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Critic Roundup: Comfort and Joy

Critic Roundup: Comfort and Joy


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Every Week, The Daily Meal rounds up restaurant reviews from across America

A large number of critics visited — and mostly enjoyed — classic and comforting food.

This week, many restaurant critics sampled familiar and comfort food including fried chicken, spaghetti pomodoro, a chili cheese hot dog, biscuits, a classic Rueben sandwich, grits, and risotto. For the most part, they were pleased with what they ate and the experiences they had; some were even thrilled.

Stan Sagner of The Daily News reviewed Root & Bone in New York’s Alphabet City, and awarded it three out of five stars. Although he found the restaurant loud and said that the desserts left a bit to be desired, he thoroughly enjoyed the biscuits, declaring “each bite of these golden cubes of steamy, impossibly flaky pastry is bliss.” Jonathon Gold visited L.A.’s Ladies' Gunboat Society at Flores, and began his review with the question, “Are there any sweeter words in the English language than ‘fried chicken and beer’?” Chef Brian Dunsmoor was able to make even the exotic seem familiar, by cooking a unusual menu item in a very beloved technique, making Gold proclaim “The crisply fried rabbit, brushed with honey, is even better than the chicken — Dunsmoor knows how to fry things.” Providence Cicero in Seattle tried Il Terrazzo Carmine, an “old-school Italian” restaurant, and enjoyed her experience so much she awarded it three and a half stars. The critic used descriptors for the food such as “velvety,” “creamy,” and “fork-tender,” and referenced just how classical and perfectly executed the fare is with definitive judgment: “Each item was prepared just as it should be.”

Restaurant Critic Roundup: 9/4/14

Critic

Publication

Restaurant

Rating

Pete Wells

The New York Times

Bar Primi

2 Stars

Stan Sagner

The Daily News

Root & Bone

3 Stars

Tom Siestsema

Washington Post

Crane & Turtle

2 Stars

Robert F. Moss

Charleston City Paper

Palace Hotel

Mixed

Scott Reitz

The Dallas Observer

Yukata

Positive

Jonathon Gold

LA Times

Ladies' Gunboat Society at Flores

Positive

Michael Bauer

San Francisco Chronicle

Aveline

2 Stars

William Porter

The Denver Post

Salt & Grinder

2 Stars

Providence Cicero

The Seattle Times

Il Terrazzo Carmine

3.5 Stars

Kate Kolenda is the Restaurant/City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @BeefWerky and @theconversant.


15 Absurdly Delicious French Toast Recipes to Make Right Now

Mornings are hard, but making French toast isn’t. In fact, egg-y fried bread covered in all sorts of different toppings makes mornings bearable — maybe, even enjoyable! Once you’ve mastered the basic principles of French toast, let your soul peruse these 15 very essential, very important recipes that showcase exactly how delicious French toast can be.

1. Crème Brûlée French Toast from The Recipe Critic

If you have a blowtorch in your kitchen (and you should! It’s so fun!) then you can have this recipe for breakfast, like, tomorrow.

2. Eggnog French Toast with Raspberry Sauce from Pinch of Yum

If your French toast isn’t bathing in a pool of raspberry sauce, then what are you doing with your life?

3. Apple Pie Overnight French Toast Casserole from The Cookie Rookie

If you have friends or family staying with you, then this is the answer for breakfast. You can make this the night before, then pop it in the oven in the morning for 40-50 minutes and you’re a hero.

4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast from Averie Cooks

I’m honestly at a loss for words here. I mean, there’s peanut butter, chocolate, and bananas stuffed in French toast and you can eat this FOR BREAKFAST. There’s a lot going on the world and things can be tough, but this recipe will always be here for you.

5. Slow Cooker Pumpkin French Toast from Damn Delicious

Well, yeah you can make French toast in the slow cooker! This recipe also has a delightful crumb topping and cream cheese glaze.

6. Bacon Stuffed French Toast from Spicy Southern Kitchen

Can’t decide between bacon and eggs and French toast for breakfast? You don’t have to!

7. Cinnamon Swirl French Toast from Gimme Delicious

Hey, you — did you know you can basically switch in any bread to make French toast? Now you do. Try this one out first!

8. Blueberry Doughnut French Toast Casserole from Creme de la Crumb

You don’t really even need bread at all to make French toast! Consider going off the beaten path and using DONUTS to make your “classic” breakfast.

9. Baked Blackberry Ricotta French Toast from Half Baked Harvest

If French toast was invited to the Oscars, this is probably the outfit it would show up in. It’s fancy and sophisticated, but also relatable and cute.

10. Coconut Cream Pie French Toast from Minimalist Baker

French toast that tastes like luscious, creamy coconut pie? Hello, yes, I’d like to sign up for this journey.

11. Banana Bread French Toast from A Saucy Kitchen

You could make your own banana bread for this recipe, or just buy it pre-made. I promise I won’t judge you.

12. Maple Pecan Overnight French Toast Bake from Fit Foodie Finds

Greek yogurt and maple syrup make this French toast a little bit healthier than the rest of the bunch. You know, if that’s your thing.

13. Almond Crusted French Toast with Roasted Strawberry Syrup from The Recipe Critic

Strawberry sauce is not optional here, folks.

14. Churro French Toast from Damn Delicious

Being an adult means that you can make this cinnamon-sugar-laden French toast for breakfast. Isn’t that pretty neat?

15. Blueberry Cheesecake French Toast Casserole from Little Spice Jar

There are little pockets of cream cheese hidden in this casserole, and if that doesn’t spark joy I don’t know how to help you.


Bravely Default 2 Review Roundup

The review embargo for Square Enix's Bravely Default 2 is lifted and various outlets are putting out their reviews to share their thoughts.

After first releasing on the Nintendo 3DS, Square Enix's Bravely Default series has seen much success when it comes to the franchise's review scores. Critics adored the first Bravely Default game for its classic approach to JRPG combat and storytelling. Considering that the first game is currently sitting at an overall Metacritic score of 85, fans around the world are no doubt interested in how this new entry is doing.

Is Bravely Default 2 worth diving into for fans of the series, or is it a step in the wrong direction? Thankfully, the review embargo for Bravely Default 2 was lifted today and various gaming outlets are publishing their reviews for the game. Here's what the critics have to say about the new Switch JRPG and whether it's worth picking up today or not.

"Bravely Default 2 makes a compelling case for itself as a modern JRPG that evokes the classic era, but it doesn’t do as much with the concept as modern contemporaries, and it never quite reaches the soaring highs of those classics, either. This is a game in between a rock and a hard place, and while it will definitely find its audience, it won’t make it onto any list of essential RPGs as its predecessor did."

"Bravely Default 2 feels like a franchise reboot, yet it's designed more for original fans than for a new audience. The combat system is viciously hard and off-putting to people who prefer more casual experiences. There is a lot to like in Bravely Default 2, as its character class system and story gradually unfold into something engaging and interesting - it just takes a long journey through some rough territory to get there."

