Perfect Cold Brewed Iced CoffeeEight years old, nine, ten. Sunday morning eggs and bacon. The bewitching sputter-gurgle-pop of Mom and Dad’s coffee brewing on the counter. On a bold day, you might ask for a little bit of coffee milk. You’d tip the cup to your mouth with a pinkie aloft, because who was to say you wouldn’t turn out to be that kind of woman. You could be any kind of woman.

Seventeen, eighteen. Perched on a metal stool at the off-campus coffee house pretending to study. Wishing you’d worn a different skirt, but aware that being in the right place at the right age is most of the battle. Pretending it’s haphazard that your head is cocked just so. Eyeing The Boy.

Next term. Same stool. Different boy.

Minutes later. Those first few years working in New York City. Stopping at Starbucks every morning for a Venti instead of breakfast. As the elevator doors open onto your floor, wearing that plastic cup of coffee with the tall green straw like a pair of Jimmy Choos. Feeling unstoppable with it, naked without it.

Another job, another industry, another Starbucks.

The morning after the first night that the baby woke up to feed every hour. And the morning after that, when it happened again. Wondering whether you’d made the biggest, most irreparable mistake of your life. Furious that nobody warned you. Realizing the safety net between you and your own choices had vanished, never to return.

Having amnesia. Doing it all again.

And here you are. Kids in school. Trying to write at the local coffee place. Wishing the collective buzz would seep into your pages. Knowing you may pack up and walk away with only the strong smell of burr-ground beans that lingers in your sweater, in your hair, inside your purse.

A whole life could flash by like this. Jobs, crushes, ambitions — they come and go. For better or worse, the coffee remains, flowing like a river through it all.


  • Rachel

    I love your writing! I look forward to more and more and more in whatever form it takes. I love that you could write such a comment in a much more clever and fabulous way, too. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Julie

    This is a wonderful picture with the milk – looks like cream to me ;) – flowing down the ice! Thanks!

    And thank you for the idea to cold extract my coffee in my french press!


Warm Cauliflower, Lentil and Quinoa Salad II | Umami Girl
I learned a lot this week.

I learned what it’s like to say goodbye to the last member of a whole generation.
That it feels like a seismic shift.
A sudden reframing of our place in the world.
A time to talk about goals and plan big things.
That change begets change, all on its own.

I learned that you can know someone for a whole lifetime without ever being made to feel like you’ve let them down.
That I wouldn’t count on it happening very often.
That having a grandmother may be a necessary condition to reach this exalted state, but it isn’t sufficient.
That you’ll know it when you see it.
That I hope you’ll have the chance to see it.

I learned about pure sadness, unencumbered by the messes we make for ourselves, uncomplicated by shadows of deeds left undone, words left unsaid.
Backhanded as it sounds, I hope you’ll have the chance to see this too.

I learned so much about our younger daughter.
How she shows up ready and gives it everything she’s got.
How she faces the world straight on and doesn’t have anything to hide.
How she must have been doing this all along much more than I realized.
How, six years old or sixty, we’d all be better off for acting that way.

I learned that grief has muscle memory.
A body wants to slip back into the depths it knows from losses that have come before.
I learned that given just a little time, you can begin to clear your mind and rise up out of this place.
And that you will.
That you must.

I learned that grief is cumulative.
But so is strength.

That my home on the yoga mat is a real home.

That flowering trees become more useful as we age.
That spring is superseding fall as my favorite season, because hope is more important now than the romance of decline.
That decline isn’t so romantic after all, once you’ve seen enough of it.

And I learned — remembered — that I always return to the kitchen.
That the food you see here truly is my kind of food.
That it nourishes in all the ways we need.
That it’s the best I can do.
And that I think — I hope — it’s enough.

Indoor Outdoor | Umami Girl

Carolyn xx


  • This was beautiful. And I’m so, so sorry about your grandmother.ReplyCancel

  • Thank you for sharing it all so beautifully, Carolyn. Funny how the good and the bad so often go hand in hand. Hugs to you.ReplyCancel

  • Terry

    Thank you Carolyn for the beautiful tribute to Grandma! You have always had a wonderful way of expressing what we are all feeling.

  • Monica Bhide

    Beautiful tribute. Sending loads of love and prayersReplyCancel

  • Gail Brown

    I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for the lovely tribute, she was surely a wonderful woman. You must be a lot like her. Love and prayers, GailReplyCancel

  • susan

    A beautiful post. thank you for sharing your thoughts. So sorry for your loss.ReplyCancel

  • Tara Desmond

    I feel those words, Carolyn. Take good care.ReplyCancel

  • Roz Cummins.


  • Erica

    I’m very sorry for your loss, but I’m glad you were able to enjoy that relationship for as long as you did. Also, I made this salad tonight, and it was delicious. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Christel

    I am sorry for your loss. sending lots of prayers. It really touched my heart reading this – it was so intense and “real”. So sad, yet so beautiful. Great losses do this to us – we see, touch and feel everything around us in a different light… with more intensity, it’s almost like the divine nature of everything becomes so clear to us. And what a beautiful salad to go along with it… XXReplyCancel

Alcázar of Seville Yellows | Umami GirlYou might remember when we left Málaga last summer. We belly-crawled like Navy SEALs out of our hotel in the middle of the night and shared the back of a pickup with live chickens as we hitchhiked our way to Seville. Whatever it took to escape to a place more fitting before the clock struck midnight on Cope’s 40th birthday. Plus, traveling is all about teaching the kids flexibility, life skills, and hand-to-hand combat. Sometimes you’ve gotta walk the walk.

