A week ago, I did something I’ve never done before: I loaded up my car with a few groceries, kissed my kids goodbye, and drove a few hours north to attend a five-day artist residency at The Spruceton Inn in the Catskills. As I pulled on to 87 North, I flashbacked to the last time I was away from my kids for that long…which was, um, never. The closest was my tenth anniversary, a decade ago, when Andy and I took a long weekend in Madrid and left my in-laws a seventeen-page instructional manual (“Abby likes her strawberries quartered”) that addressed what they should be doing every hour of every day. But this time, Andy wasn’t with me. I left a note reminding him to leave cash for the dog-walker, and that was that.
When you hear artist residency, you probably are picturing a spare room, desk overlooking mountains, functional kitchen, warm bed, no wi-fi, artists and writers working on their projects all day long, then convening for whiskey-fueled workshopping in the bar at 5:00? Well, the first part of that assessment is accurate. My room was what you might call Thoreau Chic. Comfortable, charming, nothing more than I needed, nothing less. And it turns out, when I’m not tempted to check instagram and email every five minutes, I get a lot of writing done. But the workshopping part? Well, it was me and the innkeepers, and their fleet of lovely assistant inkeepers. I was on my own.
I did make a point to grab a cocktail with the crew as soon as the bar opened (that weekend drinking thing went right out the window), but dinner was even more of a love story for me than it usually is because it was pretty much my only activity outside of writing, and I looked forward to it more than you can imagine. (Lesson learned: It’s excruciatingly hard to write all day long.) Especially since I managed to bring the tightest, most perfect bag of groceries that somehow seemed to offer infinite possibilities for meals that were both healthy and warm-your-bones comforting — necessary when a snow storm has kept you room-bound all day.
Here’s what I brought: Chard, pasta, onion, shallots, mushrooms, butter, garlic, tortillas, eggs, parm, broccoli, avocados, small baguette, granola, yogurt, berries, lime, pears, and a bottle of Gotham’s Green Goddess, my favorite splurgy store-bought dressing.
I ended up making a lot of tacos (this one above is stuffed with sautéed onions, chard, mushrooms, and that dressing), but really, there’s very little that I need in life besides a tortilla stuffed with…
…a few fresh eggs scrambled with Parm. Note: There’s nothing green on this plate. I didn’t even make vegetables that night!
But the point is, there are so many directions you can head when you have these ingredients. To name a few: Pasta with Shallot, Parm and Egg (think bacon-less Carbonara); Pasta with Caramelized Onion, Parm, and Chard; Pasta with Roast Broccoli and Garlic and Parm; Pasta with Mushrooms and Parm; Scrambled Egg Tortilla with Shallot, Chard and Parm; Mushroom and Chard Tortilla with Parm (and Green Goddess); Chard/Mushroom/Onion/Parm Omelet; Shredded Parm and Broccoli Salad with Green Goddess and Parm. For a pre-dinner snack one day, I fried little batches of shredded Parm which turned into crispy fritters….and there were so many more ideas from people on instagram.
Breakfast was a pretty straightforward affair. I made a batch of olive oil granola the day before I left, which proved fruitful…
Naturally, there were plenty of avocado toasts.
Abby was reading Catcher in the Rye in school, and watching her fall in love with it the way I have so many times in my life, made me want to re-read it. Holden Caulfield plus pasta seemed to be the perfect reward for a hard day’s work. (Even though all week it made me write things like “who the hell knows, I sure don’t” at the end of every paragraph.) I kept highlighting funny lines on my phone so I could remember to laugh about them with Abby at home.
The Spruceton Inn is only a half hour from the ever popular Phoenicia Diner, so I was obviously obligated to stop there for a breakfast on my way home. As Holden would say, “I got a big bang out of that one. I really did.”
More about what I was actually working on coming soon!