I recently watched Julia Robert’s Eat. Pray. Love. and felt that while it was cute and moderately interesting it was not the brilliant and awe-inspiring story the critics had made it out to be. For those of you not familiar with the plot, Elizabeth Gilbert, successful NY author who seems to have it all wakes up one night and realizes she doesn’t want to be married anymore. What ensues is her personal struggle to figure out who she is, via three-month stints in Italy (Eat), India (Pray), and Bali (Love).
While I can’t claim to be nearly as tortured as Elizabeth, or as glamorous as Julia, I am at an interesting moment in my life. I am soon to be completing a one year contract doing work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. However, in a move so uncharacteristic I’m questioning it myself I have NOT immediately lined up the next project. Rather, I’m hoping to take one month off before beginning my next adventure February 14th. Now, to most people taking one month off at some point in their late 20s or early 30s doesn’t seem so crazy. But, we’re talking about me here. The person who has blissfully had her life scheduled in 15 minute increments since the day I turned 14 and got my first Day-Timer. I am a person who craves order and control, and I’ve very purposely built a life on that.
So…upon assignment completion I will be kicking off my own little mini version of Eat. Pray. Love. Being a rather unsure agnostic I knew the Pray part wasn’t going to work so well, so I’ve changed it to Breathe.
Eat. – Here forth commences one month of totally indulgent cooking. I’m going to make sauces that take forever, I’m going to make so many muffins I don’t know what to do with them, I’m going to discover grocery stores in Seattle’s International District that I never even knew existed and I’m going to finally bite the bullet and try to make foie gras.
Breathe. – Does anyone else find breathing impossible? I do. I often realize as I’m falling asleep at night that I haven’t taken a single deep breath. So…I’m going to do yoga or Pilates every day and I won’t even ask the instructors if they have a speed class available.
Love. – They say that having a partner by your side makes the uncertain times that much easier. I couldn’t agree more. My lovely husband has been an absolute champion for this little adventure. What’s more…when I suggested to him that as part of this chapter I should perhaps take a cousin trip to Puerto Rico he totally agreed! So that’s how this experiment will end. One week in Puerto Rico with my lovely cousins.
This fall, as a sort of precursor to Puerto Rico, five first cousins set off for Walla Walla, WA. Arriving from Seattle and Portland we had an absolutely blissful weekend full of food, wine, laughter, dancing, and entirely ridiculous quotes that would make sense to no one else but us. We didn’t so much cook for the weekend as much as “melt stuff” but it was perfect all the same. This baked artichoke dip is sinfully delicious even if a bit ghetto. Make it ahead of time so that your guests don’t know what’s in it.
If bread, cheese, and artichokes don’t say “love” I don’t know what does.
Baked Artichoke Dip
1 medium-sized round loaf bread (cheap is okay)
1 can artichokes (well-drained and coarsely chopped)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded + more for topping
2/3 cup mayo (don’t even bother with the light variety)
1 TB Lemon juice
Pre-heat oven to 350.
Carve out the round loaf of bread, reserving “filling” so that you can use it as crostini later. Cube filling into 2-inch chunks.
Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and transfer to waiting bread bowl. Top with extra Parmesan cheese.
Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, or until brown and bubbling. For last 10 minutes add bread chunks until lightly toasted. This is the perfect appetizer for a winter gathering.
**All photos by my lovely cousin Annie Laurie Malarkey.**