"Bravely Default 2 is a long, familiar journey with excellent customizable combat and jobs systems that let you make your party and your playthrough truly your own. Its character and enemy art that was excellent on the 3DS doesn't translate all that well to the higher resolution of the Nintendo Switch, but the beautiful backdrops and environments get a massive boost from and look fantastic. And while the grind is real and repetitive fetch quests abound, it's so easy to pick up and put back down that it feels like less of a grind and more of a constructive way to kill some time. With plenty of old-school sensibilities and tons of improvements on the formula, Bravely Default 2 is almost everything I crave from a JRPG outside of a grand story."

"Bravely Default II doesn’t exactly break new ground in the saturated JRPG genre, but instead refines and iterates upon the foundation of the genre itself and the combat system that was introduced in the first game. It’s a marked improvement over its predecessors in many ways, and most importantly, it’s JRPG comfort food for genre fans. Bravely Default II can get frustrating at times, but it more than makes up for that by being endlessly charming and endearing, and remains a joy to play through from start to finish."

"I'm left with mixed feelings about Bravely Default II. There's a lot to like and a core that's still fun and engaging. But the removal of some key quality-of-life features gives this experience a lot more friction than the prior games. I've loved the Bravely Default series for letting me feel like I'm 15 again--with all the time in the world to grind out a full set of level-99 characters--while still respecting my time by recognizing I don't actually want to do that. Bravely Default II asked me to put in the tedious work and lost some of the series' identity in the process."

"Bravely Default II succeeds at delivering what it’s best at: offering a taste of the past with the emphasis on creative class combinations, hordes of foes, and big boss battles. Bravely Default II deftly harnesses some of the ancient enchantment of classic grind-and-go console RPGs – but don’t expect anything beyond that."

So far, it seems that most critics have very positive things to say about Bravely Default 2. Its battle mechanics are as good as ever, the job system is clever and creative, the environments look fantastic, and there are some improvements to the overall experience too. However, many critics disliked the grind and tough bosses that can cause a somewhat frustrating gameplay experience. There are also some people criticizing the game's characters and plot, calling it cliche and a trope that's been done to death.

Regardless, Bravely Default 2 is currently at a Metacritic average of 80, which is just a few points underneath the original game. While the JRPG isn't something that players should rush out to buy immediately, it seems like a solid follow-up that'll make fans of the series happy. For those still on the fence about the game, they can still download the free demo that's out now on the Switch eShop.

Bravely Default 2 will launch on February 26 as a Nintendo Switch exclusive.


Dine Out Maine: Once a critic, always a critic

Our current restaurant critic talks with his predecessors. What did they love? What changes did they chronicle? And where are we going next?

I spent a lot of time this past year thinking about all the things I couldn’t do. I’d wager you did the same.

With movie theaters, art museums, sporting events and international travel all on indefinite hiatus, I’d catch myself (far too often) in an online scrolling spiral that led everywhere and nowhere at the same time. For the most part, it wasn’t hard to break out of one of these reveries. But when food photos and menus ensnared me, I’d lose at least an hour, if not an entire evening.

Weirdly, old photos or notes from pre-Y2K meals seemed as evocative and fresh as Instagram snaps from late 2019.

But of course that makes sense. When memories are all you have available to you, it makes no difference if the restaurants you miss shut down last week, last year or last century. During most of 2020, a bowl of pho from Cong Tu Bot was every bit as out-of-reach as a cocktail from the Gem Restaurant & Hotel in Calais or a steak dinner at Valle’s.

With that in mind, why not reimagine this pandemic-inspired pause as an opportunity to look back?

Related

Maine Sunday Telegram Dine Out critic Andrew Ross talks shop

I’ve been the restaurant writer for the Maine Sunday Telegram since early 2016 — a lifetime in critic’s dog-years, but objectively just a blip. I realized my perspective felt too short for a meaningful retrospective. That goes double for the past 15 years or so, when Portland (and Maine with it) kicked its culinary evolution into overdrive. But I knew where to turn.

Since 2005, four other critics have held the position longer than a year: (Nancy) N.L. English (2005-2011), Nancy Heiser (2011-2013), Shonna Milliken Humphrey (2011-2013), James Schwartz (2014-2016), along with two interim reviewers (John Golden and Melissa Coleman).

For some historical perspective and future-facing insight, I reached out to the four long-serving Dine Out alumni to help me look back at Maine’s culinary landscape from the decade (and a bit) covering 2005-2016. In two weeks, I’ll offer some of my own reflections on the past five years and speculate about what’s to come.

The interviews have been edited for length, flow and clarity.

Q: How did you come to be the restaurant critic for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram?

Nancy English Photo courtesy of Nancy English

English (2005-11): I was writing for the Forecaster at the time, and I had written an article about the restaurant that became 158 Pickett Street — Josh (Potocki) and some of the people who went on to start Scratch Baking Co. I’d been eating down there regularly with a colleague, and that became part of my application. I’ve also been co-authoring a guidebook about Maine for almost 20 years, so I had already been to a lot of places on the coast of Maine when I got hired. I had lots of anecdotes, like about people stealing lobster traps, just stories people would give me.

Heiser (2011-13): I was a librarian in Washington, D.C. before we before we moved to Brunswick in 1984. I had been freelance writing in some fashion for 25 years: feature writing, travel profiles, essays, some art. I wrote for local newspapers and Down East magazine, the Boston Globe a little later.

It’s almost embarrassing to say, but I also self-published a cookbook. I needed a way to make dinner fast, so I compiled this book called Seat-of-the-pants Suppers. I did all the marketing, and I dragged it along to bookstores. I sold 5,000 copies all over Maine, into New England, and it was on Amazon.

Anyway, I saw the advertisement the Press Herald ran. It wasn’t run too widely. It might have been a Facebook post. I talked to the Features editor, and he told me they were asking a few people to do a sample review, sending everybody to the same restaurant — I think it was Walter’s. So I went to Walter’s and ordered so many dishes!

The thing is, I’m a competent cook, not a great cook, but I’m a “noticer,” and I think that’s what gave me confidence. I was always asking why a restaurant didn’t break this up, mess it up a bit more so I don’t have to use a fork or knife, or why they’d put a limp something on the plate when the dishes are so beautiful. I mean, I was noticing and criticizing from the get-go. So yes, it fit.

(Several months into Heiser’s tenure, she asked the Press Herald team to find a second critic to share the role with her. The paper hired Shonna Milliken Humphrey.)

Shonna Milliken Humphrey Photo by Jen Dean

Milliken Humphrey (2011-13): I answered an ad in 2011. I had left (after) almost seven years at the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and was freelancing and consulting, so the timing worked out well. When I later began working full-time at Thomas College, this was the only freelance gig I kept. It was a lot of fun to do.

