Cookery Maven Blog

A New Year's Benediction

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts -- adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires ... causes proper matters to catch fire.

To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these -- to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times in the midst of "success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen" when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But ...that is not what great ships are built for.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times

Life in a Northern Town

Well, it's official -- I've written a book. It seems a little unbelievable that I pulled it off (with a lot of help from my editor, Kate Thompson) but I did and I'm incredibly excited to share it with you in September 2017!

Like most of the good things in my life, the book wasn't exactly planned but was the result of a 'what the hell, let's go for it' decision. My friend, Demaris, owns Apostle Islands Booksellers in Bayfield and she suggested I pitch a cookbook based on my blog to the Wisconsin Historical Press. After a few gentle reminders, I finally agreed and sent an email in October 2013 with a subject line of "A Cookbook, Of Sorts, From Bayfield" and a helluva opening paragraph that included, "I'm not sure what goes into writing/publishing a cookbook but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?" Needless to say, I was shocked when Kate got back to me with a request for more the form of a book proposal with five or six pages of questions.  

Paperwork and Mary D is not a recipe for success, on a good day, and it was particularly intimidating to sit down in front of a bunch of questions about a cookbook (of sorts) that I hadn't planned on writing. So, I did what I always do and plowed through it, answering the questions as best I could....except for one VERY important question, "percentage of manuscript now completed". I figured any author worth their salt would have at least 50 percent of a manuscript completed before pitching a book, so I answered 50 - 60 percent -- never dreaming they would ask to see it. But they did and I had to come clean in January 2014 with an explanation that, "50 percent of the book is done but it's in my blog format and I would like to tighten it up before I send a manuscript version your way. What if I pulled it together and sent it off in two weeks?" 

That's where the wheels fell off my book-writing wagon and two weeks turned into five months. The thought of trying to cobble a manuscript together from my disjointed blog essays and recipes seemed like a huge task and I found all sorts of reasons not to sit down and do it. Until Kate emailed me on May 23, 2014 and asked, "Are you still thinking about doing a book project? I’d love to hear more about it." Like most of the good and unplanned things in my life, Kate's email came at the perfect time. 

That morning, Ted and I decided to take the Karl out for a quick spin before the kids came home from school and we cruising between Basswood and Hermit Islands when I saw Kate's email. I was still thinking (every now and then) about the book but, to be honest, I wasn't sure if I was up to the task of writing an entire book. I have zero experience in anything author-related and the thought of throwing my inexperienced hat into the writing ring seemed far outside my area of expertise. These thoughts were bouncing around in my head as we were walking on the beach (self-doubt can be so damn persuasive when you start to feed it) and as I turned back towards the boat, those self-doubting thoughts were drowned out by another voice who told me to write the book because I'll be given the words. It was settled, I decided to try my hand at becoming an author.  

I sat down the last week of May and extracted, re-worked, and cobbled together 14 essays and 43 recipes from my blog and emailed it to Kate. At the beginning of August, another email from Kate arrived in my inbox with the sentence that marked the beginning of Life in a Northern Town, "We would like to offer you a book contract!" 

The writing and publishing process reminded me a lot of becoming a mother. It’s all good when that baby is safely tucked away in your belly but shortly after the birth, it becomes apparent there is more to motherhood than picking out cute little onesies and agonizing over the perfect name. And there certainly was a lot more to authorhood than I would have guessed when I signed my book contract during the summer of 2014.

It was a long process: full of deadline extensions, photo disasters (I accidentally deleted about 17,000 photos right before my manuscript was due in September 2015), revisiting grammatical nuances, realizing that consistency and brevity are not traits I naturally possess, appreciating why some authors drink (all that word nit-picking creates massive self-doubt that only a double tequila on the rocks can fix) and how a good editor is a writer’s best friend. In the end, the process of writing forced me to distill my thoughts and feelings about food, feeding people and why it matters where my food comes from. 

Food is love -- something I've always believed and experienced in my life. However, I never realized that more than when we were headed out to the BWCA in May 2016. Our dog, Seamus, had lymphoma and was nearing the end of his life but our trip had been planned for months and, after a consult with our veterinarian, we decided to leave him in the very competent hands of our good friend, Amber. My heart was heavy and I wanted to make sure Seamus knew how much I loved him while we were gone. So, I found myself where I often go when I'm sad, happy, worried or the stove, in my kitchen. 

I poured every bit of love I could muster into that pot of homemade dog food and it was at that moment I realized the power of cookery. The food I made for Seamus would nourish him, physically and emotionally (I hoped), until we returned home. It was a small thing but making his dog chow was a way to be present, even when I was away from home. Cooking is my currency; it's the way I connect, nurture and love the people and animals in my life....whether it's dog chow for a sick pup, cookies for a friend, or roasted chicken for my kids when I can't be home for dinner. 

And that's what I'm hoping to share with you through the words and photos in the book -- for me, it's all about home, love and connection. For more information about Life in a Northern Town, click here. I'm so excited to share the book with you in the fall!!  

