Spinach Pie, Clamcakes, and Pizza Strips


My friend Brea lives in Missouri. She’s never been to Rhode Island. So when I first mentioned a ‘spinach pie’ in written conversation, she thought I meant spanakopita. Now, I do love spanakopita, especially at the Greek Festival every year, but no, the Rhode Island spinach pie is completely different. It’s more of a calzone, stuffed with spinach, garlic, and sometimes black olives, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.

www.justapinch.com
http://www.justapinch.com

Another thing my friends across the country might not understand is the Rhode Island clam cake, or clamcake. My friend Jeanette in Texas wasn’t sure what I meant – after all, clams and cake? It’s a fritter, but we don’t call them clam fritters. They’re clam cakes, and they’re meant to be eaten (sometimes dunked) in chowder (the debate over red, white, or clear is for another post). Here’s a recipe in case you want to try making them at home.

www.iggys.com
http://www.iggys.com

Finally, the pizza strip. Everyone knows pizza – and everyone knows there are many varieties and toppings, right? But Rhode Island pizza? Sometimes called party pizza or bakery pizza, you can buy a box of it (sold at room temperature) at the supermarket or a single strip wrapped in plastic from your neighborhood convenience store. It’s bread – focaccia or pizza dough with herbed tomato sauce or paste on top. That’s it. Sometimes a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, but it’s not necessary.

Rhode Island pizza strip
Rhode Island pizza strip

So – what’s your pleasure? And Rhode Islanders, past and present – where are your favorites?

Thoughts for the 13th


Waiting for Spring - photo by M. Reynolds
Waiting for Spring – photo by M. Reynolds

It’s been too long since I last posted anything here, especially with such good material (Super Bowl, snow fatigue, movies [no, not that one]). Here are some random musings for Friday the 13th:

  • I read the 50 Shades trilogy a couple of years ago. Yeah, I admit it. Poorly written, but I wanted to know what made it such a runaway bestseller. Still not sure. And I have no interest in seeing the movie. Some see this whole thing as harmless fun, some see it as a degradation of women. I just think life is too short to spend time doing something that doesn’t move or inspire you – and this movie would do neither.
  • We’ve got snow – and more on the way this weekend. Those of you who know me are well aware that I love winter. Cold is good! Fleece is fun! I have not complained about this winter, and I won’t, because it won’t change anything!
  • I’m writing a new book, and it’s taking a lot longer than my previous books. Why? Well, I work part-time now. Usually just a day or two per week, but I’m still trying to figure out how to best utilize my time. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t blogged.
  • Speaking of books, I just finished reading one by a well-known author. Traditionally published, meaning she had a team of editors and proofreaders, and still I found typos and obvious misspellings (‘phased’ instead of ‘fazed’). When did mediocre become acceptable?
  • Does Friday the 13th scare you? Do you believe it’s unlucky? My writer pal Kathleen Paterka says it’s lucky, not unlucky (she and I were both born in the 13th, so I have to agree). What other superstitions have a hold on you?
  • I’ve been fascinated by the idea of chicken and waffles. There are basically two versions – the Penn Dutch kind and the ‘soul food’ kind from Baltimore and points south. Not the healthiest choice, but give me a break – we have four feet of snow on the ground, I should be able to eat waffles. If you’re local (Rhode Island) and want to try this dish, head over to Dante’s Kitchen on Main Street in East Greenwich. Love this place!

    www.danteskitchenri.com
    http://www.danteskitchenri.com
  • I’m preparing for the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge, which starts in April. My posts will appear right here, every day (Sundays off), and my theme this year is Listen Up! This’ll be my fourth year participating (previous themes included Writers, Poets, Lyricists, Places I’ve Been, and A Whole Lotta Cheese). I hope you’ll follow along in April! And I promise to post a few more blogs before then.

Book Signing this Saturday!


I know this is a locally-directed post, so I’ll keep it short.

www.sweettwist.com
http://www.sweettwist.com

This Saturday, February 8th, from 11:00 to 1:00, I’ll be selling and signing copies of my four novels at SWEET TWIST in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

The Murphy sisters, as I call them, were very gracious in inviting me to their lovely boutique to sign my books, and the Chocolate Trilogy will be front and center. Yes, I’ll also have copies of Bits of Broken Glass, which I can now label an Amazon #1 best-seller, as it held that lofty position this past weekend in three separate categories on Amazon.

Martha Reynolds - books
Martha Reynolds – books

Stop by if you’re in the area, and while you’re there, check out the fabulous assortment of gifts at Sweet Twist. Besides Vera Bradley accessories and John Medeiros jewelry, they have delicious chocolates for Valentine’s Day. You know, there were many years that I was single and Valentine-less, and I never once denied myself something sweet on February 14th. Indulge! Life is too short to skip chocolate. And I hope to see you on Saturday!