The managing editor and I talked about a new direction for the role. Less straight-up, technical, “here are your stars” critic and more of a food-based feature essay writer. That approach appealed to me, both as a writer and a reader. I submitted a sample — I think it was for the then-Bintliff’s, and the editor liked the style. My intent was always to show readers what they might experience, as well as to learn new things — fun facts, techniques, etc. I wanted to make restaurant dining accessible, and I wanted to give space to lower price points. Very rarely did I ever actually criticize food. Looking back, I might have had the gig longer if I was more aggressive with criticism. But food is a subjective thing, and a restaurant is/was someone’s livelihood, so I tried to frame the experience as objectively as possible.

Schwartz (2014-16): I moved here from Washington (D.C.) and commuted for a few years as I finished up my job. I was Vice President at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where I had originally been the editor of their magazine. And I’d had other Washington jobs: I worked for the Washington Post for 12 years, and I’ve been an editor for magazines for Time, Inc.. But after a couple of years commuting, I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore, so I became a consultant to the Trust and had extra time on my hands.

It was a friend who actually told me that the paper was looking for a restaurant critic. When I was at the Post, I would sometimes sort of help Phyllis Richman, who was the food critic, so I wrote a note to Peggy (Grodinsky, Press Herald Food and Books Editor), sort of introduced myself, and she thanked me for writing, saying, ‘We’ve got a lot of applicants, but do a test review for me,” and I did. I still remember the test review was for Petite Jacqueline when it was on Longfellow Square.

Peggy got back in touch, and she and I talked about my food background as an avid home cook and an avid eater, and I had a general idea of the way I thought I wanted to handle it. So off we went!

Chicken with Meyer lemon-honey mustard, biscuit bread pudding and asparagus salad with avocado oil at Earth in Kennebunkport in 2017. Former restaurant critic Nancy Heiser loved the atmosphere, the service and the ambience. “It felt so genuine,” she said. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Q: Tell me about your impression of Maine’s food scene when you started.

English (2005-11): I moved to Portland in the 1980s. Into the 󈨞s, Congress Street had lots of empty places, and into the early 2000s, restaurants were still really struggling to take hold. It was a long period when it was difficult and a struggle.

We had a thing of not going for six months after a place opened, and in fact there were some restaurants that vanished before that was even over. It wasn’t unusual.

Nancy Heiser Photo courtesy of Nancy Heiser

Heiser (2011-13): Long before I started, our big lament used to be that there were very few ethnic restaurants. We have a great food scene for lobster rolls, we have steaks, we had the abiding classic places like Local 188, Back Bay Grill, Fore Street and Street & Co., but then, the sea change. And my goodness!

Suddenly, it was all different: small plates, Mexican, ethnic things happening and adding spice to those classic underpinnings. I’d be in Boston, several other places, even abroad, and I’d be out and say, “I could do just as well in Portland, Maine.”

Milliken Humphrey (2011-13): It was Fall 2011 when I was hired, and the food scene was booming. Looking back, it seems like this weird little golden age of food in Maine. I think it might be connected to the spike in social media. Chefs were not afraid to experiment, and customers were not afraid to share opinions. I remember everyone seemed worried about economic sustainability and how many restaurants the region could possibly support long-term.

Schwartz (2014-16): Well, I’ve got to be honest with you. Everybody here, and then gradually the national press, all kept talking about Portland as such a fabulous restaurant town. My conclusion was that Portland is a really small town, and we are blessed with a nice collection of restaurants, certainly a growing collection of restaurants. But it’s not Paris, it’s not New York there are not countless places, but there are a surprisingly good number of places to choose from.

And across Maine, there were more mid-range, good restaurants than in many other places — a very good middle ground. There are a couple of high-end restaurants in the state, but many of the most enjoyable food experiences in Maine are, in my opinion, in the mid-range, and I like that a lot.

Q: What were the most talked-about restaurants during your tenure, and what memorable restaurants opened then?

English (2005-11): Hugo’s had been taken over by Rob Evans in 2000 or so, and that was a revelation, even five years later, people were still talking about getting one giant scallop on the plate and being blown away by how it could taste.

Oh, and Bresca, and that’s somewhere I went twice, on my own dime. I loved it. It’s another of those revelations that makes you just ask: Why on Earth is this thing with charred bread and an egg so good? It was so inventive, so wonderful.

Heiser (2011-13): It was an incredible time, because you have places all over. Certainly Tao is on that list. Gather opened then, too. Earth at Hidden Pond, which I’ll come back to, but it was my major five-star restaurant — just top-grade.

Milliken Humphrey (2011-13): Let’s see. Eventide. That was fantastic. I remember a conversation with one of the owners about the ridiculous one-upmanship that often happens in the food and beverage industry. It was something along the lines of who eats the most parts of the most animals cured in the most ways and in the most unique combinations. It was also the first time I’d sat down with so many varieties of oyster to really experience the physical differences and learn about how oysters develop their flavors.

The now-closed Outliers opened in what, for years, was a dive bar with an airplane on the roof. That was an outstanding menu, and I remember their garlic scapes. I had so many good meals there. I was able to visit David’s Opus Ten when it first opened. The short-lived Spread by Jung Hur on Commercial Street. (I suspect his urban concept was just a bit ahead of its time.) Gogi on Congress, which was a weird-but-great Korean taco place. Kushiya Benkay with the skewers. Standard Gastropub in Bridgton, too, was new when I started. I went to a bizarre, massive new buffet restaurant by TJMaxx, too, which served soft shell crabs and frog legs.

James Schwartz Photo courtesy of James Schwartz

Schwartz (2014-16): Down by the border in Kittery Foreside, Anju Noodle Bar, which was this fabulous, absolutely tiny place, well off the beaten track for most people, and they just had it going on, with absolutely delicious, wildly fresh food with exquisite flavors. And I really admired them for making a go of it, because you’re taking a leap when you get into that business, and they were doing such a wonderful job, with a core group of believers patronizing the place.

In the same vein, I loved, loved Suzukiya, which opened up on Munjoy Hill. It was sort of basic and had just a couple of different items on the menu, but it was one Japanese guy making his own ramen noodles. But it was impressive, so good and very fresh. I loved it. I thought, “This is what ramen is supposed to taste like.”

Then near the tile store and Miccuci’s, the two guys who originally had a food truck opened East Ender. Now they had a great hamburger! I remember going there and thinking how it was very American, but one big step up from tavern cuisine. At that mid-range price, they were cooking sort of a notch above everybody else. And a great burger is an asset for any city. Totally enjoyable, hearty, yet still high on the comfort-food scale.

Q: What were your favorite restaurants to write about?

English (2005-11): Bresca. I remember just being so impressed by her (chef/owner Krista Kern Desjarlais), that she could have thought to use something bitter like char as a counterpoint to an ingredient like fatty pancetta. Yes, Bresca is very high on that list.

