Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
Île d’Oléron is an island set–at its narrowest–5 kilometers off the western coast of France; the wilder cousin of comparatively posh Île deRé. The island was once inhabited by pirates who hung lamps around the necks of donkeys at night, in hopes of tricking returning ships into wrecking along a shore that ebbs dramatically with the tide.
At the Frenchman’s paternal grandparents’ home–or, more accurately, a series of small homes for renting, each named with flowered tiles brought home from Pays Basque along with wheels of brebis and black cherry jam–there is no food processor. In fact, aside from stacks upon stacks of dish detritus–and one surprisingly versatile pair of scissors–there’s not much to aid in the cooking of a birthday lunch for nine. (I can’t locate a pen, until my father-in-law pulls one from another room.) I have the good sense to bring my own sharp knife.
I meander the garden with my camera, spotting tiny flowers and many fruit trees–the fruit still in its infancy at the start of July–but also raspberry bushes offering a handful of miniature, sweet-tart fruit. The soil here is so nutrient rich, it’s often mixed with sand. We find potatoes, green beans and apricots. In August, there will be hazelnuts, figs, peaches, prune plums, pears and apples.
At dusk, while my mother-in-law fries ceteaux in a pan of oil, I mix chocolate cake and marinate chicken with handmade mayonnaise, vinegar and herbs. We sip her punch–lime, simple syrup, rum–while we work. For dinner we eat fish rilletes from Pêcheries De la Cotinière, alongside langoustines boiled with bay and garlic, and steamed local potatoes. (In the fridge, we’ve stocked away fifty oysters I’ll grill the next day, and tuna I’ll kebab, and dress in herb oil.)
By 11pm, dinner is over, and I’m hand chopping basil, parsley, arugula, garlic, and chives into near paste for pistou, as the boys watch the Euro Cup match across the kitchen, hollering. Chopping parsley is a contemplative act–even with the occasional chant of, “Giroud, Giroud, Giroud!” in the background; it’s only when I finish I realize my back is gently throbbing from standing over the low kitchen table for so long.
The morning comes, along with more family. We swim in the freezing ocean, bike as a chatting horde through narrow streets lined with white stone houses, pastel blue shutters, and spindly hollyhock stems flagged with pink, red, purple, and white flowers. Even though the cooking has not gone perfectly, the party is a success in every way that matters: we grill and eat and drink and sing songs and play the accordion and the violin and laugh. People go back for seconds. I decide to make more space for this in my regular, workaday life–“joy is not a crumb.”
For the past five years, this American has spent her Fourth of Julys in France. The Frenchman and I made our annual pilgrimage yesterday, a trip that aligns with three family birthdays. I write from the cool, sun dappled stone of the patio, under a new arbor, just half woven with fanning grape leaves. The boys are walloping a ball back and forth in the pool, their splashes and yells overlaying a backdrop of bird chirpings. Read more »
It’s popsicle week, Billy of Wit & Vinegar‘s annual internet pop party. Here is my bright and juicy contribution. I’m keeping it as simple as that for today: it’s hot, make all the popsicles.
This weekend, the Frenchman and I drove to my parents’ house for Father’s Day: I baked, and cooked and cooked and baked. On Friday, we fly to France for nearly two weeks with the Frenchman’s family.
I’m stressed and tired and harried, which is, in itself, uninteresting, and also not appropriate fodder for an internet blog post about flip-in-the-lake refreshing popsicles, so instead I present you with one of my favorite poems, written by my favorite poet. I’ve read it so many times it’s essentially memorized. I hope it brings you too pleasure on this June Monday. Read more »
This salad comes together in ten minutes–so you can reasonably make it before or after work–and is really satisfying. I’ve eaten it every night this week. I often bring it to work for lunch; it’d be equally great for a picnic.
The order of ingredients allows what needs to marinate to marinate while you prep the next ingredient, so don’t feel as if you need to create a mise en place before you start this recipe. Prep, pour, and stir the ingredients in order; by the time everything is in the bowl, the salad will have melded.
Serve with fresh, crackling bread to mop up the vinaigrette at the bottom of the bowl, or over rice. Use as a vegetarian/vegan taco filling. Or, make ahead and spoon onto crostini for an easy hors d’oeuvre.
Additions/Substitutions: You can add chopped nuts to this salad, like toasted walnuts or crushed pistachios. Or, pepitas. Add cheese: shaved pecorino, cubed mozzarella, diced-and-pan cooked halloumi, fresh goat cheese. Add extra protein in the form of poached chicken or tofu. If you’ve been gifted a fancy oil–I have walnut and butternut squash in my pantry currently–swap it for the olive oil. Read more »
I met Stef Ferrari at ice cream college. She sat one row ahead of me in the giant conference room that served as our lecture classroom. On the first day, she was eating candy for breakfast. At our mid-morning break, she joined me in line for an ice cream sundae. Her bright red hair made her easy to spot. At afternoon break, she told me how good the chocolate milk was.
As ridiculous as this sounds, I liken my experience in ice cream academy to a short stint in the military–the hours were long, the information was overwhelming in quantity and complexity, and it was January in Eastern Pennsylvania. These are conditions under which you bond rather quickly.
I soon learned that we both lived in Brooklyn, and by the spring, Stef would open her own ice cream shop in the neighborhood next to mine. The shop, named Hay Rosie for her mother, is now shuttered, but I spent that summer visiting more times than was reasonable or healthy. Read more »
Last Sunday dawned bright and breezy and perfectly spring. The Frenchman and I drove an hour from our apartment to the parking lot of a strip mall. We waited. After a time, a jeep wrangler came careening into the lot, and parked beside us. Inside was my favorite market farmer and his wife. We said good morning, and he joked again that it was time to blindfold us and stuff us into the trunk before the next stage of our operation. Read more »
For those who don’t know–I didn’t until very recently–a cremolada is Peruvian; a sort of slush puppy made with tropical fruit, water, and sugar. The basic formula is: blend juice, sugar, and water; freeze the mixture in ice cube trays; when frozen, blend again. This is my twist on the classic. The tequila is optional, but recommended.
You can double or triple this recipe, as long as you have the ice cube trays to support it. This way, you can make individual drinks as desired, or continue to blend batches fresh throughout a party. Makes 5 cups. Serves 4. Read more »