3.21.2009

Let Them Eat Cookies

There’s no kitchen staff here at Jentel (gasp!). Instead, we are given a kitchen fit for the Food Network and total culinary independence; once a week we are shuttled to the Albertson’s in town, handed a check, and set loose. The six of us have agreed to take turns cooking group dinners, and I have to admit, we’ve been impressed with ourselves. I made fresh pesto on St. Patrick’s Day (it’s green), Robert poached salmon yesterday, and Rebecca whipped up a lovely quiche-like casserole upon our arrival. Last night we even toasted the Sara Lee pound cake before chowing down.



Then, this morning, in the upper reaches of the pantry, we found the Jentel Cookbook.

This relic is a work-in-progress art piece, complete with illustrations and cut-up food labels and photographs of the multi-course feasts of residents of yore. Suddenly my pesto didn’t seem so great when compared with Page Lambert’s “Rack of Lamb with Fig and Port Wine Sauce” or “Braised Moroccan Beef with Balsamic Reduction and Saffron-infused Millet.” The bar has been raised. I guess that’s what happens when you put six people with lots of free time in a house where there’s an entire drawer dedicated to cheese graters.

There were lots of great recipes in the cookbook. My favorite, though, is the simplest. It’s for Jentel Cookies. I hope to try them very soon.



132 Lower Piney Creek Road
Banner, WY 82832

3.10.2009

Wyo-bound

Come this Sunday, I'm outtie once again, this time to month-long fellowship at Jentel Arts, a cattle ranch/artists' residency in the Bighorn Mountains outside of Sheridan, Wyoming.

There seems to be a me-magnet in this remote part of the country; this will be my third stay in the area, and fourth visit. My first encounter with the area was in 2000, when I spent a summer cleaning up after dudes at Spear-o-Wigwam; the second was just last October, when I was the writer in residence at Devil's Tower National Monument (where the most popular question asked of the rangers is, "So where exactly DID the aliens land?")


While there, I couldn't resist making the drive over to Sheridan, and beyond, to visit the place where the West had captured my heart. The Forest Service told me the road up to Spear-O was clear, so despite weeks of snowy late-October conditions, I piloted my little Nissan Versa (just a rental, after all!) up Red Grade Road, where, it's true, "there are no guard rails or anything that would prevent you from going over the side and dropping thousands of feet."


I did, much to the amusement of construction workers partway up, make it to the plateau, where traces of snow began to appear. As I trundled my way up the remaining thousand feet of elevation, I did get a teensy bit scared. There were foot-deep mud ruts lined with snow and ice, now, as I grew closer to what I thought I remembered as the ranch; the only other vehicles I saw were a couple big-wheel trucks with ammo strapped to the back. I wished I'd rented an orange car.

But I was determined, and I made it to a deserted Spear-o. The moment that sign came into view blew my mind. I had thought of this place so much in memory that it had ceased to exist in reality anymore.


I found many things upon exploring my snow-bound old workplace, the most wonderful of which was that the place had not changed. The bunkhouses were unlocked, and the smell upon entering the girls' bunk ("Heartbreak Hotel") was gutturally familiar. I had slept on that bunk, there, and wasn't it on this beam that--


So, I'm psyched to be heading back to big sky country to write. At Jentel I plan to focus on my novel, shaping what I wrote during my last residency, and drafting a whole lot of new material.

It will be lonely out there--only seven of us, together for a full month, walking distance to nothing--so please send Stuff and Things!

Kelly Luce
c/o Jentel Arts
132 Lower Piney Creek Road
Banner, WY 82832