Alicia Paulson writes Posie Gets Cozy, and she loves to make things, much like we love to make things – but Alicia raises the bar from hobby to lifestyle, lifestyle to art, art to career. This ex-book editor in Portland, Ore. is a one-woman production studio, knocking out squeal-worthy handbags, crochet wear and gifts for her web shop, and even more pretty things at home: dog sweaters, rock borders, painted chandeliers and even good things to eat. Her first book, Stitched in Time: Memory-Keeping Projects to Sew and Share, comes out in fall 2008 from Potter Craft, and that’s very nice – but the tipping points were really 1) Clover, the world’s cutest corgi, and 2) the fact that she’s a girl who rambles about Chicago pizza. Take all the time you need, dear.
How often do you think about eating?
I’m pretty boring – I really don’t think about it until it’s time to have to figure out what to make! Unless I have something special already planned in my mind, and then I have to plan the day carefully to make sure I can get it all to happen. It’s very much a feast or famine thing with me – I’m either making something complicated and involved, or eating two pancakes for dinner because I forgot to think about it.
Favorite hometown food?
Chicago: Oh, where do I start. Pizza, naturally. And not just stuffed pizza, even just the regular neighborhood pizza is, I’m sorry to say, a million bobillion times better in Chicago. It’s completely different there than it is here in the Northwest. Possibly because it’s always greasy. But if you have been weaned on it, that’s pizza to you – nothing else compares.
Also, the Chinese food is different – like, in Chicago, an “egg roll” is this big, dense, gingery, bubbly-crispy meal in itself. It is absolutely delicious. I’d rather have one of those than an entire birthday cake, they’re so good. But no matter where I order “egg rolls” in Portland I get dinky little translucent spring rolls, which are not egg rolls, and, worse, I’ve never found a single one that I even liked.
And though this is not a food, I have to say I really miss DELIVERY. Before I left Chicago I really did not know that you couldn’t get whatever you wanted and whatever time day or night brought to your door. At least you can’t if you live in Portland. You actually have to, you know, get up off the couch if you want to eat in Portland. . . . Alas!
I love you, Portland, but I miss you, Chicago junk food for lazy couch potatoes. . . .
Ever been served breakfast in bed?
I just shouted to my husband [who's doing something in the basement], “Have you ever served me breakfast in bed?” He said, “Yeah!” I said, “What was it?” And he said, “Eggs?”
So I guess my answer would be, I’m not sure . . . and if I was [served breakfast], neither of us remember it. ☺
Oh wait – now he’s saying he used to make me Pillsbury cinnamon buns all the time when we were first living together. Double smiley face. I do remember that.
Your absolutely reliable, go-to dish for entertaining is:
Ina Garten’s Chicken with Morels is really no-fail and still very decadent, and has always gone over very well with our guests. I also make a spinach-lasagna bechamel from Sundays at Moosewood that weighs about sixteen pounds. Everyone’s always a little embarrassed to have seconds, because it’s soooooo rich, but they always do, because it’s soooooooooooooo good.
Food that makes you gag?
Vinegar. The most inconvenient food to dislike EVER. You are pretty much forever precluded from eating salad in a restaurant. Also salmon – no salmon for me. Not a big fan of apricot. And for about the last ten years I take raw tomato off of everything.
Worst kitchen disaster:
Well, naturally, it was Thanksgiving. Our first far from home. My husband (who was then just my boyfriend) was working, and I was home surprising him with a fancy Thanksgiving dinner for two, with a roast chicken and five side dishes and salad and dessert. I had just started to have dinner parties and cook big meals by myself. To save time and energy, I put my sour-cream apple pie in a frozen pie shell and it spilled all over the oven and the sugar caught on fire. I ran upstairs and got my neighbor to come down, and he started panicking; firepeople were called.
Naturally, as I was hearing the truck come screaming down our street, I could see that the fire was already out. But about four of the firemen came in (to our studio apartment) anyway, in their huge outfits and big boots with axes and everything, and I was absolutely trembling with nerves and total embarrassment. They left, and less than five minutes later my husband walked in. He’d missed it all. I was feeling incredibly stupid, looked as white as a ghost, and had completely lost my appetite.
Naturally, he was completely oblivious to what had happened, so he was just very psyched to sit down to this big dinner; I sat there wide-eyed and watched him tuck in. (For some reason there is a picture of me from that day and in it I really do look completely freaked out, at having almost burned down the apartment building.)
Anyway, after cooking all day, I went to bed without eating anything, and then woke up ravenous at about 6 a.m. the next morning and cut myself a big piece of pie. While Andy was still sleeping, I sat and ate it and thought, “Huh! This really does taste exactly like barbecue!” And it did.
Three things in your refrigerator right now:
Well, the three most interesting, not-very-typical-of-our-refrigerator things that are in there right now would be Greek yogurt, black-currant nectar, and . . . whole-wheat sprouted bagels. Yep. And don’t those sound more sophisticated and impressive than if I were to say Coke, turkey sausage, and Swiss cheese (though those things seem to have taken up permanent residence)? They’re all in there.
Your idea of a romantic meal is:
Well, to be honest, the most romantic meal I’ve ever had was take-out pizza on the beach at sunset a few summers ago. We were in Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast at the end of a great day (we don’t get to go too often), and my husband ran up the road and into town and came back with a whole pizza, which we shared while sitting on a quilt at dusk.
There were not many people around, and the weather was so gorgeous, and we were so happy. And whenever I think of my “happy place,” I have to say that little spot, with him and that pizza and that warm, western light, is where I go every time. Fancy restaurants, champagne, and chocolate have nothing on beach pizza, I tell ya.
Secret snack of shame?
Elbow macaroni with butter.
Most ambitious thing you’ve ever done in the kitchen:
I find baking and decorating layer cakes very challenging. It’s such an all-day thing for just a cake. It always feels like a five-course meal should come out of that much effort. But I would say I’ve made some fancy cakes that and right up there.
Best restaurant if you’re not paying:
Genoa – Portland, Oregon.
If you were a cocktail, what would you be?
Extra Credit: Where is the world’s best pizza?
River Pizza – River Forest, Illinois!!!