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All You Can Eat

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December 27, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Leson says: I’m taking a break. See you next summer!

“Hey, Hon! Do you have any thyme?” my husband asked last week while making a shopping list for our annual Christmas gumbo-fest. “No, but I will after the first of the year!” I quipped. Those are the kind of jokes I’ve been cracking frequently over the past several weeks as I prepare to take a leave of absence from my job at The Seattle Times.

No joke. I’m taking off. For six months. “Really?” my friends say, when I tell them about my plans. “What are you going to do — write a book?” No, I tell them, but I do plan to read a lot of them. What else am I going to do?

First off, I’m going to find some thyme.

Relax, already! Don’t mind if I do.

I don’t know about yours, but my spice collection is a mess. I pride myself on having every herb and spice known to man, in case I decide to whip up something exotic for dinner. Why yes, I have dried Thai galangal, Persian limu omani and Piment d’Espelette imported from the Basque Country. Now, where did I put it?

As someone known to implore readers to cull through their old herbs and spices and replace them with small amounts of new ones, I’ll soon be taking my own advice. And then there’s my fridge and freezer. Make that fridges and freezers.

Upstairs and down, they’re full of hoar-frosted meats, scary science experiments and condimentia — my term for all those jams, mustards and barbecue sauces both store-bought and homemade.

Just last week, I found two jars of moldy applesauce I was unable to use on my Hanukkah latkes (goodbye!). And (hello!) some perfectly good Prairie Spy apples I intend on turning into homemade pie, practicing techniques I wrote about in my recent Q&A with the pie doctor.

Speaking of doctors, mine would like me to lose a few pounds. OK, more than a few. And I intend to do that, too, now that I won’t have my constant excuse: “I’m too busy working, and did I mention I eat for a living?” If you see me walking along the Edmonds waterfront or heading home, uphill, hopefully with one of my heretofore-much-ignored pals at my elbow, feel free to say “Hi.”

Of course that won’t keep me from dining out. I love it too much. But as much as I adore restaurants, I adore my kitchen, too. And it’s there I expect to be spending more time than ever.

I’ll still haunt Highway 99 to assuage my constant jones for Korean food, but I also plan to get cooking with some of the new cookbooks I’ve been perusing, including “The Kimchi Chronicles” by Marja Vongerichten. I expect to frequent my favorite sushi bars less often, which is all the more reason to delve into “My Japanese Table: A Lifetime of Cooking with Friends and Family” by Debra Samuels.

Now that I’ve mastered no-knead bread, I look forward to experimenting with Jeff Herzberg and Zoë François’ latest, “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day.” I plan to spend time with friends and family on the East Coast, and to travel to Morocco — by way of Mourad Lalou’s beautiful cookbook “Mourad New Moroccan.”

While winter’s chill and gray reign, you can trust I’ll reach for Molly Stevens’ classic “All About Braising,” as well as her newest “All About Roasting.” Once spring arrives, I’ll finally be able to do something about my derelict garden, in hope (which, in my case, springs eternal) of a late-summer’s harvest once I’m back to work.

In the meantime, I hope to remind myself — and my family — that there’s more to my life than journalistic deadlines, who-opened-what-restaurant and where I went to eat today.

Though I’ll miss it, I won’t be blogging. I’ll entrust that to my friend Rebekah Denn, late of the Seattle P-I, who will stand in as guest blogger on All You Can Eat, beginning early in the new year. Seattle Times restaurant critic Providence Cicero will step up to the plate to take on my monthly restaurant roundups (my last will run Jan. 6). And you’ll find a rotisserie of fun features rotating on Wednesday’s food pages.

I’ll miss you. And if you find yourself missing me, tune in to 88.5 KPLU, where I’ll continue to bust the (pork) chops of my radio-sidekick Dick Stein on our weekly show Food for Thought. Or follow me via Twitter (at www.twittercom/nancyleson).

Chow for now!

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