Snow Day

Why do I wake up early on snow days? Like really early, like 5:34 AM early?? We decided that Wednesday would be a ‘Dougherty Day’ regardless of what the Washburn School District had to say about the weather.

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Milkweed Magic

I put my garden to bed for the winter yesterday afternoon and in between pulling, cutting and pruning, I spent 30 minutes in full-out wonder at the symmetry and engineering of a milkweed pod. 

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Frosty Morning on the Beach

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted and its high time I get back into the Cookery Maven swing of things. I’ve been cooking, eating, drinking wine, taking pictures, and stirring the pot wherever and whenever I can but haven’t made time to sit at the computer and hammer out a blog post. 

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Long Island On Skis & Through Snowflakes

We booked across the bay last year but this year, we decided to book it LICC-style and headed out to Long Island for a winter version of Long Island Cocktail Club. Charly, the LICC czar, decreed the ice was safe, the island was accessible and we were bad-ass enough to get ourselves, some tequila, hot dogs, brats, 5 kids and 2 dogs over to Long for an afternoon adventure.

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Honest Dogs At The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races

That's how it all started, a bunch of sled dogs for an epic birthday present in 2001— seems like a reasonable way to start a kennel to me. Don't forget, Julie is the woman who decided paddling to the Arctic Ocean in a canoe and spending the winter in a cabin without running water on an island (read all about it here) was a good idea.

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When my eighteen year old self imagined her bright and exotic future— there wasn't a chapter, a mention or even a whiff of small towns, five kids, Northern Wisconsin or a Unimog. Her version of home was a decent Manhattan apartment, a salon full of friends and snappy chatter, some grown-up amber liquid in a lowball glass and stacks of books and New Yorker magazines. 

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It Was A Glorious Summer

It's official, summer is over. Next week, our little town will be overrun by apple mad people, flooding Rittenhouse Avenue in the name of Applefest. When we were tourists and lived on our boat, Applefest weekend was always bittersweet— it signaled the official end to our Bayfield summers and the re-entry to city life without a big lake to frame our days. Now that we live here, Applefest still marks the end of summer but now we re-enter days with a slower cadence, longer, quieter nights, wood fires in the stove and those first, thrilling snowflakes. I have to admit, fall is my favorite time of year but summer sure is glorious. Thank God, she'll be back next year.

We had a picnic on Stockton Island— swimming, floating, jumping off the rocks, bratwurst and beer. Classic Wisconsin day.

Two boys, one dog and a bag of chips— it doesn't get much better than this.

Sadie is a champion tube rider and if you look closely, you'll see a grin the size of Texas on her face. I bet she'd hold her own in a rodeo— she knows how to hold on for dear life.

Seagulls and dogs are a mutually exclusive deal— Zeus arrived and the gulls departed.

Searching for beach glass.

The Wisdom Of Wild Places

The kids and I went to a good, old-fashioned Sunday morning worship service today— complete with singing, the 23rd Psalm, poetry and a piece by Garrison Keillor about some serious retribution for a wayward organist. It was a celebration of over 70 years of worship on Sand Island and as the group sang their way through The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Morning has Broken and Throw Out the Lifeline, I (being the tone-deaf non-singer that I am) found a Prayer for a Camper, taped to the inside cover of the hymnal. It's a beautiful testament to the importance of carrying the wisdom, strength, quiet and humility of the wilderness into our daily lives.  A fitting testament to the generations of people who called Sand Island home (at least for the summer) and everyone else who finds the Divine in birdsong, a field of flowers, a night sky riddled with starlight or a stand of cedars.

Prayer of a Camper
Irene Mott

God of the hills, grant me strength to go back to the cities without faltering: Strength to do my daily tasks without tiring, and with enthusiasm; Strength to help my neighbor who has no hills to remember.

God of the lake, grant me thy peace and thy restfulness: Peace, to bring into a world of hurry and confusion; Restfulness, to carry to the tired ones that I shall meet every day; Contentment, to do small things, with a freedom from littleness; Self-control, for the unexpected emergency; Patience, for the wearisome task.

God of the Desert Canyons, warm my heart; Bake courage into my bones: Carve deep clefts within my soul; To hear through crowded places, the hush of the nighttime; To let in shafts of sunlight to brighten the cheerless corners of a long winter.

God of the Stars and Moon, may I take back the gift of friendship, of life for all: Fill me with awe and compassion; Fill me with a great tenderness for the needy person, at every turn. Grant that in all my perplexities and everyday decisions, I may keep an open mind, like the spacious night sky.

God of the Wilderness, with thy pure wind from the northland, drive away my pettiness; With harsh winds of the winter, drive away selfishness and hypocrisy; Fill me with the breadth and depths and heights of the wilds, When pine trees are dark against the skyline; Help me recall the humbleness of the hills, who in their mightiness know it not.

May I live the truth thou hast taught me, in every thought, and word, and deed.