And that — well, something like that — is how we arrived in Seville in August. Seville, the “frying pan of Andalusia,” where everyone knows that everything closes in August.

We loved it, thanks. We’re off-season folks at heart in so many ways, including the actual way. And traveling is all about teaching the kids how swimming in the clear waters of the great wide world helps us see ourselves with clarity. Off-season and proud. Off-season and aware.

Of course, the swimming was purely metaphorical, as Seville is landlocked and surprisingly devoid of public pools for a place that averages 97 degrees at certain times of year that shall not be named.

We balanced the self-discovery with several truckloads of ice cream. Traveling is all about stuffing the kids with ice cream.

We’re learning.

Seville AirBnB I | Umami GirlThere’s Cope making 40 look like it ain’t no thing on the roof deck of the airbnb we rented in the old town (Casco Antiguo) — the one with the “please eat the grapes” and the rad modern layout and the attentive decor that all cost half of what you’d pay for a decent dinner for two in New York. It couldn’t have been more reasonable. Unfortunately we learned from our hosts that unemployment in the region, particularly for women our age, is so high I blacked out the percentage: 70%? 80%? We thought we detected subtle signs of scrimping: people drinking more Coke than cerveza, people sharing entrees, but not in that fun tapas way. Beyond that, it was hard to separate the quiet of August from the quiet of scarcity. Even in tough times, though, Seville can’t help but shine. I mean, just look at it.  View full post »

  • Karla Valenti

    Sevilla is one of my favorite places in Spain. I loved re-living it through your post, thank you!

Grilled Cheese with Sauerkraut | Umami Girl-2Of course I knew it wasn’t a good idea to search “hot mess” on Urban Dictionary. Maybe it’s because I watched the whole two seasons of Broad City in as many days, but I couldn’t stop myself anyway.

Turns out it wasn’t a good idea. It was a great idea. Here’s what the top entry said:

“No one set of guidelines can perpetually determine what distinguishes a ‘hot mess’ from an above-average train wreck. Regardless of the circumstances, you know it when you see it; because they are typically conspicuous, and obviously they are always awesome.”

I couldn’t say exactly what that means, but I know I like it.

I am totally not comfortable using the term hot mess to describe a person. I’ve tried it a couple times and have discovered what it feels like to loathe and laugh at myself at the same time.

But a grilled cheese? That I can work with.

This one fits the description perfectly: bold flavors of aged cheddar, sauerkraut and Dijon (conspicuous!), a tangle of fermented cabbage and just enough cheese to ooze out beautifully while still basically keeping its shit together. (Obviously always awesome!) Crisp grilled rye. (You know it when you see it, amirite?)

Grilled Cheese with Sauerkraut | Umami GirlPlus, unlike some other super-excellent grilled cheese riffs that are a little high-maintenance, this one you can make with minimal effort when you’ve just rolled out of bed.

Like the hot mess that you are.

Nope, still can’t pull off saying that.

See you soon.


  • Sauerkraut + cheese, kimchi + cheese…these things are total winners in my book. Love the addition of mustard on this. Your photos are awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Love doing it with Emmental, with a little caramelized ooze in the skillet. Using the heavily seeded, chewy-crusted rye from the Jewish bakeries where I grew up are just pure heaven!ReplyCancel

Nut Loaf | Umami GirlYesterday evening at 5:23 we were slipping pungent, silky pieces of Taleggio onto a few crackers for a snack and settling in to start our homework. Then, in a surge, the lights went out, and everything that beeps was beeping. We heard a noise so loud that I’m convinced I saw it. And the telephone pole with the transformer across the street had burst into flame. 

In the time it took me to eye the wires connecting the pole to our daughters’ bedroom and think, “Huh…that’s prolly not great,” the town managed to deploy four emergency vehicles. They arrived almost before it happened. I have a bit of a complicated relationship with our little town, but one thing I know for sure is that we are incredibly lucky to have our stellar emergency response teams. While we slept under extra layers in a dark and chilly house, a throng of police, firefighters and folks from the power company worked through the night in driving rain to put up a brand new telephone pole. I have no idea what they did — which may be obvious from the way I’m calling the thing a damn telephone pole — but it brought our utilities back before we finished breakfast. And with 30 minutes to spare before the kids started walking to school, they cleared away all the chaos and left us once again in Pleasantville, fumbling with our awkward, bulky gratitude. 

Let me just diffuse the tension by putting it out there: Thank you to all of you good-crazy people the world over who move in the direction of danger as the rest of us advise our kids to hang out in the back half of the house. We notice you. You never cease to amaze us, and you never will.  View full post »

  • I love nut roast – it is one of the foods that has made being a vegetarian not just bearable but also enjoyable – glad this was a comfort when the world outside was a little alarmingReplyCancel

  • Your blog looks pretty with awesome healthy recipes perfect for diet. This Nut Loaf looks very nutritious and very tasty with perfect ingredients. Can’t wait to try this recipe. This is also a good weekend with my family with this dish.Thanks for sharing your great ideas and I am hoping for more recipes.Excellent!ReplyCancel