The now closed Bresca, on Middle Street in Portland, in 2012. “That’s somewhere I went twice, on my own dime,” said former restaurant critic Nancy Heiser. “I loved it.” Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

So is Evangeline, which was over the top and a production in its own way. I felt like I was being put to the test by the pros, like I was in the spotlight, trying to say something intelligent. But I really liked it.

Otto, also. Initially, it was that one little place at 576 Congress, and that fantastic mashed potato and bacon pizza that was so unique. I remember that we were all very excited about it. And then it became enormous!

Heiser (2011-13): I have two. One is Earth at Hidden Pond. The atmosphere was great. It was new, everything including the service was tremendous and it felt so genuine. That was amazing. The other is a place where the food was to-die-for, and the service, too, was a place on Deer Isle called El El Frijoles, a joke in Spanish — a version of “L.L.Bean.” I was up there doing a travel story for the Globe, I confess. But when I went, this young-ish couple who did Tex-Mex from California, and it was just five-star from start to finish, and I never would have expected it. Deer Isle is also a crazy-beautiful place.

Also: Bandaloop, in Kennebunkport (now in Arundel). Not a five-star meal, but damn good, and the revelatory aspect for me was its superb use of vegetables.

Milliken Humphrey (2011-13): I approached the gig as a feature writer. What could people expect? What would they see, hear, and feel? In that respect, I liked writing about places where I could learn new things. How corned beef got its name (the hunks of salt were called corns) or why lemon juice mellows the taste of some oysters. The best Thai soup for cold symptoms. Where to go if I wanted to disappear (the Amory Lounge in the Regency Hotel basement) and where to go for a birthday splurge. For non-alcoholic beverages? Walkable from the ferry? Someone visiting Maine for the first time. Who could achieve a perfect sear on a scallop? Those things interested me much more than anything else.

Schwartz (2014-16): The Lost Kitchen was just starting to get a little bit of recognition when I went up there, and I was wowed not just by her, but her commitment to flavor and freshness, and she’s also just a fabulous personality. And I love the fact that it was all being done by this woman who had been through a heck of a lot, had a young kid, bought a house she was restoring and was mapling in her spare time. Then she opens up this crazy restaurant that was only going to be seasonal, in the middle of nowhere, and it was attracting this following! That was a great joy.

I also really liked it when the Press Hotel opened, and their restaurant (Union) turned out to be fun, and a real surprise. I tend to think of hotel restaurants as disappointing, and this one was bright, had good food, and celebrated great Maine ingredients and growers.

Diners at MK Kitchen in Gorham in 2015. “A business analyst likely would have said that this is not the right place to open a restaurant, that you need to be downtown. But I like that he said no,” said former restaurant critic James Schwartz. “Sort of like the Kevin Costner quote, you know, if you build it, they will come. And they did.” Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

What changed on the food scene in Maine during your time as the critic?

English (2005-11): During my time, it happened more in Portland than in the rest of the state. On the rest of the coast, things were more friendly to the amateur for a while — someone thinking they might want to make muffins and open a restaurant, so they’d just give it a whirl, and it might be great. In Portland, things were moving the other direction, getting more and more professional, with people coming in from around the country. It wasn’t the local talent so much. In my 2012 edition of the Maine Explorer’s Guidebook, from the end of my time at the paper, if I open it to the Portland section there are 22 restaurant entries there. They were excellent places to dine out. By 2019, there were 35 entries.

Heiser (2011-13): Small plates, which is something I also wrote about for the Globe. I love the concept — it really appeals to me because I don’t have a huge appetite, but I like to taste around. Places like Bar Lola, which has since closed, were really just a revelation.

Milliken Humphrey (2011-13): Every week, it seemed like something new was opening or expanding. At that point, what would likely be considered innovative in another area of the country was a bit dull here in Maine. Truffle mac and cheese, seared rare tuna, and lobster linguine are objectively delicious, amazing meals, but then along came Eventide with a lobster roll in a bao bun or Gogi on Congress Street with a Korean short rib galbi taco. And not just the fusion trend. Suddenly you could get raspberry-filled doughnuts fried to order in Westbrook or sunchokes at Local 188. Authentic pho with the tendon and meatballs at a half dozen spots. At the time, a lot of food lovers were in a bit of a head spin because there was just so much choice. That’s what I remember.

If a friend asked for a restaurant recommendation, it wasn’t just a matter of “ok, go here for seafood and go here for pasta” because there were a dozen options, depending on a dozen other qualifiers. Something as simple as fries would have me asking “Do you want twice-fried, proper Belgian, crinkle cut, shoestring, hand cut, done in duck fat, spicy, as poutine, or with unique condiments? And what sort of atmosphere would you like to enjoy the fries?” I actually recall that conversation. It was, in retrospect, a little ridiculous.

Schwartz (2014-16): In my time, many people were taking the plunge to open up, so places were opening where there had formerly not necessarily been restaurants. There was a sense of opportunity.

This is also when Country Living or Town & Country or one of those magazines started recognizing the Portland food scene. You had the sense that Boston and New York chefs who couldn’t afford real estate in those cities recognized they could probably afford to open something here. Kind of like the way Broadway shows used to go to Hartford or Philadelphia or Boston beforehand to try things out. I got the sense the same kind of thing was happening on my watch.

I also liked the fact that people were sort of breaking traditional geographic molds. So the guy who had been the chef at Inn by the Sea (Mitch Kaldrovich), he and his wife (Lisa Kaldrovich) opened MK Kitchen in Gorham. A business analyst likely would have said that this is not the right place to open a restaurant, that you need to be downtown. But I like that he said no. Sort of like the Kevin Costner quote, you know, if you build it, they will come. And they did.

Gogi on Congress Street in 2011, now closed, was “a weird but wonderful place,” said former restaurant critic Shonna Milliken Humphrey. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Q: What’s your impression of how the food scene has changed since you stopped writing for the paper, and what do you predict for the future?

English (2005-11): I think it’s incredible. It has gotten better and better. I’m very grateful that I can pop into Central Provisions for a spicy beef salad, or that I don’t have to think twice about finding wonderful fries in a bunch of places. Things used to be pretty mediocre in a lot of places, especially on the coast. But things aren’t so mediocre here at all anymore.

The pandemic has forced us all into this need for familiar and comforting foods. Those are such powerful money-makers for restaurants that I can see them becoming more established.

But I also feel like there will be a stronger and stronger sense that know that we know we can eat well, we should. If you’re going to enjoy something indulgent, it should be really well made. I have faith we will be able to do that. It’s not everywhere yet. The countryside is still so dependent on Sysco trucks with frozen vegetables, which is sad when the countryside has such beautiful vegetables. But it will come.

Heiser (2011-13): This is not an original thought, but I predict outdoor dining will continue and maybe expand in the warm and even shoulder months, to allow more room between tables. People may be reluctant to sit shoulder to shoulder in crowded bistro-style settings. It remains to be seen.

