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Dear World,

I am writing to you, once again, from my friend Ben’s dining room.

When I was here last August, writing my brains out, I had a hunch that a return visit might be helpful before my manuscript deadline. Turns out, that was correct.

In Ohio, there are no Brandons to distract me, no Delanceys to worry about, no Jacks or Alices to bark suddenly at absolutely nothing and, boom, scare the organs out of my body.

In Ohio, there is just a Ben and his nearly empty house, and a twin bed under the eaves with my name on it, next to a window onto which the previous tenant’s child stuck two butterfly decals. My first day in town turned out to be his first day off in a month, so we celebrated with a lunch excursion into Cleveland, to Balaton. We were seated by a nicely dressed older gentleman who watched over the place from a table in the corner. Between tasks, he ate slices of red apple out of a bowl. An elderly lady with dyed black hair and polyester pants came in shortly after we did, and the gentleman seated her at the next table over. They exchanged greetings in Hungarian, and he helped her out of her coat. Then he brought her a glass of red wine, filled perilously to the rim, and a cup of bean and dumpling soup. She was so quiet and careful, deftly angling her spoon to slice the raft of smoked sausage that floated on top, and watching her, we decided to order two cups of the same. So we ate that, and then we shared a plate of cabbage rolls stuffed with beef and pork and rice (on a bed of sauerkraut!), a small order of schnitzel with more dumplings (in gravy!), and a slice of chestnut torte, and never before, in the history of Cleveland, were there two more contented people. Then we drove home, and now: I WORK.

While I do that:

- Ira Glass gives props to Radiolab! This came out last fall, but I recently reread it, and I love what Glass has to say about storytelling, journalism, and sound. (Also highly recommended: the recent This American Life show on immigration.)

- Each time I get in the car and turn on the radio, this is what I hope to hear. Or this. The transformation is now complete: I am a middle-aged man.

- This is on the to-make list. Someday.

- A favorite old post from my friend Sarah’s blog.

- I can’t stop drinking Rachel’s ginger beer. Ideally in a tall glass, with plenty of ice and a straw. Rachel used to work with us at Delancey, so I am biased, but still, really, don’t miss it.

- My fondness for Stevie Nicks is well documented on this site, and several months ago, one of you kindly wrote to share this video of Stevie singing a demo version of "Wild Heart." Have I linked to it before? Yes? Well, I’m doing it again. It's goosebump material.

- Kate Christensen's blog. Beautiful, beautiful writing. (Via Winnie.)

- Brandon’s grandfather is a whiz at The Pig Song. I hope Brandon learns to sing it someday.

- I used to ride horses as a kid, and the performance of the US equestrian team in the 1984 Olympics was a powerful inspiration to me. I remember being at a show once where Joe Fargis was a judge, or something, and I was sufficiently awestruck that you would have thought he was Michael Jackson. I stopped riding fifteen years ago, and honestly, I don't think about it much, but I recently stumbled upon a video of that Olympic performance, and as I sat there watching Fargis and Touch of Class, I caught myself tearing up. I’m an old sap, no question, but there’s something to it: two athletes at the top of their game, one horse and one human, both doing what they clearly love to do.

- Jess’s Teddie’s apple cake. I’d like a slice today.

Talk to you soon.


Blogger Pia said...

I'd like a quiet room under the eaves to sit and write in. And a rather largish slice of Jess’s Teddie’s apple cake. While I write. Under the eaves.
I hope your manuscript is coming along fabulously.

8:16 AM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Andrea said...

Write well, and thank you for posting 'Ramble On.' In that moment, I felt from the bottom of my heart, that there was a kindred spirit in the world who understood what the combination of Led Zepplin and an apple cake can mean to a person.

8:27 AM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

I was following Abdullah's career at that time, as he was a "local" boy to Western New York and a beauty. But she was simply amazing. I got tears when she darts ahead at the end of the ride, obviously just full of herself! Thanks for reminding me and good luck writing!

8:29 AM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Roberta said...

Those are great links. The lamb recipe looks wonderful. I'm a big fan of lamb but am learning that I may be in the minority. The Pig Song, I never heard it but am now a fan. Good luck with your writing. Ramble On!

8:54 AM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Amy said...

ahh somehow I am biased towards people with a taste for music like an old man's (aka my fathers). And people with a taste for apple cake.

9:06 AM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Kacie @ A Collection of Passions said...

Such a lovely little list. This was fun to browse through with my morning tea.


9:07 AM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Brianne said...

If the top book in that pile is Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, stay away. I started reading it on a whim, and now I can't stop thinking about it! It's become quite the distraction, so much so that I've taken the day off of school today to finish it. (No joke, and that really freaks me out.) Best of luck as you complete your manuscript.

