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
I turned thirty at the end of January. I meant to throw a birthday party/housewarming at our new place on the 23rd, but alas, Jonas! So, we rescheduled for the 30th.
I salvaged what I could from that first Saturday’s cooking–although we still have two-pounds of prosciutto in the fridge, God help us–and decided to cater bits and pieces to fill in the rest of the menu for the following weekend.
Below, a compilation of what I served, but also what I originally planned to serve, to aid in planning your next winter party, plus some tips and notes:
“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
– Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald
I love this–admittedly oft used–quote. It reminds me of starting school, which, even at almost thirty, is what I think I should be doing each September. But this year it’s particularly apt. The Frenchman and I got married (for the second time) in September, by which time two things were already true: I was deep into a recipe project that’s as exciting as it is overwhelming, and and and, we’d started mortgage paperwork for an apartment. And and and, we sign the papers today. Today! By tonight, we’ll be home (er, apartment) owners. (!!!!)
Soon, we’ll move from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn–where we’ve lived for almost five years, a near eternity in this nomads life–to Jersey City. I’m both excited and heartbroken. Heartbroken and excited. All of a sudden the Frenchman and I are doing very adult things, like biking to West Elm on blustery Saturday afternoons to test out every couch in the showroom, and sending each other paint color links. (By the way, did you know that there are about 8,000 shades of white? It’s ridiculous.)
I’ll have a lot a lot a lot more to say about our new place, and what it feels like to be moving not actually that far away, but what feels like very far away from our neighborhood, the place that’s become our home. For now I’ll just say: in our new place, I will have a pantry, and for that I’m very grateful.
Here is a pocket missive: I’m sitting at the scrubbed wooden table in my parents-in-laws’ garden, among a riot of chirpy birds, colorful flowers in stoneware pots, patches of herbs, an artichoke plant, a cherry tree, some browning grape vines, and a fig tree that seems to ripen on the hour.
The day was bright and hot–we jumped into the icy blue water in the craggy village port at high tide–but it’s September and this close to the ocean, late afternoon cools considerably. The almond-colored stones under my bare feet are noticeably cold.
We’re getting married for the second time on Saturday. Friends from the States, some of whom live far away from New York and I barely get to see, arrive tomorrow. I’m thrilled. It will be a strange, happy colliding of normally disparate worlds.
I hope, wherever you are, you’re enjoying these last scraps of summer.
In the summertime, when the Frenchman and I (sporadically) have access to a grill, we often grill pizza. It’s especially good for feeding a crowd: it’s pleasing to every palate, can be adjusted for special diets, involves just the right amount of group participation, and makes a great breakfast the next morning. All the ingredients (dough and toppings) are prepared ahead of time, which makes it easy to pull off outdoors, or in a kitchen not your own. I usually choose toppings based on what’s in season at the moment.
Two general rules: You can load pizza made on the grill a little more heavily than pizza made in an oven. Also, you’ll want all toppings to be pre-cooked or pre-prepared, since once on the pizza they’ll cook for just a few minutes–basically, only long enough for the cheese to melt.
I have a uniform when I fly: a black shift dress with sheer, three quarter length sleeves. The dress is roomy and comfortable, but has enough structure that my uber driver asked if I was traveling for business. (Even when I conceded vacation, he pushed for what I did for a living. I answered somewhat vaguely–real estate development–and didn’t elaborate, but he clapped his hand against the steering wheel, exultant. “See! You are a business woman!”) I wish I’d purchased ten of these dresses.
I keep a pair of leggings in my bag. I wear a big necklace, both to dress up the simple black dress, and to give me something to finger during turbulence, like a modern rosary. A French woman once told me, always look nice when you fly. I also carry a satiny, magenta scarf a friend gifted me in college. It doubles as a blanket.
I fly often, both for love of travel, and because my in-laws live 3,500 miles from our Brooklyn apartment. Still, always, I’m a very nervous flyer. Exposure therapy is lost on me. I rely on various, western remedies to get me through long flights, but also: Harry Potter books on tape, the ones narrated by Jim Dale.
I always carry snacks. Currently, slow dried apples and teriyaki beef jerky.
Last night, my sister and I arrived in Vancouver at 3am local time, 6am New York time. I woke up to water and mountains. By the time I climbed groggily out of bed in search of coffee, the Frenchman was at his desk, already working. This is the first trip in a long time I’ve taken without him, and I’ll be gone nearly two weeks.
I drank almost an entire pot of milky coffee before venturing out of our room. I wish I’d had some of this blueberry cake to eat alongside it.
This past week has been full of travel. I was in Los Angeles for a bachelorette party, where I visited Disney Land for the first time. Now I’m on Cape Cod with my cousin who is just twenty-eight hours older than me. (She was a bridesmaid at the wedding.) To see some recent travel images, take a look at Instagram.
For now, here are a few themed haikus and limericks constructed with my cousin this morning:
There is much debate
about which lobster roll reigns;
I like Sir Cricket.
Here I am on beautiful Cape Cod
Where there is an abundance of scrod
I like the catch of the day
But oysters would make me sway
I think I have lost my hot bod
This cake is soft and tender and studded with strawberries. I could eat it on its own, sans frosting, any time of the day.
The recipe is adapted from The Flourishing Foodie‘s Coconut Cake. I’ve made Heather’s Coconut Cake several times; it’s delicious, and especially impressive for birthdays. I sometimes fill the layers with jam or citrus curd instead of the frosting, and I’ve poured cajeta over the top of the cake, or covered it with fruit. Makes 12 cupcakes.