I myself have trended away from meat as a central protein and try to have more legume- and vegetable-centric meals and seafood in my diet. This is from a health as well as a climate-conscious standpoint. I’d much rather have a well-executed vegan meal than a fancy steak. If I were to wish a post-pandemic trend, I’m hoping restaurants will cater to customers who want delectable climate-friendly food: sustainable seafood, vegetarian and vegan meals, and continue and extend the use of local products.

The now-closed Outliers in 2013. “That was an outstanding menu, and I remember their garlic scapes,” said former restaurant critic Shonna Milliken Humphrey. “I had so many good meals there.” John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Milliken Humphrey (2011-13): A lot of places have closed. It’s a nostalgic, sad thing to know that 555, Grace, Evangeline and Cinque Terre are gone. Same for Havana South and The Merry Table.

Another thing that has changed is the broader community awareness of an establishment. For instance, it would be difficult for me to write as glowingly about a restaurant if I knew the chef who made my food — now in jail for murder — was then abusing a partner. I also would have passed on writing so happily about a restaurant run by a person on the sex offender list. Both were undeniably amazing culinary experiences, but I would have declined them. It’s a balance and a larger conversation about where art and vocation stop and a person’s values and choices begin. I don’t have great answers, but I would not have done those assignments.

I suspect we’ll see takeout become a regular thing, and because of that, menus will adapt a bit to accommodate more items that can withstand 30 minutes in a container.

I would bet money there will be a broader array of non-alcoholic craft cocktail options, too. Possibly THC-infused desserts? Some neat aquaculture things are happening with seaweed, and I know people are trying to figure out how to make those invasive green crabs more inviting.

I listened to a radio piece about the growing popularity of insect-based proteins, too, in places like New York. I think plant-based options will continue to expand — and rapidly so. I also like the idea of restaurants with an entertainment factor — like the new axe-throwing place that serves BBQ.

It’s really hard to tell. I suspect French standards will always have a place, as well as fried comfort foods.

Schwartz (2014-16): I am absolutely convinced it’s going to bounce back. I don’t think it’s going to look the way it did before, and that’s fine. We have to accept the fact that we’re going to be living and moving in a different world, and some people are not going to dip their feet back into the pond again many will, and they’re going to have great success. But it’s going to take a little time for people to feel comfortable with eating communally.

Also, you’re going to see more people doing what Erin (French, chef/owner of The Lost Kitchen) did, opening a restaurant in their neck of the woods, whatever that happens to be, and sourcing locally. If someone is opening a restaurant in Camden, they are not going to be getting their bread from Standard Baking Co., and they’re not going to be getting their microgreens from a New York-area grower. They’re going to be doing it with local farmers. I think people are going to be even more local, if that’s possible.


Comfort

Dr. Bailey: This nocturnal lifestyle, it's just not good for your health.

Cameron: I guess there is a reason why they call it the graveyard shift.

User reviews 5

This hopeless romantic who also enjoys wholesome movies absolutely LOVED this story. The actors were brilliant and natural, the storyline realistic, full of heart and strength of character. The movies strongpoints were those very things most modern movies leave out. decent, real, innocent humanity and love.

I was so touched by this movie and fèlt the need to write this review and pray that those involved with the movie would see it, and consider a follow-up movie. The firm foundation is there to show how lasting relationships are built and maintained by really getting to know and understand another.

I have no pride, PLEASE write part 2.

Thank you so much for such a delightful, heartfelt, loving and respectful movie.


Healthy Slow Cooker Pork Recipes

Similar to chicken, pork can get really tough depending on how you cook it. When you cook pork in the slow cooker – it becomes fall apart tender and SO yummy! Here are some of my favorite slow cooker healthy recipes that feature pork!

Healthy Crockpot Pulled Pork – One of our favorite recipes on our site. We make this every week!

Crockpot Balsamic Pork Roast from SkinnyTaste – Pork roast is a classic slow cooker recipe. It’s so delicious!

Slow Cooker Honey Lime Ginger Pork from The Recipe Critic looks amazing! Love the ginger/lime flavor combo


10 Cookbooks (Plus 2 Cocktail Books) To See You Through Self-Isolation Season

HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING BY MARK BITTMAN (HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT $19)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Now this one is a real modern classic. When I first moved to New York more than a decade ago, Mark Bittman was the guy to turn to for reasonably healthy (and easy) vegetable-forward recipes. His bestselling book was—and is—every twenty-something’s manual: It taught you all the basics and then some. I read his “Minimalist” column regularly and eventually learned how to properly work with locally-sourced vegetables and fruit. (Produce in the United States differs vastly from the offerings of my tropical Motherland, requiring different techniques and methods of preparation.) And now, with the recently-revised 20th-anniversary edition, the book is better than ever—fortified with color photographs for visual learners. Because let’s face it, recipes are infinitely easier to work with when you know what the dish is supposed to look like.

NOTHING FANCY BY ALISON ROMAN (CLARKSON POTTER $24)

Alison Roman, the former Bon Appétit senior food editor, left the much-respected publication in 2015. But her easy-breezy informal style of cooking has remained—resonating widely with a generation of millennial home cooks who’re more amenable to ingredient substitutions, unconventional flavor combinations, and bold experimentation. These days, Roman is somewhat of a cookery celeb with two bestselling books under her belt. (Her first one, Dining In, taught America how to layer and build flavor with citrus, anchovies, and oft-neglected pantry items.) The result? Flavors galore. Beyond that, some of her recipes have officially hit cult status, gaining their own Instagram hashtags: #the stew and #thecookies. Nothing Fancy, released late last year, is a little more advanced and more appropriate for home cooks who need to feed more than a few mouths.

DIMES TIMES: EMOTIONAL EATING BY ALISSA WAGNER AND SABRINA DE SOUSA (KARMA BOOKS $40)

I’m typically not a fan of “restaurant cookbooks.” Why? Because they’re often too fussy or too precious—featuring dishes that require a gazillion specialty ingredients on top of time-consuming multi-step cooking processes. But this one’s different. Even its subtitle says it all: If there ever was an appropriate time for emotional eating, this is it. Dimes is based in New York’s Lower East Side and its cookbook couldn’t be more appealing. Egg fried rice, broiled sardines with meyer lemon salsa, and poached fish? Count me in. Also: I’m a sucker for great art direction and clever editorial packaging. (The book is masterfully structured, breaking down chapters according to time and moods.)

HACKING WHISKEY BY AARON GOLDFARB (DOVETAIL $14)

We’re all home bartenders now. And Goldfarb’s cocktail book is the go-to read for passionate imbibers who take their experimental side seriously. But note that it’s neither for the faint of palate nor for the risk averse—or for those short on time. The 264­–page manual is filled with all sorts of cool and unconventional concoctions—most of which are quirkily unusual, to say the least. Think: Dairy Queen-inspired boozy blizzards, a bourbon vinegar that involves a nearly-full bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, a volcano-vaporized weed whiskey, and pechuga bourbon. And this is just a small sampling of the tamer creations. “I created the Blizzard Trial cocktails because I thought a lot of people might be intimidated by the more challenging recipes and techniques in the book. They literally just involve putting candies or cookies in a whiskey bottle, shaking it up, and then straining. Anyone can do that I figured,” Goldfarb says. “Whiskey, of course, inherently has a lot of candied notes already built in—whether it’s the Werther’s Original caramel hints in bourbons or the notes of Butterfingers I get from certain Jim Beam expressions. The ones I make in the book lean more toward chocolatey and nutty candy bars. But I'd love to see someone try a Blizzard Trial with fruity and citrusy candies. Maybe some Starburst in an Irish whiskey, Mike & Ikes in a wheated bourbon, or even Sour Patch Kids in Japanese whiskey.”