9:12 AM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Denise | Chez Danisse said...

My mom loved Stevie Nicks when I was a little girl. The record Rumours played over and over again in our house. I know most of the songs by heart. Enjoy your time at Ben's. It seems you've opened up the space you need. You've inspired me.

9:25 AM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Connie said...

I am happy to hear the manuscript is going well. Love Ira Glass and that dog is adorable.

9:31 AM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger WSAKE said...

i would love to have that dumpling meal - it sounds lovely. that last picture - i could stare at it forever.

9:33 AM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Thursday said...

Your writing brings a quietening of the mind as well as a need for apple cake, sadly not within the house. I do however have Ramble On which has just been listened to and I may, just may, listen to Gallows Pole too.

9:38 AM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back to Ohio! Balaton is indeed an authentic experience, oh so yummy, and nap-inducing.

9:55 AM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger EB of SpiceDish said...

Sounds like perfection to me. Good luck with the writing.

10:13 AM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger tori said...

Sending such good thoughts for the writing. Thank you so much for sharing the video of the showjumping. Literally made my week.

10:29 AM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Amanda said...

Good luck with the writing. Ramble On!

11:00 AM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous molly said...

old men are underrated.

and sometimes, i think, ohio, also.

enjoy your stay!

cheers, molly

11:10 AM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Jill said...

Molly- your post just turned my terrible Tuesday right around for the better. I love the way you describe things. Thanks so much for posting, and good luck finishing your manuscript. Can't wait to read the book!

11:18 AM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Elissa at PoorMansFeast.com said...

Love the Pig Song but was worried that Grandad was going to hyperventilate.

12:34 PM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Maja said...

The transformation is now complete: I am a middle-aged man.<-- this made me laugh out loud :)

2:26 PM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Mmm Balaton is one of the first dates I went on with my husband. He used to take hungarian engineers there when they were visiting Clevland. Can't beat their Dobos torte. Good luck writing. May you find your focus and stay warm.

2:43 PM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life said...

I hesitate to leave a comment because you aren't supposed to be reading them, I imagine. Write. Write!

3:57 PM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Kit Yoon said...

Molly - I love it that you came back to Ohio to write some more! This new state of ours is growing on us...but boy, do I miss the soul of the WEST! Good luck and don't forget to have at least a scoop of Jeni's before you leave! :)

4:28 PM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Meredith said...

I'm sorry, i couldnt get past the chesnut torte to get excited about the apple cake. What was it like?

5:25 PM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger threebees said...

Love that the book is getting closer...My son's band Futurebirds has a cool cover of Wild Heart on their Via Flamina record...the guys all grew up listening to their parents' Stevie Nicks songs so it is really fun to hear them sing it....we saw Robert Plant together last year and loved that he sang Ramble On and other old Zeppelin songs with Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin...and that apple cake...thanks Molly

5:52 PM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Beth said...

A coworker of mine said I'm secretly a 45 year old man due to my love of Led Zeppelin and scotch. Yet I remain a 26 year old lady, as far as I can tell.

I feel your pain/exuberance.

6:46 PM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Emily said...

Thank you so much for the Stevie Nicks link. It makes my heart hurt, it's so lovely. Good luck, m'dear!

7:37 PM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was out-of-my-skin excited when I moved to Ohio and realized this is where they keep all the Hungarians (my father and I were the only ones I knew til I turned 30). SO glad you enjoyed your stuffed cabbage (on sauerkraut! which is how I've always eaten it.)Hope Brian's taken/taking you to the West Market (Hungarian sausages for sale!) Godspeed and good luck with the book.

7:48 PM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger janna said...

Delurking just to say that you have EXCELLENT taste in music! (Also, good luck on the book -- looking forward to it!)

7:59 PM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger WWMarthaMake said...

Can't wait for the book. I was inspired by your first one and as a result created a small blog of my own- www.whatwouldmarthamake.com. I just love your stories and your recipes. Thanks Molly!

7:59 PM, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Brianna Soloski said...

Beautiful post. I wish I had a friend whose home I could escape to for a writing session.

8:04 PM, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous W@RichAutumns said...

A change in place always helps your creativity. Beautiful pictures once again. I think I read somewhere that you use a Polaroid Camera. Correct me if i am wrong. Do you scan your pictures after that?

1:46 AM, February 08, 2012  
Blogger Gemma said...

Total goosebump material.

Grandad's who can sing the pig song are the best - mine didn't have quite the knack with the noises but this takes me right back to sitting on his knee in their house in Wales while he sang to us.


1:52 AM, February 08, 2012  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Go, go, go, GO! Thinking of you, my friend. xoxo

2:46 AM, February 08, 2012  
Anonymous Amanda said...

