Monday, November 11, 2013


After a brief walk in the pitch-black of early morning, I fixed myself a cup of coddlingly creamy, bracingly strong coffee. Then I turned on our switch-activated fireplace and settled in next to it on the couch, mug in hand, watching the sky become sapphire, then lighten to a wintry, robin’s-egg blue. Briefly, the wisps of clouds in the sky took on the glow of a sunrise not evident from my vantage point, like strips of cotton candy.

This is Nelly, our 11-week-old Corgi. We adopted her just over a week ago. Since she joined the family, I’ve failed to do much of anything aside from taking her outside at regular intervals and attempting to redirect her chewing efforts, the latter with variable success. She’s learned how to climb into the clothes hamper and fish for socks, her favorite thing to have in her mouth, and she’s quiet when she does it, and fast. She chases the cats and they hiss and swat at her. She gets along famously with our UPS man. Today, in our absence, he left a treat for her on top of a package.

I sleep with one ear open, a sweatshirt beside the bed, and a flashlight next to the door. If I hear a whimper from her crate, I take her out to the yard to do her business. My dreams have been strange and vivid in between awakenings. Last night, the world around me was a vision of snowflakes as large as baseballs, and I was out in it in a white embroidered cotton nightgown, like a snow angel.

We walk Nelly in wind and rain and sun breaks, sidestepping leaf-stuffed puddles, stopping so she can meet neighbors. At the beach, she follows the boys, scrambling up and across driftwood, occasionally needing a boost. When she gets tired, she sits. We rest.

When Nelly and I pick up Abbott at his middle school, there is an instantaneous clustering around her, like flies to honey. Kids compete to pet and hold her; girls photograph and make videos of her with their phones. There is nothing like a puppy. I overheard Abbott say to a pretty, pony-tailed seventh-grader eating a cookie, “I’ll let you hold her if you tell me where you got that …”

I’ve filled our home with the comfort foods I crave to smooth over the edges of my fatigue: batches of thick, creamy tomato and squash soups; aromatic roasted vegetables; spicy, eye-opening chili. I’ve baked gingerbread filled with cranberries, sticky and jammy; cornbread and muffins; a luscious, citrusy olive oil cake. Nelly is always underfoot, ever hopeful for the errant crumb that might fall her way. Sometimes she falls asleep, prone, on the kitchen floor, limbs splayed in front and behind her, like Superman; the sleep of the dead that only children and puppies can manage.

At day’s end, in the gloaming, and then again in the pitch-black, we repeated a version of this morning, and now we’ll sleep while we can.

(The Best) Tomato Soup (You’ll Ever Have)

Adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and then smashed with the side of the knife handle
5 cups canned San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes in juice (one 28 oz can and one 14 oz can)
1 cup water
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons kosher salt; more to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper; more to taste
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried oregano)
1 tablespoon sugar

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. When the butter is melted, add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, water, cream, salt, red pepper flakes, oregano, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and purée in batches in a blender. Return the soup to the pot, reheat to a simmer, and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Yield: 6 servings


Purple Flowers said...

Lecia: You have a talent for writing. The descriptions you give of food make me want to run upstairs and start my cooking and baking. I so look forward to your postings. Congratulations on your little puppy.

tara said...

I read this twice, starting right over from the first, with my own coffee beside. You're such a writer.

I've had my trouble with tomato soup, which might be my own shortfall. This one looks a winner. As does your Nelly. She's worth a billion cookies, I'd say.

Susan said...

Lecia, Nelly is so adorable I have a puppy of my own she is such a joy. I look forward to your posts I check everyday and consider it a real treat when You do write or share photos which are remarkable! I have made several of your amazing recipes Thank you so much!

shari said...

Nelly is a cutie and I love your writing just like the rest of these ladies. We're making this soup tonight. Thanks for sharing the recipe. xo

Katie said...

I just have to comment, since I have two Corgis that I had since they were 10 weeks old and have had several other Corgis over the past 6 years. My husband and I just love them, and you know the saying right? "You can't have just one!" They have so much personality and character and are very strong willed! I loved the description of Nelly in the kitchen - one of ours in particular is definitely a food hound, always underfoot in the kitchen (in fact she caused a fight tonight over the homemade pizza that had just come out of the oven). Enjoy Nelly and take lots of pictures - there is nothing cuter than a Corgi puppy!

Diane said...

oh, puppy love. welcome to the delight of a puppy under foot. And I agree with the others about the beautiful flow of your writing.

house on hill road said...

ah, welcome nelly!

molly said...

oh, lecia, congratulations! almost like a new baby, no? complete with night-wakenings and the odd accident, but fortunately at seven times the speed :) so beautiful, tip to tail, this one.

the ginkoes made me gasp. i've added gingerbread to my list. and i'm a charlatan when it comes to tomato soup, or have been, flitting here and there. printing this now to give it a go...

enjoy these puppy days.


molly said...

ps: we've got serious puppy lust, around these parts. please do keep us posted on the pros and cons of corgis!


molly said...

Tonight's dinner proved what I earlier suspected: you were absolutely right about the soup.


Hannah said...

That Nelly is a keeper. The soup, which I bookmarked and then somehow waited a week to try, also a keeper.

(But I think Nelly is cuter by far.)

Lecia Phinney said...

Much love to you all! Thank you for taking the time to say hello. xoxo

Jennifer said...

Wow! You are not kidding the best tomato soup ever! This was so good, my husband even said we should have this very week. Thank you so much!