This Little Verse

I recently came across this little verse and I think it's sort of fantastic.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon.

It was written by Edward Lear in 1871 as part of a longer poem called The Owl and the Pussycat. I've only just heard of it - how is that possible? The poem is funny and charming and ridiculous, and discusses a "beautiful pea green boat," a singing owl (an "elegant fowl") and a "land where the Bong-tree grows." And, as we've learned, something called a runcible spoon.

Illustration by Edward Lear

A runcible spoon. Couldn't you just eat that up? Isn't that the most satisfying morsel of verse? Don't you want something you can call runcible?

Well, I do. I looked it up and found out that runcible isn't even a real word; Edward Lear just made it up and put it into several of his poems. Isn't that the greatest thing you've ever heard?

Here are six things I'd like to runcibly eat with a spoon:

1. Chocolate Ice Cream

2. Curried Squash Soup (here's the recipe)

3. Aunt Marie's granola with cranberries, pecans and dates (here's the recipe)

4. An entire jar of peanut butter. Or Nutella.

5. Apple Betty (recipe here)

6. Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Adapted from Rebecca Goldfarb & The Social Table

  • 8 cups chicken stock (I like low-sodium)
  • 2 large chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 dried chipotle pepper
  • 2 limes
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1.5 cups sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • shredded sharp cheese, for garnish
  • toasted tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Once the oven is hot, roast the garlic: leave the garlic bulb whole and slice off the very top of the bulb, exposing the individual garlic cloves. Drizzle some olive oil to cover the exposed cloves, and wrap the entire bulb in some tin foil. Place the foil-covered garlic straight on an oven rack and roast for about 45 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the whole chicken breasts and lower the stock to a simmer. Poach the chicken in the broth until fully cooked, about 25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broth and let cool on a plate. Bring the stock back up to a boil.

Once boiling, add the diced onions, tomatoes, and chipotle pepper to the stock. Squeeze the individual cloves from the head of roasted garlic into the stock. Reduce soup to a simmer and cook gently for about 30 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, shred the cooled chicken breasts.

Once the soup has been simmering for about 30 minutes and smells a bit smoky from the chipotle, remove the chipotle chili from the soup and discard. Add the corn, lime juice, cilantro and shredded chicken. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is warmed through.

Serve with a handful of shredded cheese, some toasted tortilla, and a spoon, runcible or otherwise.

Serves about 8.


Happy New(ish) Year

Things I crave in the blustery, shivery, bleary month of January:

1. Long, quiet mornings, and the peppermint tea and crossword puzzles that come with them.

2. Snowy beach hikes with Mom and the littlest sister.

3. Bowls filled with belly-warming heartiness.

pasta with Ben Fenton's spicy sausage tomato sauce and fresh ricotta cheese

lentil stew with kielbasa and veggies

aunt Marie's turkey chili

chicken and rice soup

January is a difficult month. Here in New York, it's cold. Like, finger-numbing, eye-tearing, sorry-I-just-bumped-into-you-but-I-have-to-nuzzle-my-head-in-my-coat-because-otherwise-my-face-will-freeze-off cold. The holidays are over, so all the pretty lights have flown north for the next eleven months (apparently to some town named "Yourattic") and the city sidewalks are covered with dirty snow and pine needles, sad remnants of the merriment of Christmas past.

Despite the searing cold, people are full of resolution, so the gym is brimming with runners and kick-boxers and yogis, and the blond woman who's always there seems to now be always always there, which is both impressive and concerning.

Cookies are frowned upon. Salad is the darling of the month.


January plays host to this weird back-and-forth, one side of which takes one look outside and says stay in the warm, nothing good can happen out there, the other side chirping it's a New Year! Be happy and healthy! Run faster!

Well. Fine. I consider myself an optimist (and, you know, someone who likes her pants to fit), so I'll go to the gym. I'll make a big, productive to-do list. I'll drink more water, and less booze. I'll even eat a bunch of salad. But I will finish it all off with a cookie.

Freeze and Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies

Barely adapted from The New York Times

These are decidedly not healthy, but I use a bit of whole wheat pastry flour in the batter to make myself think that they, you know, could be. I also flash freeze the dough in single cookie portions, so I can store the ready-to-bake dough in my freezer and bake myself one (or two, c'mon now) warm, fresh cookie(s) at a time. This method eliminates the threat of baking an entire batch at once and feeling the need to eat them all. I mean, we all have our ways of cutting back after the holidays.

  • 8.5 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 8.5 ounces whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 10 ounces light brown sugar
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer). Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add vanilla. Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients. Gently mix together until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Using an ice cream scoop, drop cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and use your fingers to flatten them slightly - you're getting ready to flash freeze them, not bake them, so don't worry about overcrowding the baking sheet; drop the cookies as close together as you can get them. When you've filled up an entire baking sheet, place the sheet in the freezer, uncovered, until the cookies are frozen through, about 2 hours. Once frozen, transfer the raw dough balls into a freezer-safe plastic bag and seal tightly. Store in the freezer up to 3 months, and when you're ready for cookies, bake at 350ºF for 10-15 minutes (baking time will vary depending on how large you make your cookies - just be sure to remove them when they're lightly golden and just browning around the edges).