Kicking January to the Curb


On the train to Engelberg, Switzerland. Photo by M. Reynolds
On the train to Engelberg, Switzerland. Photo by M. Reynolds

Who else is happy to see this month end? You, Atlanta? New England? Fargo? I get it. We’re done with January 2014. Onward!

The month that seemed to drag on forever, with long icy fingers that tightened around our throats, is fading away. We move into the shortest month now, with longer days. Here in Rhode Island, the sun rose this morning at 6:58. It sets at 5:01. Yippee! By the end of February, the sun will rise 36 minutes earlier, and set 34 minutes later. Seventy more minutes of daylight.

Tomorrow I’ll meet Nancy and Karen for breakfast, both high school pals. I haven’t seen Karen since we graduated – a long, long time ago. But through the miracle of social media, we’ve seen pictures of each other. Karen and Nancy are both ageless. Isn’t it something that when you look into the face of a friend from more than 30 years ago, you don’t see crinkles at the eyes, or silver at the scalp? You see the girls you whispered and giggled with. I treasure these times.

And from what I’m seeing, there could be a mini-reunion the following Saturday. I’m signing copies of my novels at Sweet Twist in East Greenwich, which is owned by three sisters, one of whom I remember from high school (this is what happens in Rhode Island – two degrees of separation). With a trilogy of chocolate-titled books (and one about a high school reunion!), Sweet Twist is a perfect venue. And, as an author/publisher who’s had some difficulty getting my books into independent bookstores (I don’t get that – you’re indy, I’m indy, can’t we work together?), I’m grateful for the chance to showcase my books in a beautiful boutique that sells, among lots of other things, chocolate!

And before you know it, February will be blowing through and dragging March in. It would be lovely if we were done with snow this winter, but the way things have been, I doubt it. The Great Blizzard of 1978 occurred in early February, and we’ve had plenty of snowstorms in both February and March. Either way, it sure feels good to say goodbye to January. And just one last note to the folks who live down the street from us: you can take down your Christmas ornaments. You know, the ones you hung in the trees and along the roofline. Really, it’s time.

This Past Week


What a week, right? Ups and downs, plenty of uncertainty.

govt shutdown

A week ago most people still thought there’d be no issue regarding the shutdown, the debt ceiling, and that so-called cliff. Yes, we have a three-month respite. Other countries can’t fathom that our elected representatives are so petty and ego-driven that they don’t know the word ‘compromise.’ Living in uncertainty. Stress-inducing and it continues.

www.cityprofile.com
http://www.cityprofile.com

A day trip to the city of New Bedford on Wednesday. What a pleasant surprise! The New Bedford Whaling Museum is a gem! It’s large, bright, spotless. Friendly and helpful staff, and enough history and artifacts to fill an entire day (at least). The city is clean and navigable, meaning plenty of parking (we went during the week). Shops and restaurants are within walking distance.

acx

Met up with my friend Lynne Radiches, who has agreed to narrate my books! I’m very excited about this, because Lynne is excellent, and we’re both reap the benefits. Adding your book as an audiobook, through ACX, is a no-brainer, and won’t cost you a cent if you opt for shared royalty payments.

www.zdnet.com
http://www.zdnet.com

My sister is in London! She and a friend flew out last evening. I’m envious, although we spent a wonderful ten days in London about fourteen years ago. There’s just so much to do that a week isn’t long enough (and they’re making a side trip to Edinburgh, too). Next time I go, I want to visit Downton Abbey.

bad reviews

I know that some authors will give good book reviews to other authors, even if they disliked the book (or sometimes even if they didn’t read the book!). But I learned that some writers give a good review because the author is presently reading your book, and you don’t want to risk getting a bad “revenge review.” Seriously??

Ts

I love T’s Restaurant in East Greenwich – it’s my go-to place for meeting friends, and never disappoints. Last weekend it was breakfast with my high school (and loyal reader) Nancy, and yesterday it was breakfast with my fab cousins Becky and Cindy. They were the cool cousins when I was a kid, but age gaps shrink as you, well, as you age. I love them both, and we had a lovely time over coffee, omelets, and pumpkin pancakes.

RedSox

And finally, our beloved Red Sox are once again headed to the World Series! Go Sox!

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “E” is for EAST GREENWICH


photo by Rebecca Moniz
photo by Rebecca Moniz

I didn’t grow up in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, but we lived close enough that I could walk down Division Street (up the hill, down the hill) to Main Street. Or, at the fork in the road, veer right down First Avenue and arrive at the other end of Main Street.

