt) that I would like you to read before May 11. You will get these things in an email along with a brief place writing assignment that should not take too long ... Looking forward to meeting everyone. Anyhow, that message will be sent out on or before April 28th.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kids overcoming shyness: Amy Ettinger's Huffington Post debut

Congratulations to my wife, Amy Ettinger, for this beautifully written story about learning from our initially shy daughter (who, I am glad to say, is becoming less shy by the minute) This is Amy's first story for the Huffington Post. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Cactus Eaters and upcoming class featured in Santa Cruz Sentinel

The Sentinel published this article today, featuring that picture of me on the left, dining al fresco at Joshua Tree with my least-favorite snack in the background. The author, Christa Martin, who writes for O, the Oprah Magazine and many other places, worked with me at the Sentinel some years back. This piece mentions my first book, The Cactus Eaters, the 36 Hours anthology featuring two of my travel pieces, and my upcoming place-writing class, which will be held May 11 at the Capitola Book Cafe.

In other news, one of my blog's devoted readers let me borrow an alarmingly good book by Adam Johnson called The Orphan Master's Son. The bummer is that I have to give it back to this particular reader tonight -- and I've got 301 pages to go!!!! Drat. I don't know how I'm going to pull that off. And, finally, in closing, I find myself inexplicably disappointed that unhappy Axl won't go through with the rumored Guns N' Roses reunion at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies. At least I can take comfort in the fact that UCSC's very own Grateful Dead Archive is going to have a big presence at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that week.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Passover macaroons that actually taste good

For the past few years, every time I baked up a batch of homemade macaroons for my family during Passover, a precise -- and deeply disturbing -- description from Steve Almond's bestselling nonfiction book Candyfreak (a classic, by the way, if you haven't read it) would always come to mind. At one point in the text, he shudders at the "creepy dead-skin texture of shredded coconut." Every time I would bake up a batch, I would worry about their chitinous consistency. How could I serve authentic macaroons without subjecting loved ones to the 'dead skin' problem? Finally, I figured out that if you simply divide up parts of the wet and dry ingredients and place them separately in a food processor and whir the living daylights out of them, you will have a macaroon that tastes creamy, decadent, and nothing at all like dead skin.

So here's what you need:

three cups dried coconut, unsweetened
one teaspoon Tahitian vanilla
one cup of sugar
two egg whites
a few little crumbs of salt

preheat oven to 350 degrees

combine the sugar and the coconut, then scoop out a cup of the sugar/coconut mixture and set it aside

combine all remaining ingredients (remaining coconut/sugar combo, along with vanilla and egg whites), place them in a food processor and process the hell out of them for at least three minutes.

clean and dry food processor, and dump the set-aside sugar/coconut combination in the food processor until it is totally pulverized and has the consistency of flour

combine dry and wet ingredients in bowl, mix thoroughly with a spatula or large wooden spoon, then shape into thumb-sized balls with slightly pointed tops and place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. It doesn't matter if you put them very close to one another. They pretty much hold their shape throughout the baking process. Bake for about 15 minutes until brown on the top. Let them set for at least 20 minutes. At this point you can turn some of them into 'black and white' macaroons by slathering them with a holiday-appropriate melted chocolate.

I suggest you try this. It's actually quite good, and infinitely better than those hideous macaroons that come in oversized cans.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Fuzzy baby falcons on live "Nestcam"

I have about 10,000 things to do, but I can't stop looking at the live "Nestcam" camera feed of the cute fuzzy baby falcons up in San Francisco. Get a load of this: