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:
We moved, from Brooklyn to Jersey City, where I don’t yet know where to buy fish or bread or meat or farmers’ market vegetables. But our apartment is finally set up, save one chifforobe, and I’m really proud of it–it has style–dare I say it is stylish?–and it is full, full, full of plants. (More on this in an upcoming post.)
I turn thirty today. I’m finally adopting the cat I’ve long wanted, and I spend hours in bed when I should be sleeping, googling possible names to the glowy light of my phone, to the bemusement of my husband.
I’ve been struggling with some health issues that, while not dire, feel like they’ve swallowed me up. I avoided writing for too long, so now I don’t know where to start, except to list the highlights. This is list writing, not actual writing.
We have a table that seats eight now, and dish ware and silverware to accommodate that many. I’m trying to lure groups for dinner with the promise of three-day ragu and cakes. Do you live in Jersey City? Do you want to be friends?
I’m trying to go for runs in Liberty State Park, which is very close to our apartment, and also very beautiful. I walked there through the snow this weekend, and it was peace personified in whiteout, in chips of ice floating in the canal, in the geese idling between lolling reeds.
For now, there’s too much percolating in my mind to be eloquent in this space. This is a cop out, I know it. In the meantime, read When Breath Becomes Air and also Astonish Me. Also, I’m not a beer person, but I recently discovered sour beers (thanks, Crissy and Ryan!), and maybe now I’m a beer person. I especially love Two Evil Geyser Gose at the moment.
Make some ice cream. It’s what I did. You won’t regret it.
Along with Camembert and white beans, boeuf bourguignon ranks high among the Frenchman’s all time favorite foods. I remember making it in culinary school–a two day process–and I’ve made it once a winter since, always from Julia Child’s recipe. It’s a lovely cold weather dish, but the truth is, it’s a pain–fussy and time consuming.
My copy is now a ticker tape parade of must makes–pho, focaccia, smoked salmon–but the recipe I was drawn to first was their modernized (read: less finicky) version of boeuf bourguignon. The process has been trimmed, but the results are just as rich and wonderful. And the recipe feeds a crowd, or a family of two for many meals. (It yields 3 quarts or 6 pints, which I portion and freeze, equating roughly to 10 meals for the Frenchman and me.) This is good news in our (new!) apartment.
This recipe was published with permission from America’s Test Kitchen. They’ve generously offered a copy of the book to give away to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment describing your favorite classic recipe by January 5th.
The Frenchman’s been away since the hem of Monday morning. Almost a week alone has meant the submission of all leisure time to the alter of A Little Life, which I listen to on my commute in the morning, and again in snatches throughout the day when I should be working, and then all evening and night until I finally fall asleep way past my bedtime. It’s one of those books that takes over.
Presently we’re in a strange limbo: half our current–soon to be “old”–apartment is packed up. We’re selling off our furniture piecemeal. The new place has brand new shelves and wallpaper, but no bed. We leave for our honeymoon (in New Zealand!) on December 18th, so–somehow–we’ll find a way to wrap up our work projects, and haul our lives across the river before then. Right? Is there an alternative? I have a premonition I won’t take a deep breath until I’m on that plane.
And now something happy to listen to in the background while you brew this punch: I’ve long been a fan of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. In a recent episode, Linda Holmes interviews Trevor Noah. I enjoyed the interview a lot; it’s thoughtful, funny, and smart.
“I come to a tree so rich with autumn’s golds and reds it makes for a mild ache. I lie down under it, close my eyes, and let my mind wander. I think of all that is happening elsewhere, as I lie here. Nearby, I can hear the sounds of a road crew. Somewhere else, monkeys chatter in trees. A male seahorse becomes pregnant. A diamond forms, a bee dances out directions, a windshield shatters. Somewhere a mother spreads peanut butter for her son’s lunch, a lover sighs, a knitter binds off the edge of a sleeve. Clouds gather to make rain, corn ripens on the stalk, a cancer cell divides, a little league team scores. Somewhere blossoms open, a man pushes a knife in deeper, a painter darkens her blue. A cashier pours new dimes into an outstretched hand, rainbows form and fade, plates in the earth shift and settle. A woman opens a velvet box, male spiders pluck gently on the females’ webs, falcons fall from the sky. Abstracts are real and time is a lie, it cannot be measured when one moment can expand to hold everything. You can want to live and end up choosing death; and you can want to die and end up living. What keeps us here, really? A thread that breaks in a breeze. And yet a thread that cannot be broken.” – Elizabeth Berg, Never Change
The Frenchman is away for the next two weeks, which means I’m puttering around the house after work, staying up way later than I should, both thrilled by the quiet, atypical aloneness, and simultaneously dreading it. I tell myself that I’ll use the luxurious, stretching evening-time to get extra work done, but this plan usually devolves into Netflix-watching pretty quickly.
We spent this past weekend in Phoenicia, NY for the wedding of good friends. Have you been? It’s lovely, quite literally nestled in the Catskill Mountains, with a few-blocks-long main street and a creek running through it. I woke up early both mornings, thanks to the jet lag I try to keep going as long as possible, and it was the need for sweaters–more than the multitudinous appearance of apples and grapes at the market–that finally made me realize that fall is on its way.
For now though, this in-between time means that I can still eat reckless quantities of peaches and tomatoes, but also that the subway platform doesn’t feel like a sauna sponsored by Hades. It means that, while I’m still hanging on to summer produce, I’m transitioning from raw preparations to heat coaxed ones: folding slumping fruit into cakes, baking zucchini with rice and cheese, simmering fresh beans until soft and soupy. And making these tomatoes.
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 figtree that seems to ripen on the hour.
The day was bright and hot–we jumped into the icy blue water in the craggy villageport 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.
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.