When we moved to Cowesett in 1968, one of the first things I did was accompany my father to the Almac’s Supermarket in East Greenwich. He bought enough food to fill four brown paper bags (and one of those smaller bags with silver inside for ice cream). Then the paper bags were set into a big gray box and the box was placed on a wheeled conveyor belt at the front of the store. My dad and I walked back to the Ford Fairlane station wagon, and by the time he’d driven to the market’s entrance, that gray box full of our grocery bags had traveled on the conveyor belt to the outside of the store, where a young man wearing a white shirt put the bags in the car. My dad gave the boy a tip, probably a quarter.

Next to the Almac’s was the Newport Creamery, where my grandmother took me for lunch one day. I had a cheeseburger on toast and a chocolate cabinet (that’s a milkshake with ice cream.). Next to the Newport Creamery was Thorpe’s, where my mother bought cough medicine and Q-tips and bright red lipstick. And finally, at the other end, was Woolworth’s, one of the best stores in the world for a ten-year-old.

My first job was at the Kent Cinema. Chinese food meant Cathay Garden for sweet and sour pork or egg fu yung. No one had heard of nime chow or banh hoi. Pizza was at Two Guys from Italy, now known as Frank and John‘s from Italy (two different guys, I assume). The pizza is still great, even if there are no more tableside jukeboxes.

In tracing my late mother’s ancestry, I discovered many ties to old East Greenwich, and she and I had a great time traipsing through historical cemeteries, finding Stones and Wightmans and Arnolds. I’m reminded of a passage from Wally Lamb’s book The Hour I First Believed

“I was just thinking that that’s what your ancestry’s like. Anyone’s ancestry, really— not just yours, but yours is what’s on my mind because of Lydia’s diaries.”

I told her I wasn’t following her.

“Think about it,” she said. “What do we do when our elders die?”

“Call the undertaker and start fighting over the will,” I quipped.

“No, really. We put them in the ground, right? But we also carry them forward because our blood is their blood, our DNA is their DNA. So we’re intimately connected to these people whose lives— whose histories— have gone underground and become invisible to us.”

“Like that river,” I said.

“Right. Except in your case, a spring has bubbled up.”

Lamb, Wally (2008-10-28). The Hour I First Believed (pp. 375-376). Harper Perennial. Kindle Edition.

Main Street Memories


About a mile and a half.  Thirty minutes.  From Varnum Drive to Main Street in East Greenwich, I’d make the trip in the early 70’s.  Sometimes via First Avenue, sometimes via Division Street.  Division Street meant walking up, then down the hill.

Anne Marie and I walked to Woolworth’s.  We stood gazing at a Rolling Stones album.  It cost $5.99 and the cover was a pair of jeans, but pretty much only the zipper.  And the zipper worked but there wasn’t anything behind it.  My mother never would have allowed that album in the house.  Besides, we only had money for singles.  She picked “Joy to the World” and I chose “If.”  Three Dog Night and Bread.

Sometimes I’d meet up with Kathy.  She lived off Love Lane and would be waiting for me on Division as I trudged up the hill.  Then we would saunter down to Main Street, for pizza at Two Guys from Italy, or the sweet and sour combination plate at Cathay Garden (egg roll, chow mein, sweet and sour pork – $2.50). Maybe stop at Earnshaw’s afterward.

My favorite place to spend allowance money was the Buz Terry Music store.  I could browse sheet music to all the latest songs.  If I bought one, I’d bring it to Mrs. Bowser on Hall Street when I had my piano lesson on Wednesday afternoon.  I bought the sheet music to “Half-Breed,” and it had a great photo of Cher on the cover, all dressed up in animal skins and feathers. One dollar.

One day, I was walking alone and had just passed the fork at Division and First.  I was continuing up Division when a guy on a motorcycle stopped and asked me if a wanted a ride.  He had long hair and a beard, and was wearing faded bell-bottoms.  I was probably fourteen.  I knew I wasn’t supposed to take rides from strangers, but I accepted.  I’d never been on a motorcycle before.  So I climbed on the back and he sped up the hill, then coasted downhill to the post office on the corner.  When he stopped, I climbed off.  He asked me if I wanted to do something with him, and I told him I was going shopping.  He peered at me and might have figured out I wasn’t even close to eighteen.  He shook his head and peeled away.

Into the Woods to Grandparents’ House


Today I took a shortcut to get to the post office in East Greenwich (eBay shipments – are you following my other blog, ‘From Splurge to Purge’ ?). From Division Street, I turned right onto Howland Road and took it to the end, where Howland meets Middle Road. As I was stopped, I was looking at one of the houses my grandparents lived in. Yes, one of – from the time I was a child, there were, oh, at least four. Five? All in and around East Greenwich, Cowesett, Coventry, all after the magical house on Hemlock Hill. It’s pictured here, as a copy of a painting that was made.

