I’ve been scooping up berries with every visit to the market. (See here and here. Every morning they stain my white ceramic bowl shades of watercolor purple.) Normally I eat them barely adulterated–chilled cherries by the handful. But it’s nearly the end of July, and I haven’t sampled nearly enough ice cream this summer, and my machine was collecting dust. (I was relying on lazywoman’s ice cream.)
I tested two methods of raspberry ice cream-making. In the end, I decided to post both, because I couldn’t decide which I liked better. They’re just different. I offer my tasting notes below, but honestly, I found them both delicious. I hope you will too!
If you don’t have fruit brandy, you can substitute vodka. The idea is that the ice cream won’t freeze so solidly.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
The arrival of garlic scapes at the market makes me Christmas morning happy–their appearance marks the start of a delugeofsummerproduce.
Garlic scapes are the green, curly cue shoots that grow from hardneck garlic plants, where flowers might otherwise sprout. Farmers cut away these scapes regardless, so that all growing energy is diverted to the garlic bulb growing underground. Scapes make for delicious eating on their own though, so they need not go to waste.
In the northeast, garlic scapes appear in June and July. Raw, they taste like a fresher, greener, less astringent version of mature garlic. Cooked, they have a garlicy, lemony-leek flavor.
We’vebeentravelingquiteabit, but whenever I’m in the kitchen lately, allIwant is summer fruits and vegetables done simply. I grate tomatoes into pan-con-tomate pulp, add a glug of good olive oil, sherry vinegar and sea salt–it’s wonderful as it is, or spooned over grilled fish. I grill olive oil-ed asparagus and lemons together–and sauce the charred spears with the deep, grilled juice. Cut corn from the cob and fold it, raw, into every pasta/grain/salad that crosses your path.
There is certain summer produce that, once it comes into season, I cook and eat compulsively until it disappears from the market. Green garlic–the immature garlic bulb that isn’t yet papery on the outside–is one example. I use a mandolin to thinly slice the bulb whole, and then saute as I would with minced garlic cloves. Zucchini is another example. This year I’ve discovered the fresh joy of raw zucchini: marinate zucchini coins/ribbons/”spaghetti” with salt, lemon juice and good olive oil until the zucchini goes wilty and soft. That’s it.
In this salad, both treatments get elevated. I love grain-and-vegetable salads for summer: they’re happy in the fridge for many days, they serve a crowd and they’re great for picnics/cook-outs/travel.
There’s an article on Food52 today about the poet Jacqueline Suskin‘s new book, Go Ahead & Like It. Its pages are a hodgepodge of images, lists, and sketches–a collection of ‘things Suskin likes,’ built over time.
The editors at Food52 took this premise to heart, and created their own lists.
It sounds simple, but each list was a pleasure–each author so specific and so particular. It’s spiritually satisfying: a reminder to meditate on the small, happy things that wing through our day to day lives. The payoff of such a daily practice is both literary and psychological.
I wrote my own list below. It’s what floated to the surface on a Wednesday morning at the end of April, less than five weeks from my wedding, in my office in Hoboken.
It’ll be like eating at twenty awesome, ramp-focused restaurants in one day. Heaven.
The event will be held at the Basilica Hudson (handily located across the street from the Hudson Amtrak station. It’s a 2.5-ish hour drive from Brooklyn-Hudson, or a 2 hour train ride from Penn Station). A $30-ticket gives you access to a tasting portion of each dish, live music, and a (cash) bar.
On Saturday, I’ll pick a favorite ramp recipe, and post it on The Roaming Kitchen, so even those far away can participate!
(On a personal note: The Frenchman and I visit Hudson a few times a year, and we love it. The Frenchman even proposed in Hudson, in the middle of a snowstorm! While you’re there, here are some of our favorite places to visit: Grazin’ Diner (diner food, made with fantastic, grass-fed ingredients), window shopping the antique shops up and down Warren Street, Fish & Game (where the Frenchman and I dined post-proposal. It’s a special place.), Kinderhook Farm (a little to the north of Hudson, this is my favorite farm to visit/buy eggs and meat from), Olde Hudson (a specialty grocery store), LICK (for delicious ice cream), and The Spotty Dog (it’s a bookstore AND a bar!)
I have never met a group more reliable to have a good meal with–and it should be said, a few drinks with–than poets…Poets tend to love the details, the process of food, the languid hours of a good meal–meaning not just the vittles but the talk, often loud, that accompanies it.
This may also be because the best poems, like the best meals, are made from scratch. Both rely on the seasons, but also human history; both also consist of tradition, on knowledge passed down either from books or from generation to generation, hand to mouth. In poetry, there are few shortcuts, but there are secrets. Food and poetry each insist that we put our own twists and ingredients in the mix: we make each dish, like a good poem, our own. With any luck, the result is both surprising and satisfying, exactly what we wanted, perhaps without even knowing it.
