Home on the range: Gaining authority

At library, which came before lunch on Wednesdays in second grade, we were encouraged to browse the stacks. There I found something shocking.

I chose a slim hardcover, the sort sprinkled with line drawings and printed in a large font to steady the shaky reader.

It opened with a child wandering the forest. By Page 3, she met with a large-font calamity that violated the standards of our classroom. The sentence began with a capital letter. It contained both subject and verb. And finished without a period.

Horrified, I marched the defective book to Mrs. Westre. Who smiled. She was glad I knew the rules. But authors, she said, are permitted to break the rules.

I stared at her for a long time. Then I thought: Sign me up.

This week, long since signing up as a journalist, my first book will be published. It's a memoir, cooked up over 10 years of writing this column. It contains many a substandard sentence. But I'm comfortable breaking the rules. Because now I'm an author.

Cheerful risotto

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

Serves: 6

This recipe accompanied my first Home on the Range column, in 2004. It also appears in "Slices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks Through Many a Conundrum."

2 quarts chicken broth

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 cups shelled peas (start with 1 1/2 pounds unshelled)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

1/3 cup heavy cream

1. Simmer: Heat the broth in a large saucepan and keep at a simmer.

2. Toast: In another large saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and toast, about 3 minutes.

3. Stir: Increase heat to medium. Pour in wine; stir until absorbed. Scoop in the hot broth, one cup at a time, stirring until each dose has been absorbed. When half the broth remains, add the peas.

4. Season: After about 20 minutes, when most of the liquid has been added and the rice tastes delicious, but firm, turn off the heat. (You may not need all the broth.) Stir in the cheese, zest, mint and cream.

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