I love that you ate at a restaurant called Balaton. I spent two summers on the Lake Balaton in Keszthely, Hungary, eating too much cinnamon ice cream and working at an English camp. I wish I could go back to that time. Thanks for reminding me of such a sweet memory. Best of luck writing!

3:27 AM, February 08, 2012  
Blogger Danae Gillespie said...

This was an especially wonderful post. I felt relaxed just reading it, and it made me miss Ohio (where I grew up).

3:50 AM, February 08, 2012  
Blogger Claudia said...

During the day I appreciate my quiet computer room - except when the cat jumps on the keyboard - meaning "time out for a purr." Enjoy Ohio. That soup has my name on it. Must seek it out.

11:52 AM, February 08, 2012  
Blogger Julie said...

My girlie is horse obsessed, learning to jump, and in love with a 1500 lb boy name Choo Choo. We're both so excited to watch the Olympics this summer. And I hope she continues to love only boys with manes and tails.

12:20 PM, February 08, 2012  
Anonymous kickpleat said...

I love teddie's apple cake and have made it often. Perfect winter fare. Love your links and your observations. I'd order that soup too.

12:55 PM, February 08, 2012  
Blogger FoodieNextDoor said...

The idea of a chestnut torte sounds delicious!
I think it's interesting that you post less recipes and seem to cook less when you write, because I find that cooking helps my writer's blocks, but perhaps it is different when what you are writing about is food. I hope your writing is going well!
And if you do need a sweet something to keep you motivated besides the idea of an apple cake, Salted Caramel Cupcakes with Salted Caramel frosting are yummy and easier to make than they sound like :)

1:41 PM, February 08, 2012  
Anonymous Stephanie Stiavetti said...

Molly! You're playing my favorite songs! I was just singing Sister Golden Hair Surprise this morning... and it wasn't even on the radio. Thank you for letting me know I'm not the only early-30s girl who loves this stuff. ;)

11:32 PM, February 08, 2012  
Blogger Brigi said...

I am envious you got to go to a Hungarian restaurant! I am Hungarian by origin, and there are no Hungarian restaurants left in NYC to my knowledge. Personally I could not eat it all the time,the food is heavy, but would like to take my husband once in a while.
He is smitten with mangalica, and that would be a treat to take him for a manglica feast.
However we often cook lecso, it is considered to be a delicious summer dish, but we make it all year around.
I hope you are inspired to write and having a great time.

4:53 AM, February 09, 2012  
Blogger Rosie DeQuattro said...

OMG! Alice is for sure a Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon. I have one, a pure-bred, and Alice looks just like her (except for maybe the ears). They are so scarce around here in the northeast--I rarely see them or even pictures of them, so when I clicked on Alice's picture I had to write. Aren't they the best dogs--quiet, friendly, un-demanding, and (best of all), they don't shed!

5:28 AM, February 09, 2012  
Blogger India Banks said...

Simply lovely. And such a cozy fire. Reading - I feel I'm inside a movie! Or an MFK Fisher novel. Happy writing and good luck - not that you really need it!

8:37 AM, February 10, 2012  
Blogger Rocky Mountain Woman said...

I gave up riding about 10 years ago, but I have a little granddaughter who wants to show and I am seriously thinking about dusting off my boots and taking my old gelding out of retirement.

we'll see.

Have fun with your friend and write your brains out!!!

10:25 AM, February 10, 2012  
Blogger Soy said...

Thanks for sharing the recipe for Jessie's Teddie's Apple Cake. Can't wait to try it out. Looking forward to having a slice of heaven, while I enjoy life and it's many possibilities.

10:35 AM, February 10, 2012  
Blogger Lana said...

Completely unrelated.... I'm reading your book right now and tears are streaming down my face. My mascara is smeared. I'm late for dinner. I'm utterly touched by A Homemade Life. Best cookbook ever. Thanks for being so vulnerable and sharing the humanity that is life.

3:40 PM, February 10, 2012  
Anonymous Alison said...

As if I couldn't love your site anymore, you go and post the BEST video of stevie- that version of wild heart is perfection. Love love love.

3:55 AM, February 12, 2012  
Anonymous Subee said...

Hi Molly - Love your blog and your book! Looking forward to reading more from you. You've inspired me to take a crack at my own blog (subeeskitchen.com). (Yet another francophile foodie from Seattle!) Santé!

9:50 AM, February 12, 2012  
Blogger Leslie said...

So glad you enjoyed Balaton. Cleveland has great ethnic eats! (And I used to work at Fire, just around the square). Best of luck with your manuscript.

3:58 PM, February 12, 2012  
Anonymous Mandy said...

