Without further or due, I’d like to welcome to my new Substack newsletter, The Supper Letters — a newsletter about this midwest-dweller’s exploration of cooking, living, loving, and eating well. The first issue launches in May 15th!
With the combination of the numerous photos I take of my food (see my Instagram story highlights 🙃) and my itch for writing about my experience in the kitchen… this newsletter was inevitable. (It’s just taken me a really long time to come up with a name!) If you enjoy my the little vignettes of food writing, “What’s on My Plate,” and “My Week in Meals” posts here, you’ll love what I have to share over on The Supper Letters. Come and join me on this journey!
I hope these letters can be a soothing, cozy addition to your inbox. I hope they can inspire you to eat well and love well. They are honest reflects of me figuring out life through cooking and sharing conversation around good food…
I haven’t been in the kitchen too much these past few weeks. My days have been filled with work, travel, and being present for the ones I love.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t eaten good food, though.
There are a few dishes that have held rich flavors and have brought together good conversation.
The first one being this Chinese food when my Love and I were in Madison, Indiana, last weekend. We drove down to the little river city city for a couple of days to get some R&R post- and pre-busy weeks. We stayed at the lovely new hotel called Fairfield, that was constructed in Madison’s Historic Eagle Cotton Mill. It was right by the river, with a beautiful view of the waterfront and the bridge that connects Indiana to Kentucky. Saturday night, we decided to order take-out and bring it back to the hotel to enjoy the view. And I’m so glad we did, because the food and the view was better than any sit-down returned we could have chosen. We got Chinese taken-out from Hong Kong Kitchen. It was the richest, most delectable Chinese food I’ve ever eaten. I got the Orange Chicken, a favorite of mine. But instead of being a fast-food like glazed, nuggets of fatty chicken, this was chunks of white meat with a thick sauce that was flavored with real orange peels and zest. I also got the fried rice, which wasn’t to oily or yellow. I could tell it was freshly cooked and fried.
My Love and I enjoyed the view while the sunset. We also got a little bit of (overpriced but delish) wine from the hotel’s little kiosk. We delved into good conversation and questions for each other the rest of the night. It was exactly what we needed between bouts of busy life. I can’t wait to go back to Madison again soon. For the food, the views, and more rest and good conversation.
Another place where I’ve had good food is in my Love’s new apartment. After a big day of moving, we sat down around his dinning room table and had Greek’s meatlovers pizza. The pizza crust was delightfully fully and thick (my favorite kind of pizza crust) and, being the Midwestern I am of course, I dipped in it ranch sauce. It was the perfect moving day feast. Earlier that day, I also got the chance to make a wonderful salad, which included chopped Roman lettuce and kale, quinoa, a few grape tomatoes, roasted chickpeas coated in lemon, cumin, sesame seeds, and a lemon dressing.
And finally, Easter. My family had our traditional celebration a few weeks back, because we couldn’t all be together today. We cooked family recipes and enjoyed a lovely easy spring celebration. I contributed two things to the meal: deviled eggs and hot cross buns. Deviled eggs are a holiday staple that we make for almost ever major holiday, but this was the first year I baked hot cross buns. I used a traditional English recipe, but instead of sultanas (I couldn’t find them at any local grocer) I used chocolate chips (because I don’t like raisins). These little buns where warm and decadent. I used an apricot glaze on them, which gave them a wonderful little sheen and melted nicely with with the warmth of the cinnamon and allspice. They were rose to perfection, opening up to be nice and fluffy inside, which made be giddy. I’ve always had trouble proofing bread. Overall, I think my first time making hot cross buns was a success.
I’d also like to mention that my mom made these lovely little confetti cupcakes that just made me so happen when I bit into them. They even had little rainbow sprinkles on top.
For the actual celebration of Easter today, my siblings and Love got together and had a little feast, which one of my siblings provided the food, I brought one dish: deviled eggs. If I could only bring one dish of a family holiday gathering, it would be deviled eggs — forever and always. Although next year, I want to attempt dying the eggs pink first and then deviling them, like this.
Even though I haven’t been in my kitchen much because of busy week on top of busy week, with little a R&R vacay in between, I’m glad to capture these little moments where food had brought together good conversation and memories.
This spring, I’m looking forward to writing more about the local foods I’m picking up as they start to become available. Along with that I want to start a mini garden in my apartment and learning about preserving and pickling, something that I have been wanting to experiment with for a long while.
For the past two years, a group of restaurants in Franklin, IN, have come together each spring to create specials and unique menus to celebrate the local food scene. They call it Feast in Franklin. This year, the feast took place from Monday, March 14, through Sunday, March 27. As a person who loves to eat good, local food — and since most of the restaurants were within walking distance from my home this year — I was excited to try my favorite group of cafes, pubs, and diner’s fresh eats. I visited four out of the nine participating restaurants during these two weeks. I wish I could have made it around to all nine restaurants, but I would give the ones did visit solid A+. I hope to have more time next year to taste the special menus of the places I didn’t cross off my list this year.
