Asadur's market

As I am forever gabbing away with so many folks I encounter, I often meet neat people and receive fabulous tidbits of treasured info.

I mean, I am still so excited not only to have made friends with Hiwot but also to have learned so much from her about making injera, lentil and cabbage wats, and more about Ethiopian holidays and the foods used to celebrate them. 

I have recently started seeing a new dentist, and her dental hygienist, Helen, is an absolute doll. Despite the extensive cleaning going on, we managed to chat fairly constantly and discovered that we had much in common, including experiences in and connection to Florence, Italy, and the fact that Helen attended one of my canning classes at Strosniders sometime in the past two years. As it also happens, Helen is Greek, and our conversation quickly turned to Greek food.

Last Thursday, I was in for another cleaning, and as Easter is on the horizon, Helen is manically cooking in preparation. Long story short, I was foaming at the mouth over the recipes she makes, including her gigandes (those enormous Greek white beans often stewed with tomatoes), and she mentioned that her favorite place to shop is Asadur's, a market in Rockville, MD. 

You will not be surprised to know that today, a mere 48 hours after hearing about bags of beans and awesome spices and imported feta, I hauled it to Asadur's. I am exceedingly glad I did, although my wallet is not. #obsessivefoodielady

Asadur's, 5536 Randolph Road, is housed in a nondescript unit of a nondescript strip mall. Sandwiched between Salon Gabor and Kung Fu Karate, two neon signs announce BEER and OPEN while a smaller anti-theft sign lets you know that you're being watched.

Undeterred, I headed inside, grabbed a cart, and started on the far right aisle where I grabbed Turkish delight (for Jack), a box of Nutella-stuffed croissants (for Ol; not a Greek treat, but he loves Nutella and croissants and learned to ride his bike today so they're deserved) and a large bag of ladokoulouro (for me) before running into the olive area where two Greek women were telling a third, non-Greek woman, what they do with their olives and how. I was in heaven.

Before we go on, let me tell you about ladokoulouro, in case you are unfamiliar. These -ring-shaped at Asadur's though I imagine they come in many styles- reminded me somewhat of taralli which are (also ring-shaped) Italian crackers. Both have a not-unpleasantly-dry crumb and are crunchy. (Taralli can be sweet or savory; I don't know if the same is true for ladokoulouro.) 

The ladokoulouro I chose today are made of wheat flour, sugar, Cretan olive oil, orange zest, cloves, and cinnamon, and are rolled in sesame. In the below photo, you can see them at the top of the serving platter. They.are.sublime. I didn't realize that they were better suited to a dessert tray than our dinner spread, but so be it. YUM!

 dinner: baba ganoush, hummus, Greek olives, green beans with lemon, cucs, stuffed grape leaves, tomatoes, two types of feta, ladokoulouro, village bread, all drizzled with kalamata oil

dinner: baba ganoush, hummus, Greek olives, green beans with lemon, cucs, stuffed grape leaves, tomatoes, two types of feta, ladokoulouro, village bread, all drizzled with kalamata oil

I love dessert items made with olive oil because I find the depth and flavor and lack of sweetness imparted by the oil so interesting. These do not disappoint.

Among the shocking number of items I purchased were:

 dried gigandes

dried gigandes

 whole camomile flowers for tea- I just drank a cup of the tea, and it is SO good

whole camomile flowers for tea- I just drank a cup of the tea, and it is SO good

 kalamata olive oil

kalamata olive oil

 giant golden raisins

giant golden raisins

 one of the two white wines I bought; Greek whites tend to be like southern Italian whites- crisp, clean, easy to drink.

one of the two white wines I bought; Greek whites tend to be like southern Italian whites- crisp, clean, easy to drink.

 you should smell this za'atar- it is SO fragrant

you should smell this za'atar- it is SO fragrant

I also bought olives, INCREDIBLE baba ganoush and two delectable types of feta (see first photo), a bag of frozen artichoke hearts, some course bulgur for tabouli, candied orange peel, two cans of stuffed grape leaves, and on and on. Everything we've tasted so far has been scrumptious. 

Asadur's is closed on Sundays but is otherwise open starting at 9 or 10 each day. During the week, you can purchase salads and sandwiches at lunchtime. Phone is 301-770-5558. I definitely recommend a trip if Greek food gets you even half as excited as it makes me. 

Anne Lamott and other thoughts

Do y'all remember when I blogged EVERY day? For four straight years, if memory serves, I submitted a quotidian offering. How did I do that? And why?

I think I thought I had to, as if daily posts were a precondition for "successful blogging." And in many ways, I am so grateful I wrote with that frequency because, having no formal writing education on which to fall back, committing something to page on such a regular basis taught me that writing is the training of a muscle as well as the fanning of a creative flame. 

It is rare now (minus the February lulls and periods of political malaise) that I sit in front of an empty page without what feels like magic starting to percolate. Even if my thoughts go nowhere or read as awfully mundane, there is some shift internally that draws me always back like moth to light, like me to sunshine.

