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I looked at Sandy, and saw happiness and relief in her face, not only that I was happy, but that she was, too. We slowly swallowed oyster after oyster, then lingered at the table, tucked in the shell of our love. The January rain thrums on the roof of the Shell. Maria brings us our hush puppies and coleslaw. Sandy stares hard at the menu, which except for the prices has not changed in decades, if ever.

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The shrimp is succulent, the clams toothsome, the mixed-fry special wickedly tempting, but we order raw oysters anyway. The oysters arrive, small hillocks of joy. We reach for the Crystal sauce and saltines. Butthoughsomepeopledoall that—and when I travel to exotic places such as New York City I do so, as well—this is how we eat them in the Gulf. Open a packet of fresh, fresh saltines. Place an oyster on the cracker. One bite, two bites, three—let the size of the oyster determine the experience. But best of all and there is no polite way to describe this , the oyster stays in your mouth longer by sheer dint of being anchored to a cracker.

However far they may travel once harvested, the life of an oyster includes no cross-country moves; they are sessile, bound to their birthplace. Other times I want something more involved and rib-sticking, like this one. The trick is to neveroverwhelmthestar:theoyster. Ifyoufindingredientsatlocal dairiesandfarmsandsteamfreshclamsforthejuice,thewine,salt, and pepper can be the only imports.

You can leave a little of the peel on. When the bacon has browned, remove it from the pan and set aside; do not discard the bacon fat. Add the diced potato and thyme. Otherwise, pour all of the oyster liquor into the chowder, then stir in the wine. If the chowder gets too thick, add a little half-and-half and water.

Stir in the oysters and cook for 3 minutes more, until the oysters have heated through.

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While the oysters are heating, taste the broth; add salt if necessary. Serve the chowder in wide bowls, topped with the reserved bacon and a little pepper, with crusty bread and some hot sauce on the side for those who enjoy a splash of it in their chowder.


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I think how lucky I was to grow up with that cozy scene, the rare intimacy between boss and hands. The round table that hosted these gatherings occupied a bright corner in her kitchen. Double-hung windows let in light and air and offered views of the corncrib, the old garage,the scarlet barn, and birdfeeders dangling from maple trees like earrings.

Worn boots rested below the table. Hands wiped mouths clean. My mother, who spent her childhood on a farm, was at ease with these men: She knew their wives, the pickups they drove, the pews they did or did not sit in at church. Twenty years later I found myself in Brooklyn, New York.

I had moved to the city to attend graduate school. It took me a long time to find my way. I missed the sky. I missed small-town courtesies. My Cobble Hill neighbors seemed baffled by my bold friendliness.

Whatdoes she want? When I shared extra cookies from. I was being a neighbor the only way I knew how as were they. We each seemed puzzled by the other. My husband and I had lived in our apartment for almost seven years, when twelve construction workers arrived to restore the cornice on the co-opbuildingwesharedwithtwenty-sixotherfamilies.

Iknewtoo well what construction entailed and was grumpy at the idea of spending a summer with workers who would treat me as if I were the bothersome houseguest and not the other way around. I worked at home as a mom and a writer; I could not escape. Then I met the foreman. His name was Wojtek. He inspired his workers to walk fast—and to sweep at the end of the day.

The door to the courtyard I shared with two other families was kept closed—without reminders. The foreman conveyed to everyone that he was hosting this noisy event. I asked Wojtek where he was from. How are you? Very well. It had been over a decade since I had spoken Polish. Oneyearaftercollegegraduation,longbeforemarriageandmotherhood, I taught in rural Poland.

Eastern Europe had needed English teachers in the early nineties. I had wanted a cheap overseas adventure. So off I went. I remembered my Polish hosts, who understood how to. When my young son and I set out to become acquainted with the workers, it was as if my voyage in Poland had not ended after all. As I got to know the men, I recognized something about them that I treasured from my rural roots.


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The workers were unguarded and refreshing; they laughed a lot. They were helpful in traditional ways: unscrewing the lid to my ice cream maker; tightening on the spare tire when my car got a flat; replacing a broken doorknob.

The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage…

And they kicked off a scent I adored: a heady mixture of cigarette smoke, sweat, and sun-baked hay. Before long I was pining to feed the outdoor help. It was what my family had always done. It was modest in all aspects except for its swagger of hollyhocks, bridal wreath bushes, and peonies—and for its lavish tabletop of food.

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Her most exhausting efforts took place in August when she cooked for one-and-ahalf days during the threshing run. I dare you to read this book and not start planning a dinner party. The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage brings together a talented and diverse group of writers, and through their appealingly wide-ranging essays, each shares stories—emotional, funny, revealing—about their relationship to food and the way food shapes their relationship to the world. These dishes are offered to us in restaurants, by the beach, at a Brooklyn construction site.

The writers are mothers, dads, lovers, and grown-up children I wish I could feast with. Menu Search Account. Cart You have no items in your shopping cart. Search: Search. My Account. Roost Books. Look inside. Edited by Caroline M. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California at Berkeley, where she taught classes on film, women's studies, American literature, and writing; she has also taught at Stanford University and the San Francisco Art Institute.

Her essays have been published in The Washington Post, Salon, Ozy, and a number of other journals and anthologies. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two sons. Without mantras or manifestos, 29 writers serve up sharp, sweet, and candid memories; salty irreverence; and delicious original recipes Self Development. You're getting a free audiobook. Click to Try Audible Free.