Great Big Sea Under A Great Big Top 2013

Great Big Sea has provided the soundtrack to our family story for years and as I waited for them to take the stage at Big Top on Saturday, some of those memories came flooding back. Dancing in our living room to Donkey Riding when Jack was 6 or 7, listening to Charlie belt out, 'oh me, oh my, I heard me old wife cry, oh me, oh my, I think I'm going to die' at Target when he was 3 years old, sitting in the cockpit of Isle of Skye listening to Road Rage on countless afternoons among the Apostle Islands, listening to Consequence Free on the dock in Presque Isle with Guinness at my side and Meg in my lap and seeing them for the first time at First Avenue in 2004 with Katie and Ted. Their music has been woven into the tapestry we've created as a family and Saturday night was perfect, every single minute of it.

From the very first song, I knew it was going to be a night to remember. And it was— dancing and singing for two hours with the kids, Katie, Dan and Molly was unforgettable.

Watching Ted dance with the boys made my heart sing with pure joy.

After a little coaxing, Meg got up and joined in the fun.

Alan came to the end of the stage and showed the boys some love— they were thrilled.

Charlie had the time of his life— he was on his feet nearly the entire show.

My heart was bursting with love, pride and gratitude by the end of the concert. It's nearly impossible to put into words what it felt like to dance next to the babies I used to hold in my arms— they've grown into such extraordinary human beings. As our family continues to grow up and travel into uncharted territory, nights like last Saturday are my touchstones— beautiful memories made to the soundtrack of our family's story.

Bears In Trees

Charlie and I were on our way to Burke's house in early May (after our last snow storm) when Charlie said he thought he saw a bear in a tree. We turned around and sure enough, there was a black fur ball nestled in the crook of the tree, sound asleep. I dropped Charlie off at Burke's, grabbed my camera and went back to visit the bear and get a few photos. I hiked to the other side of the ravine and waited, and waited, and waited. That bear was in a deep slumber and my requests for a photo opportunity were ignored. During my hour-long vigil, I started to wonder if the bear was sick, needed rescuing or worse, dead in the tree. Give me enough time and I will conjure up a worst scenario that will knock your socks off.

I'm the first to admit I have a tendency to attempt to rescue any animal I think may need assistance (whether the animal actually wants my help, or not). Case in point— the time one of the dogs unearthed a rabbit nest full of babies and I thought I could be the rabbit mama until they were old enough to fend for themselves. I knew enough to wait and see if their real rabbit mama showed up but after two days, it wasn't looking good. I looked on the internet, avoiding all websites that recommended leaving well enough alone, and found some info about feeding the babies goat's milk with an eyedropper. I called my friend Jill who had some frozen goat's milk (it's still in my freezer) and ran up to her house to get the supplies to save the babies. I returned home, washed my hands and the eyedropper, put a bunch of soft rags in a box, warmed the milk and went to the nest to start my newest mothering role but it was empty— no bunnies or bunny parts to be seen. I'm sticking with the 'mama rabbit re-located her babies to save them from my well-meaning ministrations' story— coyotes don't eat during the day, right?

Talk about an empty nest syndrome, I thought about those little bunnies for days and wondered what I should have done differently. After careful reflection, I decided this lesson was about leaving well enough alone and trusting everything will be as it should be— without my help. Enter the sleeping bear in the tree. I remembered my baby rabbit lesson but decided it probably wasn't a cross-species lesson and this bear might need my help. I called the DNR and spoke to a nice woman who assured me the bear most likely went back into a mini hibernation because of the late season snowfall. Sounded plausible enough but after two days of checking on the bear, I had convinced myself he was injured, couldn't get down and might be hungry. This is where Jill comes in again (she must be my karmic wild animal rescue food supplier), she had a couple of fish skins lying around— maybe a little fishy snack might be a nice way to get the bear out of the tree?

I placed the fish skin near the tree, told the bear there was a snack waiting if he decided to get out of the tree and went home. Remember what I mentioned earlier about my lightening quick worst case scenario development skills? Well, I worried the bear would smell the fish and in his sleep-addled brain, fall out the tree. Thereby making my good intentions the sole cause of his injury or demise. I hopped back into the car, got to the tree just in time to see an enormous raven flying away with the entire pile of fish skins. At that point, I surrendered. It was obvious nature was telling me to back off, go home and stop trying to feed the bunnies and bears. A couple of days later, it warmed up and the bear was out of the tree. He was just waiting for the right time to wake up and because I don't speak bear, he had no way to tell me. But he visited today and that counts for a lot in my book.

Meghan was at the pond and saw him walk down into our ravine, get a drink from the stream and head down the driveway. Something made him turn around and he started towards our house. Ted asked him what he was doing and he answered the question by climbing the nearest tree and watching us. We watched him (from the house) for a couple of hours and when we returned home from Jack's award ceremony, he was gone. I laid some tobacco at the base of the tree and said a prayer of thanks for having such an honored guest in our yard for the afternoon. Lesson # 3,227— sometimes bears will show up all on their own, without my help.