To The Feast

 

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Back in November, dearest Ann Marie, fresh off the heels of tumultuous autumn that precipitated a few enjoyably feisty red-wine-nocturnes at my old kitchen table, got an invite to her friend Jerome’s wedding. A Frenchman she met in Oregon, a bon vivant and adventurer of the old school, she introduced Jerome to his future bride and now got the tap to come to Bretagne for the wedding, to loll on the beaches and drink apple cider from tin mugs and listen as the crackle of drippings from fatted pigs with Norman apples in their mouths sizzled over ancient spits in soaring castles plunked down in the middle of lavender fields buzzing with bees and honey and love and majesty and romance. PLUS ONE. Taking into account all of that+wanderlust+roadstripping histories, and after much discussion about the quickening turn of years and pulling apart of our orbits that we fight against tooth and nail, Miss Ann Marie asked if I’d be her plus one. I consulted the oracles (Mama said DO. IT.), backed into that math (don’t know how I’ll swing it but I’ll figure it out), put on some red lipstick and a beret (obviously), and pulled the trigger. If not this, what? If not now, when? The yes, the spark, the setting into motion a butterfly tumble of good-vibes ripples that actually finds us now, on the eve of departure, a whole clan of women ready to move and meet and join in joy on the gilded coasts of SOFRA (the SOuth of FRAnce), to dance and leap and swim and wrap ourselves in scarves and memories and chilled rosé and funky cheeses and celebrate the living of it because, if you hadn’t noticed, that’s the way that you’ve got. to. do. it. Because, honestly, what else is there? As Daddy says: Life is a Banquet and Most Poor Suckers are Starving To Death. To the feast.

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On Wholeness.

afterthestormWell, here we are. Just a toe dipped into June and all of the requisite tropical afternoons that birth amazing thunderstorms and the gift of cool breezes that come after. Everything in a cycle. Happened: my annual sunburn, a few gardenias blooming on the plant that made it through the winter, a lot of fresh fish and white wine. Yet to happen: fireflies, peach picking tomato sandwiches, the honey harvest, fully conquering this fierce melancholy. Here, right on time, to support the few weeks I’ve been taking to breathe deeply and make balance, some thoughts on happiness vs. wholeness:

I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.

Hugh MacKay, author of The Good Life

From here (duh).

I’ll consider this point of view an indulgence for the next two weeks and then I’ll be back to my relentlessly positive outlook. I will say: Sorrow, I acknowledge you, I honor the realness of pain, and the truth and necessary aliveness of the feeling of it, and, thank you, but I’m not going to be spending any more time with you today. These watermelons don’t grease themselves.

 

And an epic thanks to the beautiful Raphaelite-curled Kaitlyn from Once Upon a Stiletto for including this nest in her Leibster roundup…when the melancholy clears I’m overdue for a link roundup. Le Swoon, Le Sigh.

The Wild Loveliness

WildBouquetIt has been a wild time. The winter that wouldn’t end ran headlong into spring, stopping only for a moment to catch its breath, send out some delicate green shoots, and deliver some crushing news. Everything here springing up wild and wick, the bees finally hitting their honeyed stride, just in time to get left in a hurry, coffee still on the stove, the needle poised above the record, the bounding radishes and collards and kale unthinned… to head south and attend loss. Then a quick accounting, a slapdash suitcase, and a whirlwind trip out west, full of joy and light and adventure. A perfect time. Then home again, which, after weeks of absence, looked like something out of The Secret Garden or Grey Gardens or Mrs. Havisham or Miss Honey’s House… some lovely testament to elegant decay, but also probably garnering some judgment from the neighbors. Vines and blooms and ripening, peonies bent over double, canary roses full of promise, about to burst, irises sprung up seemingly overnight, grass in the meadow at hip height. Just enough time to gather this hasty bouquet, improbably, the pale yellow broccoli that bolted into unruly flowers in the unexpected heat, the wild spreading white Cherokee roses that make me repeat my grandfather’s mantra (“it’s only a weed if you don’t want it there”), and the sweet buttercups in the yard that I knew would be falling under the scythe in a few day’s time. A funny wild bouquet plucked accidentally, almost out of necessity (leaving the fancy flowers where they were), delicate and dropping petals and perfumed with a sweet fragrance that, for essentially zero reason, always makes me think of Emmylou Harris. Put in the center of the table with a happy sigh. Just in time for more crushing news. And again, we leave the coffee on the stove, the compost in the bin, the laundry on the chair (at least clean and folded if not put away), the bees in the clover, the cat in the window…all to head south and attend loss. It’s what the living do, care for each other in this great yearning, and rejoice together because we must, absolutely, celebrate this wild loveliness that is the. thing.

