A Few Ingredients: Infinite Possibilities

A week ago, I did something I’ve never done before: I loaded up my car with a few groceries, kissed my kids goodbye, and drove a few hours north to attend a five-day artist residency at The Spruceton Inn in the Catskills. As I pulled on to 87 North, I flashbacked to the last time I was away from my kids for that long…which was, um, never. The closest was my tenth anniversary, a decade ago, when Andy and I took a long weekend in Madrid and left my in-laws a seventeen-page instructional manual (“Abby likes her strawberries quartered”) that addressed what they should be doing every hour of every day. But this time, Andy wasn’t with me. I left a note reminding him to leave cash for the dog-walker, and that was that.

When you hear artist residency, you probably are picturing a spare room, desk overlooking mountains, functional kitchen, warm bed, no wi-fi, artists and writers working on their projects all day long, then convening for whiskey-fueled workshopping in the bar at 5:00? Well, the first part of that assessment is accurate. My room was what you might call Thoreau Chic. Comfortable, charming, nothing more than I needed, nothing less. And it turns out, when I’m not tempted to check instagram and email every five minutes, I get a lot of writing done. But the workshopping part? Well, it was me and the innkeepers, and their fleet of lovely assistant inkeepers. I was on my own.

I did make a point to grab a cocktail with the crew as soon as the bar opened (that weekend drinking thing went right out the window), but dinner was even more of a love story for me than it usually is because it was pretty much my only activity outside of writing, and I looked forward to it more than you can imagine. (Lesson learned: It’s excruciatingly hard to write all day long.) Especially since I managed to bring the tightest, most perfect bag of groceries that somehow seemed to offer infinite possibilities for meals that were both healthy and warm-your-bones comforting — necessary when a snow storm has kept you room-bound all day.

Here’s what I brought: Chard, pasta, onion, shallots, mushrooms, butter, garlic, tortillas, eggs, parm, broccoli, avocados, small baguette, granola, yogurt, berries, lime, pears, and a bottle of Gotham’s Green Goddess, my favorite splurgy store-bought dressing.

I ended up making a lot of tacos (this one above is stuffed with sautéed onions, chard, mushrooms, and that dressing), but really, there’s very little that I need in life besides a tortilla stuffed with…

…a few fresh eggs scrambled with Parm. Note: There’s nothing green on this plate. I didn’t even make vegetables that night!

But the point is, there are so many directions you can head when you have these ingredients. To name a few: Pasta with Shallot, Parm and Egg (think bacon-less Carbonara); Pasta with Caramelized Onion, Parm, and Chard; Pasta with Roast Broccoli and Garlic and Parm; Pasta with Mushrooms and Parm; Scrambled Egg Tortilla with Shallot, Chard and Parm; Mushroom and Chard Tortilla with Parm (and Green Goddess); Chard/Mushroom/Onion/Parm Omelet; Shredded Parm and Broccoli Salad with Green Goddess and Parm. For a pre-dinner snack one day, I fried little batches of shredded Parm which turned into crispy fritters….and there were so many more ideas from people on instagram.

Breakfast was a pretty straightforward affair. I made a batch of olive oil granola the day before I left, which proved fruitful…

Naturally, there were plenty of avocado toasts.

Abby was reading Catcher in the Rye in school, and watching her fall in love with it the way I have so many times in my life, made me want to re-read it. Holden Caulfield plus pasta seemed to be the perfect reward for a hard day’s work. (Even though all week it made me write things like “who the hell knows, I sure don’t” at the end of every paragraph.) I kept highlighting funny lines on my phone so I could remember to laugh about them with Abby at home.

The Spruceton Inn is only a half hour from the ever popular Phoenicia Diner, so I was obviously obligated to stop there for a breakfast on my way home. As Holden would say, “I got a big bang out of that one. I really did.”

More about what I was actually working on coming soon!

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I’m re-reading “The Catcher in the Rye” right now as well! It brings backs all the memories and it really just kills me 🙂 I’m fairly certain I could survive on these staples as well. Maybe a little more cheese throw in just for good measure.


i would have prepared (and eaten) that entire batch of groceries in one day (just to avoid having to stay on-task for many consecutive hours).

re: weekend-only cocktails? same.


I can’t wait to hear about what you were working on! 🙂 I think I could live off tortillas and eggs, too. (If only my family would agree.)

Marilyn Carr

Thanks Jenny. I am heading out to my own self-catered writers retreat next week. MFA candidate working on new pages for my memoir project. Eggs it will be!


“Phonies” and “phonier” are such Holden Caulfield words. (sigh) Now, I want to read “The Catcher in the Rye” again. I can’t wait to hear what you are working on!


Hi – so jealous to have time and space away for a residency. Can’t wait to see what you’re working on.

Quick question – do you add the parm to the scrambled eggs at the end in the pan, just before serving? Or once on your plate?



So do tell as a native English speaker what the hell is ‘parm’? It seems to be a crucial ingredient in ever dish… is is Parma Ham or Parmesan Cheese???? Itching to find out the mystery.


Is it bad that I don’t even care what you’re working on…I just know I’m going to love it! Trying to read all of the Great American Read books, and Catcher in the Rye was next on my list…this gave me the extra push I needed!


um, that is the exact opposite of bad! 🙂
Definitely read Catcher in the Rye — oh man, the best.

alexandra montaperto

I’ve been following the Spruceton Inn on Instagram for a while now and it always makes me wanna go up there on my own for a day or two, leave the husband and kid home. What am I waiting for! Just like you, I would bring yummy food to cook for myself that I usually don’t get to eat because of so called picky eaters back home; go to the Phoenicia Diner to have their amazing pancakes; do some hiking and shopping. I feel it’s so important to do things without the fam sometimes, glad you got away for a little bit 😉


What a great assortment of easy delicious vegetarian meals! I feel like cooking for one is a Totally different strategy from cooking for a family. Although your grocery assortment is missing any kind of chocolate so you kinda missed a whole food group there 😉