Friday, November 5, 2010

Shrooms with Georgia O'Keeffe (you heard me)

I cooked mushrooms for dinner last night, per my "gorge on foods that T doesn't like while he's traveling" rule. Yep, dinner consisted of a huge plate of mushrooms. Not just any mushrooms, though: Francis Lam's mushrooms, a guy whose writing I enjoy immensely. A guy who begins his piece about mushrooms like this:

"Look, no offense, but chances are your sautéed mushrooms aren't very good." 

I respect that sort of approach. In "How to Sear and Saute Mushrooms," Lam breaks down for us the things we do wrong when we cook mushrooms, and how to do it right. The technique seemed surefire, so I was on board immediately. But it was Lam's style that made this post memorable for me, caused me to seek it out last night as I was going through my mental salmon/olives/mushrooms/tomato selection process. The way Lam speaks directly and makes gentle fun of the reader: hot. But the way he sprinkles in things like "I might as well baby them with some sweet, touching caresses beforehand, too": doubly hot.

And so I cooked Francis Lam's mushrooms, using two pans so as not to crowd them, turning up the heat so high it's a miracle my smoke alarm didn't go off, and no doubt making the neighbors salivate with the smell. And you know what? They were the best mushrooms I've ever made, hands down. They were meaty, full of smoke and flavor, and begged for red wine.

Not one to disappoint the perfectly cooked mushrooms, I got after the wine a little bit, and in my night of going solo did what any self-respecting girl does on rare night home alone: watched chick flicks*.

Let's talk about Joan Allen for a minute here. This woman can do no wrong in my eyes. Didn't she scare the hell out of you in Nixon? Didn't she impress the hell out of you in The Contender? Didn't she woo the hell out of you in Off The Map? I thought so.  This woman is a force. I love her role choices (The Ice Storm to the Bourne franchise?), I love her intelligence, I love her face. How fitting, then, that'd she play the woman with my all-time favorite face: Georgia O'Keeffe.

I love O'Keeffe's handsomeness. I love the lines in her face, the strength implied in it. Years ago at a photography exhibit of her life at the O'Keeffe Museum, I marveled at that face for what felt like hours. The grin on the back of a motorcycle, riding through the desert. The smirk that seems to carry a secret message just for you. The wise eyes, sizing up her work. The humbled eyes, unable to size up the vastness of the high desert. Maybe it's because I look the opposite of O'Keeffe in so many ways - I curve where she stretches straight across, my cheekbones have never quite seen the light of day, whereas hers could cut glass, she shrouded herself in black while I blanket myself in color, I could go on here - but looking at O'Keeffe, that face is the embodiment of being a wise woman to me. It's the look I'd love to have as a fierce old broad with a big laugh doing whatever the hell I please.

And that's the other thing about O'Keeffe that gets me: her commitment to a place I love so much, her inability to get it out of her system, her eventual decision to give herself over to a place. I cherish my five years in New Mexico as a sacred time - full of mistakes and hilarity and growth, but in so many ways the best time I've ever had. I know I left at the right time for me, but I'm only now realizing the extent of what it means to carry it with me always, wherever I go. O'Keeffe understood this about New Mexico.

So Joan Allen as Georgia O'Keeffe, then? It works. And yes, it's a Lifetime movie, whatever. It's available on Netflix. I admit to wishing there was a Part II - to forget Stieglitz and New York and to just stay in New Mexico with her friends, to be with her in her favorite place a while, to relish in this thing I like to imagine we share.

As a girl power signoff, I offer the painting at the O'Keeffe Museum that always stops me in my tracks. It's "The Blue Flower," and in person it looks like it should be made of velvet. I'll let you interpret as you will.

Note to Self: Need to get serious about booking a trip back to New Mexico.

*In my liberal interpretation of "chick flicks," I'm counting a Georgia O'Keeffe biopic and a documentary about industrial design. It takes a lot to make me watch a rom-com. Like, one or more characters from my fantasy island and no small amount of witty banter.


  1. This post makes my heart ache for lots of reasons. Love NM. Love Ms O'Keefe. Jeromy Irons was well cast in that movie too, I thought.

    I need to plan a happy trip to NM, I've never had the pleasure of being there whilst in a good headspace. I think I could live there. It's on my short list.

  2. I didn't realize how awesome it was growing up in New Mexico until I left... now I can't wait to get back.

  3. A)I'm an art historian B)I heart good netflix recommendations. Therefore, I love this post very very much.

  4. New Mexico! I would love to visit. I'm an O'Keefe fan as well (and also studied Art History, Kathryn!)

  5. I wouldn't have mentioned this otherwise, but since it seems like half your readership studied art history... so did I. That was my undergrad major. Must be something about you Maggie that attracts art historians. I like O'Keeffe (there are two e's and two f's in her name weird as that is), but she's definitely not one of my favorites. Beautiful paintings yes, but there can be a bit of O'Keeffe overkill when you grow up in NM, in my opinion. I do think her personal story is incredibly interesting though.

    And my apologies for the overly long comment, I got distracted. What I really wanted to comment on was the mushrooms! Yum. Don't you kind of feel sorry for T? Or do you happily think more for me?

  6. Ahhh, Sasha, you are right! Big 'ol OOPS on my part. You know, O'KeefFe (!) isn't my favorite artist either... but oh, to have been able to hang out with her!

    Correcting all my spelling now, thanks :-).

  7. we have so much in common! I love mushrooms (especially sauteed with onions and served on top of mashed potatoes or polenta) and want to visit New Mexico ;)

  8. Thank you for the link to Francis Lam's blog... I had never heard of him, but I just went through page after page of his blog and added him to my reader. Love his style! I have been on such a mushroom kick lately so I can't wait to try these!

  9. Fantastic. The mushrooms, Ms. O'Keeffe, everything.

  10. stumbled into your blog searching for dahlia photos...15 minutes later...what a splendid place you have created here! Each post more thoughtful than the last. New follower here.

    Ashamed to say I am not the biggest Georgia OK fan, mostly on account of her overkill popularity in the 80's (one too many doctor's office posters!)...but I DO appreciate, as you said, her dedication to her surroundings. I love artists who see their work as a sort of 'ambassador' for a particular place. And, even if I'm not her biggest fan, I'll bet she tastes great with red wine and mushrooms!

  11. For new Francis Lam fans:

  12. I left a long and lovely comment on here last night, but my internet decided to die midstream and the comment didn't post. In a fit of pique, I turned off my computer.

    Anyway, it was along the lines of how I adore the fact that you had mushrooms for dinner. That is something I would do, and it always comforts me when people I respect have similar bizarre eating habits to myself.

    Also, I'm totally with you on the intrigue relating to handsome women with angles int heir faces. My mama says that women get more defined cheekbones after they have children, as they lose the puppy fat in their faces. I'm looking forward to this (possibly invented by my mother) phenomenon, as my cheekbones could not be any more undefined than the present. Like you, I am all curve. Somedays I long to be tall and flat-chested, striding around like Katherine Hepburn.

    Anyway- I believe that tangent was not quite as long in my previous deleted comment. I'll check out this movie, although I am quite suspicious of Lifetime currently. Why, you wonder? One word.

    Gretchen! (although she is another angular woman).

  13. I was at Georgia O'Keeffe's house a few weekends ago, and it was gorgeous with the autumn cottonwoods. She had an ironing machine like the one you wrote about from Williams Sonoma a while ago. She ordered hers from the Sears catalog.

  14. I love Georgia O'Keeffe and people give me such shit about it, like just because its flowers it isn't interesting enough. SHE ROCKS. For many reasons.


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