WORDS…With a Dash of SABOR


Happy Boxing Day to all my British friends.

Sending love…


It has been a while since I’ve posted anything related to the “Sabor” portion of my Journal. Herewith, two recipes I served at a small Christmas brunch in mid-December.

Beet-and-Pear Salad

3 medium-sized fresh beets
1 pear, peeled and sliced

1/4 C olive oil
2 Tbs maple syrup
1 Tbs honey
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 C loosely packed salad greens–arugula or butter lettuce work well
¼ C coarsely chopped pistachios or pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
Feta cheese (optional)

In an 8×8 pan, roast beets in ¼ C of water for about 1 hour 10 minutes, or until tender in a 350-degree
oven. Cool. Peal. Slice. Prepare fruit.
Arrange beets and fruit over greens on a serving platter. Drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle pistachios
or pepitas over. Optional: sprinkle with feta cheese.

The original recipe appeared in Southern Living magazine as “Beet-and-Citrus” salad, but I can’t eat grapefruit, although I love it.

Cornbread Casserole with Ham and Kale
(modified from a Food Network recipe)

Corn Filling

3 Tbs butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish (2 ½ quart dish)

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme (1/2 tsp if using dried)
½ tsp kosher salt
A few grinds of pepper
2 16-ounce bags frozen corn, thawed
1 ½ C heavy cream
½ lb ham, diced
5 ounces frozen kale (or any other greens substitute – I used collard greens)
¼ – ½ tsp of Aleppo chili for a little heat and smokiness

Cornbread Topping

¾ C yellow cornmeal
¾ C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp each of salt and freshly ground black pepper (I used less)
1 ½ sticks of butter, cut into pieces
¾ C heavy cream
1 C shredded sharp yellow Cheddar, divided
Hot Sauce for serving

Coat 2 ½ qt. baking dish with butter
Preheat oven to 350

I made the corn filling a day ahead.

In a LARGE skillet over medium heat, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add thyme salt, pepper.
Add corn and cream, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces in volume
and bubbles rapidly. (About 15 minutes) Transfer 2 C of the hot mixture to a food processor and puree.
Return the pureed corn to the skillet. Add Aleppo chili, if using, to taste. Fold in ham and
kale (or other greens). Set aside (or cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight if
preparing ahead).

Cornbread Topping: Pulse corn meal, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and pepper to combine. Add
the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add cream and ½ C of the
Cheddar, pulse until mixture just comes together.

Place baking dish on a sheet pan. Drop cornbread in lumps over the corn filling. It will puff and
spread out, so don’t worry about covering the corn mixture from side to side. Sprinkle with
remaining ½ C of Cheddar. Bake at 350 until the filling is bubbling and the cornbread is puffed
and golden brown, about 35-40 minutes.  






Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! May your hearts be overflowing with happiness.





Reviewers have noted that my nonfiction is well researched, and I do spend a lot of time reading memoirs, letters, diaries, and other books about my topic. But there’s another step in my “process.” Yes, I have an eagle-eyed editor and copy editor who go over my work, and I’m grateful to them. Long before they receive it, however, I send an early draft of my manuscript out to an expert reader for comments and corrections, and to get feedback on the general flavor of a project. This morning in the wee hours, the expert reader for my 2018 title responded with her comments. In this case, the expert reader is a film historian and while her comments are generally positive, she offers much to consider as I sit down to revise the work in progress. Sometimes it just takes another pair of eyes to help me find my focus. And so, positive comments aside, it’s back to the drawing board . . . or computer, as the case may be.


AT the launch of December, I had the privilege of visiting a class of second graders who attend Northern Hills Elementary in San Antonio, Texas. Such a delightful, bright group of eager learners!


We talked about ideas and my age (a higher math problem turned back on the students), Christmas traditions (they had read Merry Christmas, Old Armadillo — now celebrating its 21st season), Kubric (my schnauzer), my role in the creation of a book, and what my editors do. I’m grateful to have been able to share a little bit of their morning. Being around young people is always a great way to begin a month.




WE used the weekend after Thanksgiving to see the movie, Loving, because it’s the topic of my next book. It is brilliantly acted by Joel Edgerton as Richard Loving and Ruth Negga as his wife, Mildred. The movie portrays the poverty of the rural South with accuracy, while Edgerton captures Richard’s rather shy way of interacting with the world. He is man most comfortable among his black friends. Negga gives a powerful and Oscar-worthy performance as the woman who makes contact with Bobby Kennedy to eventually strike down laws barring marriage between races. It is rare anymore for an audience to break out in applause at the end of a film, but this is exactly what happened. But as J. pointed out, in a theater that holds 100 to 150 movie-going folk, it was “disappointing not to see any African Americans among them.” I hope this changes, because it’s a movie well-worth seeing by everyone.


In the waning days of November, I always look back over the year to take stock. Did I accomplish any of the items on my 2016 “goal” list? Was I more disciplined in my writing? Did I exercise as much as I hoped (or as much as I led my doctor to believe I did)? Did I visit as many schools as I wanted or needed to keep this roof over my head? Was I joyful and, as importantly, did I contribute to making other lives more joyful?

I succeeded on some counts, and failed on others. That’s life. But I won’t beat myself up over those things I failed to achieve. That’s the difference between resolutions and goals. Resolutions are fixed in the firmament, while goals are fluid, subject to change. Last December when I made up my goal list, which consisted of three things I thought I’d like to work toward, they were important to me then. As we dive into December, I now have a chance to look over that short list to determine which ones I achieved, which ones are still important enough to me to slide over to the 2017 list, and which ones to abandon. I achieved two of the three goals I’d worked on, which isn’t bad. The thing I didn’t accomplish is still important, so I’ll slide it over to my 2017 list.








I write. I write about racial intolerance and injustice. I write about honorable people wanting and deserving a fair shake. I write about America behaving badly. Aided by a media caught up in a sideshow and a political party that refused to stand up to acrimony, hypocrisy, and crudeness, America has behaved badly once again. Radio talk show hate-mongers, media, and Republicans, you own this.

I am signing off for the time being, or perhaps for good. I cannot be part of a nation so filled with enmity for others.


Across the world, people have died and are dying to have the right to vote. In the United States, many of us take this right for granted and fail to get ourselves to the polls to cast a ballot. While all elections are important, this one is particularly so. Our forefathers (and foremothers) sacrificed much in order to guarantee us this chance to make our voices heard. We’re not a perfect country–in fact, far from it–but Tuesday is your opportunity to have a say in its future, if you haven’t done so already.




It was a good Saturday, finishing up a manuscript about Hollywood and sending it off to my expert reader. Not to be too demanding, I asked her to get it back to me by Thanksgiving because, you know, if I don’t have time to give thanks why should anybody else? Seriously, though, I have been working all year to meet self-imposed deadlines and have been succeeding. With luck, I’ll meet my December 31 deadline to deliver the manuscript to my editor. Chanuka? Forget about it. Christmas? Not likely. New Year’s Eve? That’s a definite maybe, but only if the manuscript is on its way.

What’s next? The National Council of Teachers of English conference in Atlanta, November 18-19. I’ll be speaking on diversity with a stellar panel (Duncan Tonatiah, Nancy Bo Flood, Christine Taylor-Butler, and Cynthia Levinson) on Friday, November 18, in Room B217 from 2:30 to 3:45. I hope to see some of you there. I’ll be autographing books on Saturday from 9:00 to 10:00 in the Boyds Mills Press booth (#408).



Happy Halloween!

¡Feliz los dias de los muertos!