Most of us have fond memories of our grandparents, if we were lucky enough to have them. I had only my mother’s parents (my dad’s mother died when he was 18, his father died before my first birthday), but they were superlative grandparents. We would drive to visit them, either from our house in Connecticut or, after 1963, our house in Johnston. The drive to Hemlock Hill in Perryville was via Route 1A, the old Post Road that runs along the southern coast of Rhode Island, where beaches have names like Matunuck, Weekapaug, and Quonochontaug. Perryville, named after Cmdr. Oliver Hazard Perry, is really a village within the town of South Kingstown.

My younger sister was too small to remember, but Ann and I, sitting in the back seat, would strain to see the familiar landmarks as we approached. Invariably, Ann would call out, “I see the white church!” and “I see the red house!” before I did, as she was not saddled with vision problems until she hit her 40s.  The red house (pictured at left) marked the entrance to, well, to Red House Road, a dirt road with no lights and plenty of animals in the woods. A quarter-mile drive or so, past Dr. Gee’s little yellow cottage on the right, nestled behind trees and tall shrubs, brought us to Hemlock Hill. A two-car garage sat at the bottom of what to me seemed like an insurmountable driveway up to the house. Most times, my grandparents parked the car in the garage and walked, with bags of food or other necessities, up the hill to the house.

And the house! With wooden Adirondack chairs on the wide front porch and the smells of molasses cookies or beef stew filling the cabin (because it was built as a cabin, and had bedrooms and a bathroom added later), it was a comforting place full of love. My cousin Cindy remembers sleeping over when it was just the cabin, with an outhouse down in back and a chamber-pot for use during the night. A tick-tocking clock on the rough-hewn mantle marked each quarter-hour with soft Westminster chimes; a bird that had flown into the picture window was preserved and mounted on a branch (fascinating to us kids, and my first and only up-close experience with taxidermy), and the big heavy oak rocking chair waited to be occupied, by grandfather and grandchild. On a very clear day, you could see the ocean from that high vantage point. My grandfather built a fish pond in the front, and farther down the grass, a stone fireplace for cooking outdoors in warmer weather. He blazed a trail through the acres of woods behind the house, and each of us begged to be taken for a walk along the “bunny trail.”

My grandparents sold the house in the 70’s, and although my grandfather was still hiking, it was better for them to be closer to their children and grandchildren. My mother always said she didn’t know how her mother could live in such isolation. Around ten years ago, my sister noticed the house was for sale, but the picture accompanying the real estate notice showed a different house, now two levels. Everything changes – that’s why memory is so cherished.

Going for Ice Cream


What’s better in summer than going out for a cone? Today my younger sister Mary Beth stopped by and invited me out for ice cream. It was early afternoon, and I hadn’t had lunch, so I was game. (I know, none of us really needs ice cream, but you have to agree it’s hard to say no!). Of course, summer means hot weather. As kids, we didn’t care if the ice cream dripped down the cone and onto our hands, our wrists, our arms….unless you were a fast licker, that cone didn’t stand a chance in 90 degrees. Today, I suggested a spot nearby where we could sit inside, in air-conditioned comfort.

When I was about seven years old, we visited my Uncle Carter and Aunt Betty, and their children, our cousins, all of whom are older.  Aunt Betty suggested to my older cousin Susan (the oldest of the cousins, and therefore the most important and coolest) to take my sisters and me for a drive, “get the kids a cone.” Susan, who would have been sixteen at the time, probably rolled her eyes, but figured she had the opportunity to drive, so she grabbed her girlfriend, put the three of us on the red vinyl bench seat in the back of the car, and drove to Goddard Park, a jewel in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, on Narragansett Bay. There, she bought each of us a cone. Well, my older sister Ann could make an ice cream cone last for 45 minutes if she had to, and never ever have a spill or a stain. I, of course, would be done with mine well before everyone else and never gave that cone a chance to drip. And then there was Mary Beth. At three years old, I can still see her in her adorable little yellow sundress, sitting in the back of the car on a hot summer day, chocolate ice cream on her face, her tiny hands, and all over her yellow dress. She was grinning and laughing and having the best time – because she was eating ice cream! And if it dripped on the car seat, so what? It’s vinyl! Wipe it off!

A Sunday ritual in our family was taking a drive for ice cream. This usually did not take place in the middle of the summer, because we’d be at the beach, but in the spring and fall, after Sunday dinner, Dad and Mom would put the three of us in the back seat (always the same seating – Ann behind Mom, me behind Dad, Mary Beth in the middle), and we’d drive to the Newport Creamery on Smith Street in Providence. Dad would get the cones and bring them back while we waited (not so) patiently in the car. Then, eating his walnut fudge ice cream, Dad would drive through the “old neighborhood,” which consisted of New York Avenue in Washington Park, over to Narragansett Boulevard, past Saint Paul’s Church, over to Spring Green, then Apponaug, and finally home. And by the time we arrived back home, Ann would just be finishing her cone.