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.
“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.”
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!)
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.