Yes to the Led Zeppelin, Molly! It's unusually sunny in Vancouver today, and something about the sun and Robert Plant's creaky vocals is just the right combination to get me moving.

Oh and tonight, I make my second batch of last month's granola recipe. It was a game changer for me!

12:53 PM, February 13, 2012  
Anonymous Ilke said...

Good luck over there. Get away at the right time to the right places. I do need some quiet nights myself as well but going to Turkey to visit my loud family, so not in the cards for me. Well maybe during the flight. That is it.
Hope you had a productive, great visit there :)

8:11 PM, February 13, 2012  
Blogger Tim said...

I love the thought of being in a quiet place and writing. writing about anything is better than this job. When it comes to solace and peace I think about a fictitious cabin along Whitefish lake in Montana. I've never been there but it does sound quiet. I have never had Hungarian food that I know of an reading you describe it makes me want to go to go to that diner.

10:25 PM, February 16, 2012  
Anonymous kitchen afternoon said...

In Washington State I escape to the Okanagon - beautiul - far enough from Seattle I get very few visitors. My cabin is off the grid - solar and wind power. The quiet is wonderful.

5:46 AM, February 18, 2012  
Anonymous clémence said...

lovely words, and lovely pics...

2:56 PM, February 18, 2012  
Blogger Rita Writer said...

Balaton is an anchor at Shaker Square in Cleveland... and the recipes authentic... the original owner's nieces carry on her traditional eats. Hope you get to Cleveland again - we have a ton of ethnic places as well as cutting edge menus. Best of luck with the writing as well

9:44 PM, February 19, 2012  
Blogger Oana said...

Write away Molly! Love the pics.

12:13 PM, February 20, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're fun.

6:42 AM, February 22, 2012  
Blogger Anna said...

Good luck with the writing! That's such a pretty still life in the last photo.

11:57 AM, February 23, 2012  
Blogger the starving student said...

Ramble On - by far my favorite Led Zeppelin song there is. Well now we know what I am going to have stuck in my head for the rest of the evening.

2:38 PM, February 24, 2012  
Blogger Jacksprat said...

My family is from Cleveland, and yes, you just can't beat the little ethnic places tucked around that city. We tend to favor the Jewish delis and Italian holes-in-the-walls. Really wish Laparo's was still open ...

6:09 PM, February 25, 2012  
Anonymous Lys said...

Thank you so much for mentioning Kate Christensen's blog! It's so refreshing to see one write and include recipes (related to the story) without photos.

I feel there's this trend as of late, that a successful food blog must have stunning food photos but the writing...well that often gets left on the wayside. Thank you for taking the time to write such beautiful posts and acknowledging another that does the same.

4:25 AM, February 27, 2012  
Blogger Malli said...

A nice quiet room that inspires you to write... the article is beautiful!!

10:40 AM, February 28, 2012  
Anonymous Pam said...


I am finally posting to say how much I've enjoyed following your work... from the BA column and your first book and now visiting Orangette with some regularity. I enjoy the story of "Molly and Brandon" and in a small way enjoy a connection to you both... I was born in OK and after following my husband around a few other places (including CA), we now live in NJ! Tiny connection, yet personally meaningful. (BTW, made your "Winning Hearts and Minds" wedding cake recipe for my DH's birthday cake last month and there really needs to be a new word invented to convey "awesomely good" and "outrageously decadent" in a special way!)

9:08 AM, February 29, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made the apple cake last night. It is amazing. My kids loved it, i ate more for breakfast, and now I am starting to panic because there isn't much left. I think I have to make it again today.

5:37 AM, March 03, 2012  
Blogger warrior_e said...

I just finished your book and have to say I loved it - so I had to find your blog as well.
And now mentioning Balaton in your post, you are in my heart :-)

(a Hungarian in Toronto)

10:16 AM, March 06, 2012  
Blogger baldwin limber said...

Oh my goodness... Are you my long lost twin?
Wild heart.. How have I lived with out it? I have sufficed with 'angel' as my Stevie pinnacle (if one had to choose!). I'm going to go and sing it repeatedly as I glamourously do the dishes.
Thank you, Molly. For so much more than just the Stevie link.

6:41 PM, March 15, 2012  
Blogger elena nuez said...

I love the atmosphere that I can breathe in this blog!

4:48 AM, May 17, 2012  
Anonymous Darija said...

Writing in the comfort of your private room is wonderfull.

2:17 PM, May 21, 2012  
Blogger Neil Stirling said...

I think what appeals in this blogpost is that they are a feast for the senses. You refer to music, provide photo's, feelings, nostalgia and references to food/tastes as well. It makes a simple blogpost an entire experience. Thanks for the read and so much more.

1:30 PM, September 17, 2013  

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