Hi There! Let's Make Things and Then Eat Them
Adventures in fermenting, wine making, cooking, growing food and the occasional humor column, but all in one place.
Welcome to Administrivia, my new email newsletter about my weird-yet-delicious kitchen pursuits!
If you follow me on social media, you know that I have a lot of interests beyond writing about puzzles and editing articles for The New York Times. Most of these outside interests involve food.
Occasionally — and I may be going out on a limb here — you may be interested in eating food too, so I thought I would invite you to hang out with me in my kitchen and share some of the things I’ve made, with ways for you to make them as well.
Posting these creations on social media is fun, but they tend to get lost easily, and one of the most common questions I get — other than “When are you going to get a real job?” (Quit it, Mom!) — is: “Where was that recipe you posted six months ago? I think it involved turnips. Or maybe scallops. Either way, it looked good and I want to try to make it.”
Fair enough, but very often I can’t find it either.
Administrivia is where I will share my attempts to make the turnip-or-maybe-it-was-scallops things. There will be a lot of putting things in jars, because I am a pickle and hot sauce fanatic, and am fascinated with the science of fermentation. (Spoiler: It makes things taste delicious!)
It’s a letter from me to you, straight to your inbox. You can make what I’m making, or you can just sit back and enjoy watching me potentially blow up my kitchen. You can applaud my bravery or you can laugh at my travails. It’s all good.
On an as-yet-to-be-determined basis, I will let you know what’s going on in my kitchen, as well as in my brain. Thank you ahead of time for listening. It’s so much cheaper than therapy.
I’ll also try to include something that made me happy or impressed me, in the hopes that it will give you a boost, too.
Oh, here’s another reason why you should subscribe. You can’t see me, but I’m raising my right hand and taking the following pledge:
I hereby pledge to post any recipes at the TOP of the email, so you don’t have to doomscroll your way to hell to find out whether you need a cup or a teaspoon of something.
How’s that for customer service?
If you feel like reading the rest of what I write, thank you for that too. That’s the nicest thing you can do for a writer, next to telling them how brilliant they are.
A caveat on my style of making things -- my general philosophy about food prep has two steps:
Cook until it tastes good and then stop.
Dole out generous portions of whatever you just made to the people sitting around your table and then eat.
For me, that’s much less stressful than trying to get everything exactly right down to the last grain of salt. You’re probably thinking that I must not be much of a baker, because baking requires that kind of precision. You’d be right. But I’m also doing this to take my mind off things, not to further stress myself out.
In fermentation, however, it’s important to have precise measurements for things like the brine in order to prevent spoilage and illness, so I will be precise with those measurements and directions. But if I say “Throw a handful of ingredient X into the mix” and you are not sure how much a “handful” is, look down at your hand, put enough ingredient X in it to almost cover your palm, and go for it. If you don’t think you’d like what you’re making with that much X in it, use less. If it still doesn’t taste good, add more. You are the boss of your ingredients, and you get to determine how something tastes. I’m just here to be the canary in the coal mine, so to speak.
Sometimes I will write about my attempts to turn a suburban New Jersey backyard into a food forest that will yield many of the vegetables and herbs I preserve.
Occasionally I will post a humor column, because it has been a long time and I miss it.
Finally: Why am I calling this Administrivia? Because, as I said above, I have a lot of interests that don’t fall into a single category. Join me and let’s be curious about these disparate things together.
For now, the newsletter is free, but eventually it will be moving to a hybrid free/inexpensive subscription model. The cost will be low, but it will help me keep this thing running, and I appreciate your support very much. I’ll let you know before it happens, in case you’d rather not continue our adventures together. But the Extremely Spunky Border Terrier will be very sad if you do. She has abandonment issues.
Sign up now, so you don’t miss the first issue. My Mason jars and I are waiting for you.
And in the meantime, please tell your friends! Share on Facebook, tweet about it, give it a shout-out on your own blogs. I love you for doing that.
Let’s ferment all the things,