DINNER: A LOVE STORY BY JENNY ROSENSTRACH (ECCO $16)

The best thing about this all-time favorite is the fact that the book promotes realistic recipes for non-professional home cooks. It’s perfect for people who have that one very important end-of-day goal: Get your kids fed stat. There’s nothing fussy or overly ambitious about each of Jenny Rosenstrach’s dishes. You won’t need a smoker, deep-fryer, or any other kind of space-hogging special equipment. Among my favorites: panko-crusted roast chicken and fish en papillote, both of which take under an hour to prepare.

STEAK AND CAKE BY ELIZABETH KARMEL (WORKMAN $12)

Full disclosure: Elizabeth Karmel (a.k.a the original Grill Girl) is one of my favorite humans in the world. And it’s not just because we’ve shared countless good meals, fine tequilas, and peaty Scotches over the years. Karmel is a patient teacher with an excellent palate, answering all my food prep questions without the slightest hint of annoyance: She truly wants to help elevate your game. So when the coronavirus shutdown hit New York, forcing my March- and April-born friends to celebrate their birthdays alone, I knew immediately that Steak and Cake was exactly what they needed. After all, pandemic life doesn’t have to be devoid of festivities. And is there a better way to enjoy your big day at home than with a juicy steak and a whole cake to yourself? I think not. (Most especially when you’re clad in Olivia von Halle silk pajamas with Ozark or Tiger King playing on the tube.) Also: The beauty of it all is that the book showcases the recipes in pairs—one steak for one cake. So the meal planning is already done for you. For instance, Karmel’s New York strip with red wine butter and spinach artichoke casserole is meant to precede a particularly fun confetti birthday cake. And I highly recommend the Tuscan steak with white anchovy, truffle butter, and grilled lemons—with Italian cream cake to follow. What’s not to love?

KEEPING IT SIMPLE: EASY WEEKNIGHT ONE-POT RECIPES BY YASMIN FAHR (HARDIE GRANT $17)

Yasmin Fahr’s Serious Eats column, “ One-Pot Wonders ,” probably saved many home cooks from post-work dinnertime despair. And now that all her easy recipes have been consolidated into one book, I suspect that it’s once again redeeming the kitchen-fatigued. As its title implies, each recipe calls for zero fuss, minimal prep, and easy cleanup—the perfect trifecta for #quarantinecooking. Gazing at the images, it’s easy to presume that each dish took hours to put together. Quite the opposite—nothing takes longer than 50 minutes. Think: pasta alla gricia with kale, chicken cutlets topped with mozzarella, and roasted halibut with lemon, tomatoes, and herbs.

THE SILVER SPOON CLASSIC (PHAIDON $33)

I went through a pasta all’Amatriciana phase years ago when I was binge-watching The Sopranos. It seemed fitting to stuff my face with bucatini smothered in a tomato-onion-guanciale sauce while watching the show’s endlessly hilarious “Pine Barrens” episode. And of course, I learned how to make the dish by way of The Silver Spoon, which was gifted to me post-divorce. An excellent regalo for anyone in such a situation, if you ask me. The bestseller was first published in Italy (as Il Cucchiaio d’Argento) by Domus 70 years ago—and it has since become an indispensable resource in many kitchen bookshelves alongside The Joy of Cooking, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and The Silver Palate Cookbook. In 2005, the international publisher Phaidon released the tome’s first English-language edition—teaching Americans (myself included) how to recreate the dishes they had enjoyed in Italy. And make no mistake: This is not an Italian-American cookbook. Rather, its pages contain approximately 2,000 easy-to-understand traditional recipes—with chapters divided into courses, sauces and marinades, and accompaniments. Fast-forward several years, Phaidon began to introduce more category-specific versions: Silver Spoon for Children ($17) and the soon-to-be-released The Vegetarian Silver Spoon ($48).

MOLLY ON THE RANGE (RODALE $28)

This one’s for all the experimental and perfectionist bakers out there. North Dakota-based Molly Yeh first caught everyone’s attention through social media—posting her meticulously decorated cakes and pastries on her Instagram feed. And it was difficult not to notice how deft and precise she was with her baking. But that’s not what got me into her. It’s often said that you’re either a baker or a cook. But if you’re a bread baker, then you’re a different breed altogether. Not Molly: She can do all of that. A Juilliard-trained musician, Yeh decided to follow her now-husband to the Midwest and channeled her exacting creativity into the culinary arts. And her fastidiousness paid off in spades: She’s now the star of her own cooking show, Girl Meets Farm. Definitely worth tuning in to.

3-INGREDIENT COCKTAILS BY ROBERT SIMONSON (TEN SPEED PRESS $17)

I think of the COVID-19 pandemic as a time to embrace simplicity and deviate from unnecessary complexity. But perhaps I’m biased. More often than not a 17-ingredient drink with massive flourishes (frequently served in elaborate vessels) has nothing to do with piecing together the elements of a good cocktail to create a balanced yet nuanced flavor profile. Rather, it’s got everything to do with a bartender’s ego—the all-consuming desire to demonstrate expertise and spectacle, turning the drinking experience into gratuitous entertainment. And if that’s what you’re after, that’s perfectly fine. But it has no place in the humble homes of most imbibers who just want to decompress with a solid end-of-day libation. I mean, who has the luxury of time to make hand-carved tea-infused ice? Not me. Enter Simonson’s 3-Ingredient Cocktails, which is faithful to its premise. As the book’s title implies, each recipe consists of no more than three ingredients—and none of them take more than 10 minutes to make. Beyond that, the book is divided into five easy-to-navigate chapters: sours, highballs, and old-fashioneds—plus drinks that have been categorized as “other” and “improved.” Perfect for those of us who have zero time—even when we have nothing but.

CRAVINGS BY CHRISSY TEIGEN (CLARKSON POTTER $18)

I’ve got a huge girl crush on Chrissy Teigen. So naturally, I own both of her cookbooks—how could I not? But if I were to choose between the two, Cravings is the one. Its amusing conversational tone, perfect blend of East and West, and easygoing style is exactly my kind of jam. Nothing about it is excessively complicated, making it perfect for novice cooks and seasoned kitchen dwellers alike. My all-time favorite, Teigen’s chicken lettuce wraps, is particularly fitting for pandemic cooking: You can make a big batch of filling in advance, portion them into single-serving containers, and pan heat as necessary. I swear, it tastes better after a few days. Just make sure you have butter lettuce on hand at all times.

