Four & 20 Blackbirds is writing at Country Mouse for the time being. Come one come all, y’all!

Let’s Talk.


I have received a few gentle reminders in recent days that, despite General Beauregard Lee, PhD, having predicted an early Spring over a week ago, I still have Christmas Day cinnamon rolls up around here. Let that be an suggestion of just how highly I recommend the consumption of glazed pastry no matter the weather.

I sat down to write a few times lately – about a totally out-of-season cheddar-crusted apple pie, regarding the sanctity of the traditional ambrosia formula and the ill-advised addition of mini marshmallows, on the merits of cold spaghetti – but was every time distracted by Season 2 of Damages or Season 5 of Nip/Tuck or TLC Presents: Toddlers & Tiaras. There is some seriously good television out there my friends, and I don’t even get premium channels or watch Lost or 24 or those other shows that turn otherwise normal people into Zombies.

Furthermore, I’ve been cooking less. You know that column in New York Magazine where they feature a daily food diary for a week of a random famous person? I love that thing. Typically it’s either rich and brawny actor/chef/musician man types or super models, and I’m extremely interested in what all of them eat in their daily lives. Gail Simmons and her husband shared the orata with smoked eggplant puree at Scarpetta. The Naked Cowboy steams vegetables in the microwave and works on his “hard-as-rock, striated ass.” Lydia Hearst likes Jamba Juice. They all drink protein shakes at their trainer’s. It’s fascinating.

On Wednesday I had a frozen Trader Joe’s chorizo and cheese crustless quiche and coffee for breakfast early. For lunch I had a Chik-fil-a from the building commissary. As is typical by the time I get around to lunch, they were out of No Pickle sandwiches, but I find that if you put mayonnaise on the pickle-side bun, it masks the taste. I drank a Diet Sunkist and ate a handful or seven of Valentine’s Day chocolates that I bought to keep in a dish on my desk “for coworkers and clients.” And this concludes the “Meals at My Desk” portion of the day. For dinner I had like half a block of randomly selected but delightful Whole Foods cheese on crackers and half a bottle of red wine. I am leaving out conservatively 300 calories of things I “don’t count,” like drinks in bars, Starbucks, and anything consumed while the refrigerator door is open.

As such, it should be obvious that my writing about food I prepare is not going to be, you know, prolific. I think that instead I’ll experiment for a minute with just writing about whatever I want. I mean, hey. I’ve got things. I do things. Things happen to me. I won’t be writing about super personal things or work stuff, a disclaimer which I hope will make you (mistakenly) think I have super personal things and work stuff going on. But, look, just the other Sunday I visited the Urban Outfitters, man. NOT at Lenox, either. On Ponce. And I’ve got all kinds of words to speak loudly to someone on the topic of OHMYGOD: HOMEBUYING.

And, seriously though, Toddlers & Tiaras. Discuss.


If there is anything better than homemade cinnamon rolls with a big mug of coffee, it probably carries a mandatory minimum prison term. The moment I saw these on the very lovely Ree Drummond’s ever-gorgeous site, I knew our kitchen and the kitchens of my family and friends would smell of holiday spice and melting maple frosting on Christmas morning.


These are so good, guys. “Fantastic,” claimed Cousin B. “Phenomenal,” reported Aunt Kathy. “Even better cold,” decided Dad on his fourth taste test.


Seize the day, friends. Make haste. Get thee to wherever you procure your sundries and get ready to experience the first day of Life After Cinnamon Rolls. It’s such a beautiful place.

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Angel Biscuits


Making biscuits from scratch, I’ve heard, is a serious business. There are small libraries devoted to the subject, treatises on flours and odes to leaveners. When White Lily moved its mill from Knoxville and started churning out a new formula of its all-purpose flour in the Midwest, biscuit bakers Freaked Out.


Though fascinating, none of this makes much difference to me, because I have the easiest recipe ever, and I suspect that, if followed, you wind up with delicate, airy little biscuits no matter what the pedigree of your grain.


I read that these are also called “Bride’s Biscuits,” because they are virtually impossible to ruin even in the face of a new husband’s culinary demands. My mother’s husband, of course, noted helpfully during the process that this is “not how Grandma Sadie did it.” Maybe not, but for those of us who find ourselves with to-do lists longer than “1 – feed family,” it really works.