Last night, I met a group of women at the Strathmore arts center to hear Anne Lamott talk about mercy and grace and present her newest book, Hallelujah Anyway.

I have been an enormous fan of Anne's since first reading Operating Instructions more than a decade ago. It's one of those books that legitimately made me wheeze with stomach-cramping laughter and cause Tom to repeatedly ask, "What is going on over there?" It also made me think and tear up and feel grateful that slightly-zany Anne of the smart, progressive, troubled parents found her way to writing and got clean.

Then I read Traveling Mercies and thought as deeply as I'd laughed in Operating Instructions and highlighted and notated with the mad desire to not forget the wisdom she seemed to be spilling on every page and wondered about her devout Christianity even though she explained it so well. 

Other than the timbre of her voice not sounding precisely how I'd heard it in my mind, Anne was so totally herself last night, and I found that marvelous. Barbara Kingsolver was, many years ago at the National Cathedral, not at all what I'd imagined, and I remain crushed. Because The Poisonwood Bible

But anyway, Anne. Her hair was lassoed with both ponytail holder and hair band, but I could nonetheless discern the wild, blond frizz she's described so many times. She talked about Pammy, and her Jesuit friend, and Sam, and Veronica, and I felt myself nodding, as if she were talking about mutual friends. She was funny and deadpan and loopy and candid. She despises Trump and teaches Sunday school and told us to care for the poor more times than I could count. She is smart and anxious and beautifully imperfect, and as through her pen, wisdom spilled from her voice.

It is both powerful and comforting to encounter such an open, authentic being. I felt the sort of gratitude that comes when you can really trust someone, not least someone who has so bravely shared her flaws and fears with the world. I am always drawn to her sort of honesty and lack of pretense. Really, it's the way I want to go about in the world. It seems both efficient and connective, and I appreciate both.

Just before she opened the floor to questions, she read a passage from Hallelujah Anyway about a friend's son committing suicide. I want to leave you with this tonight as I found it a truly profound reframing of what is often considered a heinous, selfish act and also a truly profound use of writing to teach and provoke. 

Then Ann, at peace and in grief, stood up trembling and shared the note he had left for her. Like most suicide notes, it said, I have to do this. I'm sorry. Please forgive me and release me. Don't be sad. And I love you; love you. Then she called forth Jay, in baby baths, at the beach, on a trike, at the prom, and here, smoking and resting among the flowers. She gave thanks for the gestational period of ten months they'd spent together at what turned out to be the end, for the communion and care he received and gave to Ann, for that time they had needed so badly, an intimacy most of us cannot imagine.
In the garden, where he had walked, paced, rested, we were holding him and releasing him, inside the ring of trees, ferns, rosebushes, a cherry plum. ...How could this have happened? How can such pain exist? ...How could doctors not help him, with all those meds and treatments, not help him get free of that bad brain any other way? He was at the mercy of it, of bad brain, yet he held out so long, for Ann, to help her. So mercy has claws, too, that don't easily let go.
...Every release inside us releases whatever energy inside us tethered Jay here, to this realm that was just too awful for him. We were saying, This is hard, but not as hard as it was for you here, weighed down by the anchors of so-called reality. So go now, go, unfettered.

Stunning, huh.

Mighty Salads! and a bit of re-entry burrs-in-butt

We got home around 10pm last night, after leaving Lake Charles just before 2. The children were, shall we say, rambunctious, and I have not, in a long while, been so glad to insert my ear plugs and call it a day as I was last night when everyone was tucked in.

Our trip home was wonderful, and I admit to crying on and off all day yesterday. I'm sure I was primed for tears not only because of a happy week in the sun with my parents but also because just before leaving for the airport, we all went to visit the graveyard in which Nanny is buried.

I miss her always, but rarely do I get to sit atop her grave, rearranging the pebbles into an obvious heart and talking with her. 

This morning I began the pleasurable task of sorting through a week's worth of mail. In it I found my new Maxine Waters "Shade" shirt, which delights me to no end, as well as two new books: Down and Out in Paris and London (Orwell) and 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: A Memoir (Kim Stafford). 


Additionally, the new Food52 cookbook, Mighty Salads was just released, and I am very excited to have a recipe featured in it: my Farro and Golden Beet Salad with Chive-Sage Oil

The book has so many delicious dishes in it- salad for dinner without going hungry is the mantra. Woot!

Although some cooler temps remain in our forecast, today was beautiful, sunny and hovering around 60 degrees. I got a burr in my butt to not only plant everything Mom sent home with me (amaryllis and calla lily bulbs, indigo, lemon grass, and something that now escapes me) but also to remove two Nandina bushes that irritate me and whose absence would make room for something wonderful. I got it all done. So therapeutic and fun.

In the meantime, the boys, tired as all get out from the trip home yesterday, played and bickered, bickered and rested. This evening, after getting them to bed, I found this note from Ol to Jack. I'm going to be honest- it cracked me up. Just what I needed.

A) Jack kind of was an ass today. But so was Ol.

B) I love the "Dear" leading into the "you suck."

C) Who is Carrot?