The Senate Cookbook Behind the Scenes #1: Faith

June 24, 2013

Faith is an invisible contract. A deal we make in our guts – not our heads. Maybe that’s why it’s so compelling. It gets twisted around in our bellies. It becomes impossible to untangle.

In 2007, Dan and Lana Wright risked everything they had to open Senate on the corner of 12th and Vine in Over-the-Rhine. Many of their friends and family members told them not to do it. (The neighborhood had too much crime. The economy was tanking. Restaurants were taking a hit.) But Dan and Lana did it anyway.

To understand why, look no further than Dan’s right forearm where the word “faith” is tattooed in lowercase letters.


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Sticking Together Sichuan Pork Wontons

March 19, 2013

I’ve been electrocuted twice. Once when I stuck my finger down an electric candle as a kid and once 11 years later, after meeting my husband. The first time he held my hand, I felt sparks flying off my fingertips. It’s corny to say, but I’ve loved him ever since.

You wouldn’t know it now, 13 years later, because we’re standing in the middle of our kitchen fighting. But not just any kind of fighting. We’re fighting about fighting, and both of us are too maddeningly stubborn to admit how ridiculous this really is. This leads us in circles, like dogs chasing our tails. Twenty minutes later, after he storms upstairs, I reach for the wonton wrappers and pull out a pot.


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A Great Shift

January 29, 2013

I fell asleep on the couch and woke up several hours later to Joel Osteen’s Sunday morning sermon blaring from my television. Somewhere between dreaming and waking, I had listened to him extoll the meaning of A Great Shift for the better part of 30 minutes.

A Great Shift, he said, is something that happens when the winds of favor blow opportunity into your life. It happens suddenly. It happens without explanation. Not the result of your own talent or determination, but a great force in the universe designed to put you in the place you’re supposed to be.

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On the search for creativity

October 17, 2012

At one point or another I have been a thinker, a risk-taker, a smart ass, a kiss ass, and a bore. On the search for creativity, I have questioned everything. Twice. I’ve been envious of effortlessness, hostile with authority, and cautious about the unknown. I have miscalculated. I have looked for perfection but have not found it. I have been hard on others but harder on myself. There have been quite a few times when I have cut too deep.

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Unpacking Heat

September 3, 2012

At 25, I was living on Race Street in a high-rise loft, spending a lot of time in the kitchen slicing off the tips of my fingers. It’s a period of time I like to call Fish University because I was obsessed––completely obsessed––with fish cookery. This was before culinary school or the restaurant, so I was studying cookbooks like they were textbooks. When I wasn’t sprawled out on the kitchen floor getting busy with Mark Bittman and Alton Brown, I was geeking out with turbot, snapper, salmon, halibut, haddock, anything I could get my hands on. Friends and family pleaded for me to end the madness but I soldiered on. To hell with them. I would learn how to cook fish even if it meant mercury poisoning and slow, painful deaths for us all.

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Punch in the mouth

July 5, 2012

I used to be an optimist. Then I got punched in the mouth and all that changed.

It was grade school. I had three text books tucked under my arm and I was walking down the hall to 6th period. Enter a toothy, female redhead with sharp, splintery eyes. A Goliath to my then 5-foot tall body. A freakish, oafish, pale giant who interrupted my carefree stride with a pointer finger to my chest.

“I heard what you said about my friend,” she said, edging closer to my face.

My heart thumped through the sides of my head.

“Who is your friend?” I asked.

“Diane.” she said. “And she has a message for you.”

Before I could ask who Diane was – in that very moment – I felt a white, hot pain in my upper lip. A whiz of motion had erupted as her white-knuckle hand met my mouth, sending the back of my head into a row of lockers. Meanwhile, my knees buckled and I slid down the wall like a pool of mud.

As I took stock of remaining teeth and blood and pride, I looked up at her and searched for words. I spoke the only ones I could find.

“Well, she sounds like a bitch.”

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30 things I know by 30

May 29, 2012

To celebrate the big 3-0, I thought I’d take a page out of Joy the Baker’s book. I thought I’d tell you some of what I know. Half of these lessons I’ve learned by doing the complete opposite. The other half I’m still learning.

30 things I know

Humor makes up for a multitude of sins. The absolute most difficult times in life can be countered by potty jokes. I don’t know why they work, they just do.

If a problem arises and you don’t know what to do, take a bath. If you haven’t figured it out by the time your hands shrivel, it’s probably out of your control.

That feeling in your gut is what’s telling you to do it anyway. Do it anyway.

In conversations concerning politics, religion or sex, you should probably just eat your mashed potatoes.

Try to forgive yourself.

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Breaking cornmeal bread

April 30, 2012

In 1995 my mother learned she had stage four breast cancer. The doctors tracked her white blood cells on a whiteboard while they pumped chemicals into her body. She promised me, wrapped in her white gown, shrunken from a liquid diet, that she would come home to make dinner again. In the mean time, I learned how to do laundry, how to make eggs and how to sleep on a hospital floor.

Today, more than 15 years later, we’re breaking bread.

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Lazy Shrimp and Grits

April 27, 2012

Quick is the game these days. If you’re not quick you get left behind, mentally and physically. This is the case in business––and it’s also the case in every restaurant kitchen I’ve ever worked in or observed. Slow movements burn the souffle. Slow cooks get their asses handed to them.

There is indescribable reward in toughing it out in a kitchen under these conditions––a place where your pride lives or dies on your ability to think on your feet. But all I seem to want to write about this morning is taking it slow.

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Cooking Survey: I want your opinion

April 23, 2012

Friends, after two weeks of being completely offline thanks to a unfriendly hack attack, I’m back. And apparently I’m rhyming. Normally I’d celebrate with a recipe (or at least a beer) but today I’d like to ask you for a favor. So here goes …

Would you be willing to take a quick, 5-minute survey about food and cooking? Your participation will go a long way in helping guide my next project.

Ten questions. Completely anonymous. 100% guaranteed to secure your spot in heaven.

Take the extremely easy, fantastically rewarding survey now.

Thanks to all those on Facebook and Twitter who have already responded. And I promise to be back next time with something a little more tasty.

UPDATE: Because of you, I now have hundreds of responses to this survey. Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to help a girl out!