Here’s a recap of some of the food on my plate during Feast in Franklin 2022.
We’ll begin with Main and Madison Market Cafe
A classic cafe, Main and Madison is my go-to cafe for decadent pastries, silky lattes, and rich entrees. Their Feast in Franklin menu was no short of these three rules. I usually sit in the cafe with my laptop or a book, but this meal was worth my whole attention.
What we got: An impossible breakfast sandwich, vanilla latte, and a blueberry scone.
Then comes Richard’s Brick Oven Pizza
Richard’s Brick Oven Pizza is a cozy, eclectic restaurant that is my favorite to visit on a late, balmy night. The garage doors let the ambient light leak onto the sidewalk and pull you in from the darkening evening. Along with having a great bar featuring many local hops and vines, their brick oven is the centerpiece of the room, where you get to see the pizza baking while sitting at your table and sipping on something delightful. Richard’s pizza is probably my favorite in the entire town — hence the reason I didn’t get a good photo of the whole pizza; we dived before I got a chance to take a good photo!
What we got: A house salad; brick oven pizza with pesto, bacon, and garlic; and chocolate truffles with blueberries for dessert.
Next up, The Willard
While the food is similar to any classic American pub fare — burgers, pizza, combo baskets, and craft beer — TheWillard is unique because it is housed in an 1860s home with a long history. In the 1920s, it was known as The Willard Hotel — a neon sign that graces the dining room states so boldly. You can feel the Willard’s extensive history as soon as you walk up the front steps and into the door. Often, it’s busy on the weekends, so my group and I sat a the bar and ordered our food before we hopped over to The Artcraft to see the movie Caddyshack on 35mm film.
What we got: The ranch pizza; a combo basket that included poppers, breaded mushrooms, cheese cubes, onion rings, celery sticks, and ranch dip; and a basket of breadsticks.
Last but not least, The Garment Factory
The Garment Factory was the last stop of the Feast in Franklin tour for me — and it did not disappoint. This building’s rich history and beautiful event space overlook Youngs Creek. The Lounge at The Garment Factory serves traditional American food every Tuesday and Thursday evening. It’s one of my favorite spots to dine in the evening after a long day. After a bit of wine and a three-course meal, I can say from first-hand experiences that you can walk back home with a full stomach.
What we got: Chili soup; a fajita burger with fries; a lemon raspberry cake (his desert); a chocolate brownie with vanilla; and a chocolate drizzle (her desert).
Overall, this year’s little Feast in Franklin adventure was a success. Even though I didn’t make it to all the restaurants for their unique menus, I still visit them frequently… and they are amazing! I’ll list them here so you can check them out yourself the next time you’re visiting want a bit to eat.
Growth is exceedingly uncomfortable. I wonder if it is painful for the trees, too. I wonder if creating life at the tips of their branches is hard. Creating, reaching out, and becoming anew amidst rain and strong winds. The purple, white, and pink tulips rise up during the bitter transition of winter into spring. Sometimes they get buried in late-season snow. I wonder if they question themselves: if they are good enough to be blooming, if they’re in the right place, or good enough to bring beauty to an otherwise gray landscape.
There is a house I walk past often with bushes that are currently in bloom, with tiny yellow flowers and dark blue berries. They are a stark contrast to their soundings: muddy lawns, drizzly skies, strong wind, cool temps. Yet they don’t question themselves. Their blooming may come at a painful moment — a mark of becoming when all is uncertain — but they don’t let this harden them. Their delicate petals are an unapologetically bright yellow in a sea of gray. The little blooms hold on tight as gusts of wind rush past them, daring to rip them away from the branches and roots that ground them. They are a force to be reckoned with.
Of thoughts, enter and leave, begins to see them for what they are:
Jugglers, fire swallowers, acrobats,
Tossing their batons into the air.”
From our bodies to the tulips springing up from the ground, small victories are worth celebrating everywhere. For every painful moment that holds hands with a small victory, there is gratefulness. I am grateful that I am alive and that I am a human who makes mistakes. I am grateful to learning through uncomfortable growth.
What are your victories, the large ones down to the small, seemingly insignificant ones?
Here are a few of mine:
I made it through the first winter where I lived on my own. I made it through the high electric bills, the long dark nights where I had to shut the curtains at 4:55, the snowstorms, chapped hands, and navigating hard choices amid colds and runny noses.
I followed my gut and left an old job, even though it has resulted in a lower number in my bank account for the short term. Listening to my gut instincts instead of turning to others’ options has left me stronger.
The dirty dishes and crumbs are cleaned up after a couple longs weeks of a dirty kitchen.
Like Danusha, my eyesight has gotten better instead of worse over the past three years of odd, unruly inflammation.
I’m trying new things simultaneously as the tree branches that are beginning to show their red blossoms.
Noticing the full moon’s reflection in the dark evening river — present to the here and now for a moment, instead of being caught up in my own messy thoughts.
Although the life around me is painful and uncomfortable in so many areas, there are small victories that are worth celebrating — the victories that make life a little more tolerable. There are blue sky spring days at the end of every winter.