Simple Gifts

"It’s the little things in life..." An understanding smile. A hand held. A door opened. The words, ‘thank you.’

Whenever I think of Simple Gifts, my mind first goes to the Shaker hymn tune as used in Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. It has been a favorite of mine since I first heard it in high school, though it wasn’t till college that I learned the 19th-century lyrics, as sung here by Judy Collins.

Simple gifts in our lives come from many sources and for all of them I am grateful each day. Today, as I prepare this simple meal to share on the patio with Luisa, our friend who just moved to Tucson from New York, I am grateful for these gifts from friends…


I Don't Knead You

But I do need bread. And I love homemade bread!

Several years ago, the New York Times printed a recipe for no-knead bread. I dutifully clipped it (which, now means copy-and-pasted it into a Word document) and set it aside for a rainy day.


It's About Bloomin' Time!

That isn’t a pun this time. Things in Tucson really are blooming! The acacia trees have gone wild, the jasmine is intoxicating, desert wildflowers are abundant and, more to the point of this post, the citrus trees are at their peak. Closing in a bit more on my point, the orange trees are abloom and their scent is everywhere. It is magical to smell the night air.

What is nice about this time of year is that it coincides with the weather change – the time when we can start spending our evenings outdoors in the front courtyard, enjoying languorous meals, engaging conversation with friends and the perfume of the orange blossoms we love so much. Last evening, our friends Lynn and Lee from New York were with us, and it was our first night dining in the garden this season. It got a little chilly by the time we finished with dessert but no one was complaining, as we sat under the stars by candlelight draped in the soft, fragrant air...



What is sacrifice? I am not talking about the ritual sacrifice of biblical proportions – killing animals or people for the pleasure of a god or, for example, King Kong – but personal sacrifice. What is it to you?

Doreen is here with me for the weekend – the first time we have seen one another since Cocoa and Lavender was a dream, followed by a plan, and then a reality. It is wonderful to see her, and we have been having so much fun these past few days going on food-shopping adventures, attending a book-signing with author Kate Payne (an alumna of The Honors College where I work), making a comforting Malaysian chicken curry to eat fireside, and dining out at our favorite restaurant, Tavolino, with friends, where we had a wonderful Italian meal.


A Memorable Soup

My first taste of Mulligatawny soup was in 1980 at the Big Tree Inn in Geneseo, New York. I had been in Geneseo – a sweet college town in Upstate, NY - performing with the college choir, preparing for our trip to Washington, DC. Penelope, my music theory professor from the Eastman School of Music, happened to be in Geneseo that day and invited me to lunch. The Big Tree Inn was then – and still is – a delightful place to have a meal or to stay for the night.

The soup was a revelation for me. At that time in my life, I was still unaccustomed to exotic flavors – I am not sure cumin or coriander had ever touched my taste buds, even though my mother was a phenomenal cook. My brothers and I never had Chinese, Indian, Mexican or Japanese food growing up, either at home or in restaurants. They simply were not options for my parents and, thus, not for us kids. Italian was about as far as we would go. Somehow, though, all four of us boys ended up loving all variety of ethnic foods.