PROCRASTIBAKING: 100 RECIPES FOR GETTING NOTHING DONE IN THE MOST DELICIOUS WAY POSSIBLE BY ERIN GARDNER (ATRIA BOOKS $17)

Stress baking more than usual? No worries. You’re certainly not alone. Everyone’s doing it—so much so that flour and yeast have been so difficult to come by in the past several weeks. But never mind that. If you love working with dough, you probably have all the provisions you need. And if your work-from-home routine is turning into drag, I encourage you to get this book and do as it says: procrastibake. Because are you really wasting time if your day ends with a batch of blueberry-lemon muffins and cinnamon roll scones? Absolutely not.


Chuck Berry's Final Recordings Are Fresh And Forward-Looking

This is FRESH AIR. Chuck Berry, who died this past March at the age of 90, left behind an album of new material, his first such collection since "Rock It" in 1979. Our rock critic Ken Tucker says this new album, called "Chuck," contains some surprisingly energetic and interesting music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WONDERFUL WOMAN")

CHUCK BERRY: (Singing) Oh, well, looky here now. This just makes my day. There's a wonderful woman. She just walked by my way. Well, I was standing there, trembling like a leaf on a willow tree, hoping her great, big, beautiful eyes would follow me. Ah, it was wishful thinking, but I hope that it still might be. Man, she's so beautiful.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: As one of the principal architects of rock and roll, Chuck Berry might have been content to spend his final recordings doing remakes or reworkings of his hits. But he always rejected the concept of contentment. Restless, witty and proud, Berry found time during his final two decades to get off the road and into a studio to record the fully realized bits and pieces that cohere to form this collection, titled "Chuck." It includes some wonderful music, such as this bluesy version of the 1930s ballad "You Go To My Head" with backup vocals by Berry's daughter Ingrid.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU GO TO MY HEAD")

CHUCK BERRY AND INGRID BERRY: (Singing) You go to my head, and you linger like a haunting refrain. And I find you spinning around in my brain like the bubbles in a glass of champagne. You go to my head like the sparkle in a burgundy brew, and I find the very mention of you is like the kicker in a julep or two.

TUCKER: Other aging artists have been willing to let strong, younger producers guide them into the final chapters of their recording careers. I'm thinking of the showcases that Rick Rubin built for Johnny Cash and that Jack White did for Loretta Lynn. Chuck Berry would have none of this. Berry was not preparing for death the way Leonard Cohen was with his final album, "You Want It Darker." Consistently autodidactic since the 1950s, Chuck Berry rings fresh changes here from familiar chords, riffs and subject matter, maintaining a fierce independence from current trends or fads.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHE STILL LOVES YOU")

BERRY: (Singing) She came to me when my own heart was in much need of hers. Sometime we'll try and reach for things we know we each want and don't deserve. I felt I was wrong. It seems she belongs to someone else. She hurt my words and trust, but in her arms I just could not help myself.

TUCKER: That's "She Still Loves You," the song that most clearly demonstrates how vitally interested Berry remained in cataloguing the endless variations of flirtation, horniness and romance. People have spent so many years talking about his lyrics, which were and remain among the most vivid, concise and artfully phrased. But they often neglect or underrate his guitar playing, at which he was every bit as groundbreaking. Listen to a solo that glows at the end of "She Still Loves You."

(SOUNDBITE OF CHUCK BERRY SONG, "SHE STILL LOVES YOU")

TUCKER: On "Darling," Berry sings about the facts of his life - that he's grown old, that he often feels tired or as though he's done all this before and now finds a mixture of comfort, sadness and ease in coming to the end of a career. He sings to his daughter Ingrid, life can pass so fast away.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DARLING")

BERRY: (Singing) Darling, your father's growing older each year. Strands of gray are showing bolder. Come here, and lay your head upon my shoulder, my dear. The time is passing fast away.

TUCKER: There's so much good music on "Chuck's" half-hour-plus length, I haven't even bothered to play its first single, "Big Boys," a variation on "Johnny B. Goode" featuring guitarist Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine. That's because Chuck Berry really didn't need a guest star or an echo of an earlier hit to prove he still had something to offer you. Rejecting the nostalgia that grows to smother passion, he spent his final recordings remaining in touch with his most youthful motivations.

BIANCULLI: Ken Tucker is critic-at-large for Yahoo TV. He reviewed "Chuck," Chuck Berry's album of new material which was released earlier this month after his death in March at the age of 90.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG BOYS")

BERRY: (Singing) When I was just a little boy like you, I wanted to do things the big boys do. Wherever they went, you know they wouldn't let me go. And I got suspicious, and I wanted to know. I was bright in school, but my future looked dim because the big boys wouldn't let me party with them. Yes, yes, I didn't cry. Yes, yes, and you know why. Yes, yes, I knew when and what - yes, yes. No if, and or but. I was looking for joy - yes, yes, yes, yes - when I was a little bitty boy.

BIANCULLI: Coming up, film critic David Edelstein reviews "Beguiled," the new movie directed by Sofia Coppola. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ROLLING STONES SONG, "NOW I'VE GOT A WITNESS - LIKE UNCLE PHIL AND UNCLE GENE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


Elizabeth Strout’s ‘My Name Is Lucy Barton’

When you purchase an independently reviewed book through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.

One of this nation’s most abiding myths is that social origins don’t matter. Each of us is Gatsby, or can be, with the potential to be reinvented and obliterate the past. This is nowhere more true than in New York City, where, surrounded by millions, each person supposedly stands upon his or her own merits. If we reach a sophisticated urban consensus on how to speak, how to dress, how to live, then who will know what lies beneath the surface? Who will know what any one of us might really mean by words like “home,” “childhood” or “love”?

Elizabeth Strout is a writer bracingly unafraid of silences, her vision of the world northern, Protestant and flinty. “Olive Kitteridge,” her ­Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of linked stories, gives life to a woman both fierce and thwarted, hampered in her passions at once by rage and a sense of propriety. The narrator of Strout’s powerful and melancholy new novel, “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” might be a distant relation of Olive’s, though she is raised in poverty outside the small town of Amgash, Ill., rather than in Maine, and her adult home, where most of the novel takes place, is in Manhattan.

Lucy is a writer — words are her vocation — and yet she, like Olive, hovers at the edge of the sayable, attempting to articulate experiences that have never been and, without the force of her will, might never be expressed. She says she decided in the third grade to be a writer after reading about a girl named Tilly, “who was strange and unattractive because she was dirty and poor.” Books “brought me things,” she explains. “They made me feel less alone. This is my point. And I thought: I will write and people will not feel so alone!”

