In the Acknowledgments for Swordspoint I thank “Mimi Panitch for unplugging the telephone and inventing Writer’s Stew.”

Mimi is an old college friend, and one of the crowd who lived in the sprawling crumbly old apartment on West110th Street while I was writing my first novel . . . and writing . . . and writing . . . .

Mimi knew I’d never finish unless someone took action. I needed silence and I needed sustenance. So she did two things for which I am forever grateful. She denied me my chief source of distraction, and she made a truly gigantic pot of stew.
Here’s her recipe:


This is really a formula rather than a recipe. The original is "Mole de Olla" from Diana Kennedy's The Cuisines of Mexico. I'll try to point out the variations I use as I go:


3 pounds chicken or turkey or beef (The original calls for pork, but in fact just about any stewable meat or poultry will work. Although I wouldn't try it with lamb.)
4 chiles anchos
4 chiles pasilla
1 cup tomatillos, drained
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
a pinch of cumin seeds
1/2 pound zucchini
1/4 pound green beans
1 ear of corn
3 potatoes
salt as necessary

Take whatever meat or poultry you've selected, put it in a soup pot,
cover it with water, and simmer until tender. How long this will take depends, of course, on what's in that pot.

While it's simmering, heat a heavy frying pan and toast the chiles on it. They will soften up a little and begin to smell good. Keep turning them, and don't let them burn. Take them off the skillet, and when they're cool enough to handle, remove the seeds and veins and put them in the blender along with the onion, garlic, cumin seeds, and tomatillos. Blend the whole thing until it's smooth.
Put a little oil into the skillet and fry this sauce for a few minutes. Then, when the meat/poultry is tender, add the finished sauce to the pot.

Let all this cook together for a few minutes while you prepare your
assorted vegetables. Then toss them all in and let them cook in the soup/stew until they're edible. (Potatoes first, because they take the longest, right?)