However, we know well the ways in which our society has abandoned good food, and too often poetry entirely–as if it grows without water and light, and that our neglect won’t reveal itself. “Can one be inspired by rows of prepared canned meals?” asked Alice B. Toklas, who knew her way around both poetry & a kitchen. “Never. One must get nearer to creation to be able to create, even in the kitchen.”
A friend from graduate school recently came to town. We drank tequila cocktails that looked deceptively like pink lemonade in tall sweating glasses and talked and talked and talked, like we used to do when she lived two blocks away and not across the country. Our conversation eventually turned to writing, and I congratulated her on a recent publication. She gave me a funny sort of look. “I’m taking a break,” she said, “from everything. From all of it but the writing. Worrying about success in this field is a full time job, and I need a break.”
After she said it, I knew she was right. I’m as guilty as anyone. I’m far too preoccupied with the minutia of “success,” a loaded word if ever there was one. Done poorly, it’s counterproductive: the more energy I expend worrying, the less I have available for the work itself. And though I can’t quantify exactly what success looks like, I do know the prospect of not capturing it terrifies me–if I’m not successful, then do I get to call myself a writer? And if I’m not a writer then–good God–what am I? Cue all the panicked feels.
It was an enormous relief, to hear my friend echo some of my same worries about writing. Writing is a solitary act. It requires time and patience, a fact completely at odds with the connectivity, networking, marketing, and PR you must now do yourself if you want anyone to read what you’ve written. It’s too much, we decided, too much for any one person to do well.
Somewhat fortuitously, this summer I’ve fallen down an Ann Patchett reading rabbit hole. I recommend it. Her writing consistently adds intellectual and emotional pleasure to my day. I’m currently on her latest book, a memoir in the form of essays, and one strikes me as particularly relevant. The Getaway Car–A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life is long and rich, full of writing advice collected over a career. The essay contains various specific truths, but its overarching message is this: if you want to be a writer, write. Sit down at your desk, and get it done. It’s really that simple.
And so that is my goal for the summer: to write. To write just for the sake of it, just to practice. To create things and enjoy the process and learn and improve. For now, I need to divorce the output from worry over an immediate outcome. I need to turn away from fruitless comparisons, and temporarily look past how bad I am at Twitter. In short, I want to get back to the heart of it.
I wake up abruptly, for no reason at all, in a white bed on Rue Cambon. The Frenchman is asleep, one arm thrown over his head like backstroke. He’ll have been out until small hours, drinking beers on the Canal St. Martin with friends. The room is small, all white, all teeth, except for a stained mirror occupying one wall. A single window runs to the ceiling: beyond gauze white curtains, a gray window box, a spray of fuchsia geraniums, and beyond that, the pearl light of an overcast summer day.
I brush my teeth to an episode of Downton Abbey I’ve seen several times already and then set out into the drizzling city. My first stop is G. Detou (the French love wordplay: “j’ai de tout” means “I have all”) where I sometimes buy fifty bean pouches of vanilla for a song, but today a massive bag of quality cocoa powder. I skirt along the edge of Les Halles. Paris is a city of settled beauty, but I love it for the tiny details, so easy to overlook: the almost hidden covered passages containing multitudes, the throwback, neon green detective’s sign just before the Louvre.
I take myself to Fish for lunch and sit at the bar and order Sancerre. I’ll have the white bean velouté, thin and earthy with whisker slicks of olive oil and sourdough croutons half submerged like sunken ships. I’ll eat juicy sole over tangles of purple cabbage, zucchini ribbons, fennel fronds, chervil, capers. It’s really raining now, so I order the darkest espresso there ever was and drop in a craggy raw sugar cube that I break up with a miniature, heated spoon. I read my book. The rain subsides.
The book is almost finished, and I’m downright heartbroken about, do you know what I mean? I walk to Shakespeare and Co. for a new one and there’s a line out the door; a tall, blonde, American actress is also buying books. I need some peace. I wind my way into the 3eme, so many turning, narrow streets, hushed like the inside of a maze. I want to visit the Picasso Museum, a beige square block surrounded by towering beige walls, but it’s still closed. It’s been years. I’m starting to think they’ll never reopen.
I make my way back to the hotel. I needed the day alone. In the wake of the last week, how does a person put one foot in front of the other? Evening will bring dinner with my family, and then more beers with the Frenchman’s friends. In the room, the bed’s been made, a chocolate left on each pillow. I shower in the white marble bathroom, maybe just for the luxury of donning the billowing white robe. I read some more, enmesh myself in someone else’s tragedy. Then I eat both the chocolates, and lick my fingers clean.