Lucy Barton’s story is, in meaningful ways, about loneliness, about an individual’s isolation when her past — all that has formed her — is invisible and incommunicable to those around her. Like the fictional Tilly, she endured a childhood of hardship, shunned even by her Amgash classmates, living in a world incomprehensible to her adult friends in New York. Not only did the family have little heat and little food, they had no books, no magazines and no TV: There was a lot for Lucy to catch up on.

Hers is also, though, a simple love story, about a girl’s unquestioning, almost animal love for her mother, and her mother’s love in return about how what is invisible and incommunicable is not only what isolates but also what binds.

Image

Lucy’s account, told many years later, primarily records a five-day visit from her mother when Lucy was hospitalized with a mysterious infection for almost nine weeks in New York in the mid-1980s. At the time, Lucy had a husband and two small daughters, ages 5 and 6, but she had been largely estranged from her parents since her marriage. We learn that her father — a World War II veteran whose agonies and aggressions remain somewhat oblique, but who would be described in traditional parlance as having had a “bad war” — can’t abide the fact that Lucy’s husband is of German extraction, with “blond German looks” to match.

Over the course of Lucy’s mother’s unexpected stay, the older woman remains in the hospital room with her daughter, taking only occasional catnaps. (“You learn to, when you don’t feel safe,” she observes, prompting Lucy to reflect, “I know very little about my mother’s childhood.”) They pass the time making up nicknames for the nurses and gossiping cheerfully about the fates of some of the girls and women from Amgash Lucy knew in her youth: snooty Kathie Nicely, who fell in love with a schoolteacher (who turned out to be gay) and then was shunned by her husband and daughters Cousin Harriet, who “had that very poor luck with her marriage” and was left to raise her children as an impoverished young widow Marilyn Somebody, married to a man who, sent almost immediately to fight in Vietnam, “had to do some terrible stuff, and . . . he’s never been the same” or Mary Mumford, a.k.a. Mississippi Mary, who married well and seemed to have it all, but upon discovering her husband’s long-term affair with his secretary suffered a heart attack.

In discussing these narratives, they circle around those things they can’t broach openly. They don’t talk about Lucy’s father’s episodes, “what as a child I had called — to myself — the Thing, meaning an incident of my father becoming very anxious and not in control of himself” or about the fact that Lucy’s parents struck their children “impulsively and vigorously” or about her terror of being locked in her father’s truck and her horror at even hearing the word “snake.” They don’t discuss why Lucy’s brother still lives at home and reads children’s books, or why “he goes into the Pedersons’ barn, and he sleeps next to the pigs that will be taken to slaughter.” And, above all, they don’t talk about Lucy’s present life in New York, about the stories she’s published or her young family and new friends.

Lucy, exhilarated simply by her mother’s presence — “I was so happy. Oh, I was happy speaking with my mother this way!” — has, at least many years later, made her peace with all that their conversations elided and, it would seem, with the pain associated with the unsayable and the unsaid. “I have asked experts,” she reflects. “Their answers have been thoughtful, and almost always the same: I don’t know what your mother remembered. I like these experts because they seem decent, and because I feel I know a true sentence when I hear one now. They do not know what my mother remembered. I don’t know what my mother remembered either.”

Strout articulates for her readers — albeit often circumspectly, perhaps the only way — the Gordian knot of family, binding together fear and misery, solace and love. Lucy Barton, although still a young woman in her hospital bed, is already far from the hardscrabble silences of rural Amgash but in her uncertain illness nothing can console her like her mother’s presence — “It was the sound of my mother’s voice I most wanted what she said didn’t matter.” In a moment of crucial directness, Lucy explains: “I feel that people may not understand that my mother could never say the words I love you. I feel that people may not understand: It was all right.”

Interspersed with Lucy’s memories of these precious five days are intimations of her marriage and its ultimate failure, along with portraits of her beloved doctor and her friends and mentors at the time — in particular a neighbor named Jeremy, who dies of AIDS, and a writer and teacher named Sarah Payne. These are the people who see Lucy as an artist, giving her a new sense of belonging, and, in Sarah’s case, exhorting her to look unflinchingly at a story. “If you find yourself protecting anyone as you write this piece,” Sarah tells her, “remember this: You’re not doing it right.”

Whether Strout once had a literary guide like Sarah Payne (an imperfect guide, flawed as are all these beautifully too-human characters) or whether she herself has been one, her fiction certainly enacts the fierce clarity of vision Payne demands: There is not a scintilla of sentimentality in this exquisite novel. Instead, in its careful words and vibrating si­lences, “My Name Is Lucy Barton” offers us a rare wealth of emotion, from darkest suffering to — “I was so happy. Oh, I was happy” — simple joy.


Elif Shafak

When you live in different countries and several cities throughout your life, one thing you will find hard as a novelist is to keep a library. But wherever I went there would always be a novel of hers travelling with me. Sometimes in English, sometimes in Turkish. The Bluest Eye. Song of Solomon. Beloved. Tar Baby. I felt soothed by her words, encouraged by her presence, inspired by her vision. Morrison had a huge impact on me. Secretly, I dreamed of being able to tell her this someday.

Slavery, memory, sanity, spirituality, myth, destruction and inequality, but above all, survival. Her stories changed the literary landscape not only in America but also, through myriad translations, across the world. It wasn’t only her novels, though. The way she defended and explained her craft was remarkable she was a fighter and she was not afraid of taking risks. In her personal life she had to overcome many barriers - gender, racial and class. Novelist, editor, scholar, she was one of our most important public intellectuals.

Recently, at an event at Daunt Books in London, a young mother from Sudan put her hand up and said she wanted to keep writing fiction but she found it hard to do so while raising three young kids. I said to her: “Think about Toni Morrison. Remember what she said. Some days we won’t be able to write, and that’s all right. Other days we will be more productive. Sometimes we will work at night, sometimes during the day. We will carve out little pockets of spaces for ourselves, just like many women do. It is only privileged authors of a certain background who are proud of their precise schedules. The rest of us will keep struggling, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. It was Morrison who showed us that this is how we write.”

Morrison’s work bore echoes of her life, but she insisted on the need for literature to be free, not necessarily autobiographical. Although her work was multilayered, and her themes diverse, in the end she always wrote about love – its powerful presence or painful absence.


Rep-Elect Braxton Mitchell wants Montana&rsquosprimaries to be closed and all its ballots hand counted

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Mitchell, a Republican who decisively defeated appointed incumbent Democrat Debo Powers on 3 Nov, will represent House District 3 (Columbia Falls, map) in Montana&rsquos 2021 legislative session. He&rsquoll be the second youngest member. Mallerie Stromswold (R, HD-50, Billings)is a year or two younger.

Stromswold requested a bill (LC1330) on raw milk, so this is a good time to remind people that raw milk is a health hazard that never goes away.

Thus far, Mitchell has requested 12 bills, two of which, highlighted in the following table, are the primary subjects of this post. The legislature&rsquos website has a list of the almost 3,000 bills requested thus far.


Watch the video: Comfort u0026 Joy (July 2022).


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