June 1 is my birthday. Today, I’m in Florida watching it rain in buckets outside our little house on Anna Maria Island, and for that I’m grateful. While the West Coast has been pummeled with all kinds of rainfall, somehow it keeps missing the island and I’ve sat watching my plant seize up and start to wither under the oppressive heat. So, I’m looking at the wet clothes sagging on the laundry line, listening to the cacophony of pounding rain on our flat roof and clatter like a waterfall from the gutter that ends abruptly in front of my window in front of my desk.
With that, I’m back to biscuits.
I’ve been paging through the cookbook from Tupelo Honey Café all week, thinking about some kind of perilously rich and generally forbidden heavy southern food for my birthday lunch. My mom and I ate at the Café in Asheville, N.C., when she joined me for a book tour event at the great independent bookstore Malaprops last autumn. We made a whole weekend out of it, and ended up going to see the Biltmore Estate decked out for the holidays. We spent hours wandering around charming downtown. But mostly, I remember the huge biscuits and the sausage gravy from the Tupelo Honey Cafe. So I’ve been eyeing them and reading through this beautiful cookbook by Elizabeth Sims with Chef Brian Sonoskus all week in contemplation. In one glossy book, you get a mix of Asheville’s history plus a bit of detail on culinary influences and traditions from across the American south. The recipes offer a sense of the playful, forward-thinking yet faithful to tradition cuisine that Sonoskus brings to his menus. Cilantro lime mayonnaise sits next to a southern fried chicken BLT, while shrimp and grits gets a makeover with a roasted red pepper sauce. Southern fried chicken get paired with cremini mushroom and sweet onion gravy.
The next book is completely unrelated. Let me see if I can stop looking at biscuits or fried chicken long enough to describe it.
All week, we’ve been taking turns analyzing ourselves, friends and relatives with one of the most intriguing books I’ve ever owned, The Secret Language of Birthdays. Forget those slim horoscopes in the newspaper. This is an oversized book that has two full pages dedicated to each day of the year. Every day has its own title. For instance, I am born “On the Day of the Popular Eye.” (What that means exactly, I’m not sure). It goes into significant detail about the characteristics of those born on any given day, plus traditional strengths and weaknesses. My strengths (says the book): “Visually perceptive. Shrewd. Fun.” My weaknesses? “Tempermental. Distracted. Impatient.” (Mike would completely agree on those.) My meditation: “Living is a creative act.”
We spent the week debating whether one day’s descrption matches the person intended. In my case, there’s this passage: “June 1 people must find the courage, at some point in their lives, to dig deep within themselves, when they find out who they really are and what it is they want, they may have no choice but to pursue their dreams regardless of what society, parents or friends think.” Pretty much sums up the story in The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry.