One night last week, when the Frenchman was away on business, I dominated every single one of our wedding invitations. I stayed at the table late into the night, five hours in fact, watching Gilmore Girls for company. I painted the inside of each envelope with gold foil liners–Has anyone else done this? The liners should come with a “tedious work ahead!” label. My first five attempts were embarrassing, but I quickly worked out a system. And then came the actual invitation-stuffing. (The Frenchman and I designed our invites based on watercolorsofourweddingflowers, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the towers of La Rochelle, from where the Frenchman hails.)
But now I’m frightening our doorman. You see, the only thing still standing in my way are the stamps, which are taking their sweet time arriving in the mail. Every time I go downstairs I bound toward the desk: “Do we have any packageeees?” Like a demented puppy. It isn’t dignified. Doesn’t he know that stamps are the only thing separating me from the oncoming rush of rsvps?! And eventual table seating charts? With post-its? (Actually, yes he does, since I bring it up regularly.)
If you think I sound a little left of center at the moment, you’re right. In my defense, I’m mostly planning the wedding myself. Also, to say I’m a list-obsessed micromanager is a bit of a gentle understatement. You should see the joint excel files the Frenchman and I have going! I try to show them to people–“Look! Look at our color-coded wedding excels!” And then the person has to say to me, “No, Cris, no. This isn’t a thing. I don’t want to see your excel files.” Can you believe that?!
We have twelve weeks to go. There are so many details, so many little tasks to be completed. But despite my basket case tendencies, the whole process has been really enjoyable. And it’s lovely working with the Frenchman in all sorts of creative ways.
I paused the wedding madness long enough to make these tartines for lunch. I thought they were delicious. I hope you will too.
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.”
“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.
So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?
Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.
Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.
Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.
Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted.
It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids’ eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking.
I am tired of the tundra of the mind,
where a few shabby thoughts hunker
around a shabby fire. All day from my window
I watch girls and boys hanging out
in the dark arcades of desire.
Tonight, everything is strict with cold,
the houses closed, the ice botched by skaters.
I am tired of saying things about the world,
and yet, sometimes, these streets are so
slick and bold they remind me of the wet
zinc bar at the Café Marseilles, and suddenly the sea
is green and lust is everywhere in a red cravat, Read more »
The expired weeks since Christmas have stretched long–a barrage of travel and too many nights that lasted until morning. I will unravel the contents of those weeks some time, but not yet. For now, I just want to remember the holiday we spent in France, with family that will soon officially be my family.
The details of so many fêted meals blur together now, but I can tell you that there was foie gras d’oie, served alongside heady-sweet, wine-poached figs. It was an especially good year for figs in the garden. Comme d’habitude, the whole roast goose traveled no farther than the farm down the road, its rearer a family friend. Read more »
It is past four o’clock in the morning and I am still awake, up to nothing in particular except listening to a plunking blanket of rain beat and tinker onto the skylight above our bed, down the mansard roof. The man I love more than yesterday, less than tomorrow, more even than vanilla-peanut butter ice cream sleeps fitfully in the bed beside me, taking up more than his fair share of sheet real estate, but no matter.
We are in Paris, in the attic room of a narrow gray hotel tucked onto an unremarkable street in the 3eme arrondissement. The room is small, comically so, but in return we have a view—a true panorama of Paris’s shabby-chic, sprawling skyline, the expanse of grays, charcoals, and creams, the embarrassment of clay chimneystacks, like so many upturned flowerpots abandoned in a garden row. The Sacre Coeur stands alone, rising ivory on a distant hill, hazy at the edges in the somber light, a neat little postage stamp of a cathedral. We have a small balcony, and I move from the bed to stand outside as the rain softens, following the white lights that lick the wet road, slick as oil after hours of rain. Read more »
I oscillated hour to hour on whether or not to post this essay here–it is not the kind of writing I normally share in this space. Regular readers will know how much I care about whole foods, and that the farmers market is an essential facet of my cooking life, but I do not usually bring policy into the conversation.
Ultimately, I am posting this because I think the issues at hand are more important than my fears you won’t like what I have to say.
I recently spent a few days with a group of people who could not think more differently than me when it comes to food. After that experience, I needed a way to vent my frustrations, collect my thoughts, and clarify my views. If you already agree with what I write below, excellent. If you agree and are looking for a way to broach the subject with the people in your life who disagree or simply don’t know, I hope this essay aids that conversation. If you think I am totally full of cow manure, well, we are just going to have to agree to disagree. Either way, if you would rather simply read about a happy-go-lucky, apple-parsnip cake laced with rummy raisins and warming spices, click hereto jump ahead. Read more »
It is Thanksgiving Day. Your menu planning is done, the turkey is in the oven. But before you even sit down for the main event meal, let me direct your attention toward leftovers. Just remember–this post will be waiting for you–tonight, when you find yourself scrounging in the refrigerator for that 10pm snack, tomorrow morning, or the day after that, or the day after that. I have your back, no matter what level of effort you can summon. Let me help you purpose those leftovers into dishes just as glorious as their first selves.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, the sun is shining. The Frenchman and I are at the beach this year, and my goal today is to do not much of anything at all. After I publish this post, my Thanksgiving duties are officially ended. I hope that you have enjoyed this series of three Thanksgiving-themed posts, that you found them rich in detail, and useful.
Until next week, happy cooking and eating today. Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours. Read more »