What's in a one-inch picture frame?
Finding the big stuff by looking at the small stuff, including this casserole that's fit for a First Lady.
Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” is one of my favorite writing books, but it’s also one of my favorite books on life.
Much like in her book “Help, Thanks, Wow,” Lamott book intertwines lessons on writing and creativity with musings on making the most of this one wild and precious life.
One of her ideas that has always stuck with me is the one-inch picture frame.
Imagine a one-inch picture frame in front of you, and as you move it around, you can find a small thing around you to focus on, while telling a deeper story about something else: A necklace in a family photo, a door handle, a single dandelion.
In this case, with this photo, I could write about the agaves or the oak in Frank’s front yard that somehow managed to survive the freeze.
I could zoom in on the smallest of details within that frame (literally here, but you get the idea) to then tell a much bigger/wider/deeper story. The one-inch picture frame grabs readers and helps focus writers, and it’s been one of the best pieces of advice I’ve used in my writing career.
It’s what bird watchers do when they look at trees, scanning the branches and the skies. It’s what Lamott’s dad encouraged her to do when she was overwhelmed with a school project on birds. Take it bird by bird.
(I could learn a few things from the enduring patience of birders, BTW.)
It’s what I do when I think about what stories to bring you on The Feminist Kitchen.
Sometimes, I will literally make a picture frame with my hands, and today, that one-inch picture frame is hovering over the squash casserole in the photo below.
I had the pleasure of eating lunch today with an Austin artist and author who is working on a book about a certain First Lady from Texas.
You know her name. You’ve heard about her legacy. You might have even visited her wildflower center.
But today, I got to try her squash and shrimp casserole.
This isn’t a dish that has ever come across my radar or dining room table. My host had never made it either, but I think we were both delightfully surprised at how well the summer squash and shrimp went together, especially with that breadcrumb topping.
She served it with a strawberry and avocado salad and the most divine non-carrot carrot cake I’ve ever tasted. (It belongs on the menu at Mattie’s, the new restaurant at Green Pastures, I told the cook.)
We spent the lunch talking about the famous women (and a few men) who appear in this author’s forthcoming book, which I’ll tell you more about when it’s published, hopefully sometime next year.
For now, that casserole.
The recipe is available thanks to the local presidential library (how cool that we live in a city with one?) and is a great way to use up a bounty of summer squash you might have in your garden right now. (I’m also sure you could use those green beans that showed up in this week’s CSA. This spring, I’m enjoying veggies from a local farm called VRDNT that I highly recommend.)
The one-inch picture frame on this one-pan supper reminds me of those casserole-filled potlucks growing up in the Methodist church. That makes me think about the gracious hosts who put those parties together in the first place. Many of them, my grandmother included, now long gone.
Today, the tradition of making a can’t-fail dish ahead of time, warming it up in the oven when the company arrives, setting out the proper plates and having an introductory conversation over a midday lunch in someone’s home was no longer something that happened in the past.
It is still happening.
Both the casserole and the lunch were reminders that in order to keep traditions (and recipes) alive, we have to use them.
It makes me wonder: What old or new traditions can I breath life into this summer?
Also, why don’t I make more casseroles?
What a week!
I don’t have an established tradition for starting one’s own business(es), but I guess it’s time to start one.
I’m officially one week into my new career as a full-time freelancer, consultant and podcaster, and in seven days, I have experienced all of the emotions, particularly after receiving this bouquet of flowers from a reader who connected with the articles I was writing during the pandemic.
I wrote those columns to help me get through the dark, uncertain days of the pandemic. That others saw light in those words reminds me that writing stories from a truest true place isn’t just a gift to ourselves.
It’s a treasure worth sharing with others, too.
Thank you for your support on Substack!
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