December 15, 2013

The “German” Pickle Ornament




Germany has given us some first-rate Christmas traditions. The Christmas tree, for starters. The advent calendar. The gingerbread house.

It did not, I am quite certain, give us the Christmas pickle.

“I see the pickle!” my mother’s next-door-neighbor announced when she came to admire my mother’s tree.

“Heather bought that,” my mom replied, completely missing the reference. This is a solid clue, by the way: a woman who has celebrated well over eighty Christmases—someone whose father’s parents emigrated from Germany—but who is totally unfamiliar with the German pickle tradition. I’d never heard of it, either, at the time I bought her the ornament. I just liked the green color, and the fat, bumpy, vegetable absurdity of a cucumber on the Christmas tree. (more…)

November 24, 2013

God Save the Beets


By special request—a Thanksgiving essay written years ago and reprinted more times than any other article I ever published. It’s slightly historic itself now, but still fun.

The only time I ever missed an American Thanksgiving dinner was while I was living in England on a study-abroad term in college. That year my landlady served up sausages and peas as if it were any other Thursday, and her husband sagely observed that if I wanted Yankee holidays, I should have stayed in America.  (more…)

November 8, 2013

A Hole Worth Not Fixing

There’s some really good stuff inside the historic Tennessee state capitol: cast-iron railings and spiral stairs, columns of limestone and marble, elaborate gasolier light fixtures decked with tobacco leaves, cotton blossoms, Indian corn, and elk heads. The elegant upstairs chamber of the House of Representatives is the very spot where American women finally secured the right to vote in 1920 when state representative Harry Burn switched sides unexpectedly—making Tennessee the last state needed to sew up the Nineteenth Amendment—because, among other reasons, his mother wanted him to.

But that’s just my third-favorite detail in the Tennessee statehouse in Nashville, after the tomb of its architect—who is buried right there in the building—and the 1866 bullet hole in the stone rail of the main stairs. (more…)

October 23, 2013

The Omnivore Interview

I’m on the British book review site The Omnivore today.

The Omnivore Interview

October 15, 2013

John Day Fossil Beds


I’m not supposed to admit this, but there was a moment during my visit to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument—as the trail petered out unexpectedly in an eerie blue landscape of columns and spires, where nothing but scattered tufts of grass looked even slightly familiar—when I thought, a little uneasily, of the classic cult cowboy/dinosaur film The Valley of Gwangi. (more…)

September 23, 2013

Please Look After…


My mum wants to know,” Jayne said to me, “if you want to hear all about how she was evacuated during the War.”

Well, who wouldn’t want to hear about that? The story of how trainloads of children were whisked out of British cities and into the tranquil green countryside to keep them safe during World War II is the stuff of Masterpiece Theater. Add Jayne’s mother Marion into the mix—statuesque, red-haired, dramatic, a woman once ideally cast as trident-wielding Britannia in an outdoor extravaganza on the grounds of Walmer Castle—and it’s certain to be an evening unlike any at home. (more…)

September 5, 2013

Interview with a Salmon


salmon interview 2


A salmon returning in late summer to the Columbia River where he was born clears up a few misconceptions about the Northwest’s most iconic fish.


Heather Lockman: May I just say…? You’re a gorgeous fish.

Wild Salmon: Oh, gosh. Thank you. It’s hard to tell, but I’m blushing.

HL: There’s a lot of talk these days about the “iconic” Northwest salmon. How does it feel to be an icon of the Pacific Northwest?

WS: Well, that’s more of an honorary position than a real title. It doesn’t come with prize money or anything.

HL: It puts you in famous company, though. Mount Rainier, Starbucks, the Space Needle… (more…)

August 27, 2013

Hats Off

75 years hats


My husband and I discovered no end of peculiar items while clearing the house where his parents lived for more than fifty years: an astonishing number of flashlights, almost all of them broken; an appliance designed exclusively for heating frozen pizzas; soap in the shape of George Washington from the American Bicentennial of 1976. One of the most unexpected things—and one of the few I kept for myself—was a 1951 magazine that celebrated the history of American ladies’ hats. (more…)

August 13, 2013

Ebooks and Real Books

“I don’t read ebooks,” my neighbor says. She’s a 60-something professional, educated and widely read—exactly the sort of reader who’d enjoy a sweet, funny, slightly provocative novel set in the Pacific Northwest. A novel, say, like the one I wrote. A novel that hits the street this month from a small independent publishing house that publishes only ebooks.

I know. A real book has paper pages. “I want it to feel like a book,” she insists. “One I can read in the bathtub.” After staring at a computer screen all day at the office, she doesn’t want to spend her free time reading a screen at home.

A Northwest book reviewer gave me the same answer. “I’m still mired in the Dark Ages, I guess,” she replied to my email inquiry. “Just can’t bear to spend any more screen time each day than I already do, so I stick to printed-on-paper books. I have become painfully aware this is depriving me of many excellent works, but the e-medium, unfortunately, is not one I can embrace.”

Since Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007, the number of people who purchase ebooks has zoomed to somewhere around 25 percent of the book-buying population. Ebooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry—but you don’t have to be a math whiz to grasp that the majority of readers have yet to welcome the change. (more…)

July 30, 2013

Father Blanchet’s Catholic Ladder

The Bible is a tough book to sum up in front of an audience—especially if the listeners don’t share the speaker’s language. So you have to give Father Francis Norbert Blanchet his due. Newly arrived on the Northwest frontier in the late 1830s, faced with the task of conveying the Word to American Indian people, the French Canadian missionary devised an ingenious teaching tool he dubbed “the ladder of history.”  His prototype was a heavy stick carved with notches and symbols marking the most dramatic moments in the Judeo-Christian chronology. Later he transferred the concept to paper, drawing his ladder in India ink. The result was a portable timeline designed to help Native people grasp the Catholic view of the world. (more…)