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I’ve said before that I’m not one for repeat appearances. I like to wear special occasion dresses only once, after which I’ll wrap and stuff them away in the depths of the closet, where moths dine on my memories of dance floors and champagne toasts. I fail to see the utility of reading a book more than once when you could be spending the time and energy reading something new. One exception to this policy is my dog-eared, highlighted copy of Eat, Pray, Love, because I have no self-respect would watch Oprah and do Pilates all day if I had the time.


Same generally goes for recipes, but I do have some things in my book that have been thoroughly vetted. I’ve made this pasta several-to-many times, which in terms of recipe rotation is the equivalent of my writing a treatise on the subject.

Because you may not believe me when I say that this could be made under the influence of handfuls of quaaludes, I have arranged a step-by-step guide:

Gather the soldiers, and make sure they’re ready for war on all that is healthy.

Chop your onion and your garlic real fine-like . . .

. . . then sweat the onions before adding the garlic. I just learned the culinary definition of “sweat” this week. Get ready for me to use it with annoying frequency.

The recipe itself calls the addition of vodka “optional,” but we both know that if you opt out of an alcohol ingredient, the terrorists win.

Have someone else mash up your whole tomatoes. I used my mom, but anyone who’s never done it before will suffice. You can finish up while they launder their shirt.

Simmer your tomatoes in the sauce until they break down . . .

Don’t forget to boil your pasta! Forgetting has been known to happen, what with the vodka.

Add your cream . . .

and this where things start getting absolutely money.

Hey hey hey! Turns out this is a healthy supper after all.

The recipe calls for chicken sausage, but – and I know you will find this hard to believe – there is no chicken sausage to be found in the city limits of Bainbridge, Georgia. If a new and deadly plague had taken over the world, and the only cure was chicken sausage, I know about 12,000 people who would be out of luck.

Combine everything in a pretty dish, and sprinkle on more cheese…

…aaaaand scene!

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Fig and Blue Cheese Pork Loin


Look! My parents’ pretty front drive, shaded by sagging oak trees and emptying into a horizon studded with black moo cows and bales of hay. Sometimes when I’m at home, and doing dishes after a meal, I look out the kitchen window at this exact scene and think about how perfectly unchanged it has been for at least the twenty-seven years I’ve known. Outside this window is where I ate my first mud pie and rode a bicycle for the first time. Parents, if your kids come to you with a water hose asking to “turn the driveway into a river,” just let them. It’s really, really fun.


And look here! Gourds! Where purple martins have been nesting and dive bombing our family’s cats for years. In late Spring, little black birds start showing up and claiming these tiny avian apartments for their summer in exotic Eldorendo, Georgia. With the first chill of the winter months, they get up one day, spread their little wings, and FLY TO BRAZIL.


Finally, some foodstuffs, from my latest trip to the farmstead. Beautiful, huge, perfectly ripe black mission figs, waiting to dive into a pot full of browned garlic. They’ll then soak for an hour in hot red wine bath – coincidentally also one of my favorite things to do – before uniting with blue cheese along the inside of a roasting pork loin.


My aim with all the unrelated rambling is to sufficiently distract from the gawdawfulness that is the image of this finished fig and blue cheese stuffed pork loin. Somehow, the roasted combination of the purple figs, the creamy blue cheese, and the juicy tenderloin results in what looks like a gray loaf of sadness. But I promise! It tastes anything but sad. The cheese all melts and marries the juices of the pork to create a sort of cheesy gravy, which, in my honest opinion, is something there just isn’t enough of in the world.

I found this dish at Tony Tahhan’s blog (follow for recipe), and the thing I love about it is the way that one can imagine zillions of variations on the same theme: figs and blue cheese, apples and brie, pears and camembert (double bonus points if it rhymes). What else?

Do you listen to public radio? I do, usually while drinking coffee, and between hating corporations, threatening to move to Canada, and making other people feel bad about not going outside.

If you do too, chances are that at least one November day in the last 37 years, you’ve heard NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg recite her mother-in-law’s recipe for cranberry relish.

Admittedly, it is an unusual combination of ingredients, and one that results in a spread the color of which many describe as “Pepto Bismol pink.” Nonetheless, I intend to spend the last days of this month forcing the relish and all of its horseradish-y tang on my family members and their leftover turkey sandwiches. They will either love it, as I do, or will hate it and me both. I’ll be interested to hear just exactly what you thought too, as soon as I come emerge from my turkey coma.

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