Montauk

moonriseAnd then we packed up the F-150 with surfboards, bikes, lounge chairs, coffee, guitars, scarves, whiskey, tents, necklaces, and bahn mi’s and headed out to Montauk. We judiciously used our lack of showering and/or anywhere with a roof to go to avoid becoming embroiled in any of the overarching Montauk sceneyness, and pretty much spent all of our time gazing at the ocean, getting into it, surfing/watching the surfers, eating fried seafood, and drinking beer. That, singing songs, killing a Thursday NYT crossword, and waking up to infinity stretching off into the distance and it was an alright time indeed.montaukcampsiteditchplainssurfboardssunsetThank you to AMR for the snap of the surfboards and for inviting me along for a little tag-team-third-wheel.

Peach Pie

PeachPieSo I told you I was going to make a peach pie with the 8,759,428 peaches we picked, and I did. A little vanilla ice cream, some fireflies, a few dear friends, and a last minute switch from an-all-too-shallow standard pie plate to a just-perfectly-deep cast iron skillet to handle all of the peaches and we had quite a summer treat on our hands.

Peach Pie
(recipe lifted/half-assed by the addition of store bought pie-crusts/slightly adapted with joy from Smitten Kitchen)

This is a classic peach pie with no frills, because peach pie needs no frills to be fantastic. Let this pie convince you. I like to split the sugar between white granulated and light brown for best flavor without too much of a muddy beige color. Feel free to use all of one or the other, or bump up the sugar if you think you’d like the pie sweeter.

2 store bought pie crusts
About 3 1/2 pounds peaches (approximately 6 large, 7 medium or 8 small)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, from about half a regular lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar (see note up top; use 1/3 cup for a sweeter pie)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (ditto)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few gratings of fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch

To finish
1 tablespoon milk, cream or water
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Prepare an ice bath. Make a small x at the bottom of each peach. Once water is boiling, lower peaches, as many as you can fit at once, into saucepan and poach for two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to ice bath for one minute to cool. Transfer peaches to cutting board and peel the skins. In most cases, the boiling-then-cold water will loosen the skins and they’ll slip right off. In the case of some stubborn peaches, they will stay intact and you can peel them with a paring knife or vegetable peeler and curse the person who made you waste your time with poaching fruit.

Halve and pit the peaches, then into about 1/3-inch thick slices. You’ll want 6 cups; it’s okay if you go a little over. Add to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a small dish, stir together sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch until evenly mixed. Add to peaches and toss to evenly coat.

Preheat: Oven to 425 degrees.

Assemble your pie: Put one pie dough in the bottom of the pie pan, trim the overhang to one inch.

Scoop filling into bottom pie dough, including any accumulated juices (they contain the thickener too, also: tastiness).

If you’d like to make a regular lidded pie, use it as is, cutting some decorative vents in the pie lid before baking. To make a lattice-top pie, cut the pie dough into strips anywhere from 1/2 to 1-inch wide with a pastry wheel, pizza wheel or knife. Arrange every other strip across your pie filling in one direction, spacing the strips evenly. Fold back every other strip gently on itself and add the longest remaining strip in the other direction. Fold the strips back down, repeat with the other strips until a full lattice-top is formed. Trim the lattice’s overhang to the diameter of the pie dish’s rim. Gently fold the rim of the bottom crust over the lattice strips and crimp decoratively.

To finish:Brush pie with milk, cream or water and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake pie: For about 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until the crust is set and beginning to brown. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake pie for another 30 to 40 minutes, until filling is bubbling all over and the crust is a nice golden brown. If the pie lid browns too quickly at any point in the baking process, you can cover it with foil for the remaining baking time to prevent further browning.

Cool pie: For three hours at room temperature before serving. I know you won’t listen to me — there’s hot delicious pie to be eaten, after all — but if you’re concerned about the runniness of the pie filling, keep in mind that the pie filling does not fully thicken until it is fully cool. Pie can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge; from the fridge, it will be even thicker.

Peach Picking

PeachesPeaches in the summertime, Apples in the fall, if I can’t have the girl I love, I don’t want none at all. We’re in the thick of it right now, the sweet-hot afternoons where the orchards that line the country roads leading to our house burst forth in a rush of sun-warmed peaches that are so sweet and juicy, taking a bite, sinking your teeth right in, juice running down your chin, has you saying “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?” because you just can’t believe that something that truly incredible, miraculous, sweet and fresh and tart and mouth round just came right off a tree. My sweet little cousins came for a visit from the west coast, and we had a true southern summer day- swimming hole, fireflies, and fresh peach picking of course. On the agenda for tonight: pie.annapeachpickingfreshpeachPeachPickingLukefreshpeaches

Mulberry Pie

mulberriesThese are Mulberries. I have no idea how I hadn’t heard of them until just this spring. I mean, I knew a Mulberry Tree was a kind of tree that existed and that there was something vaguely to do with silkworms liking them, but that was it. I had NO IDEA that literally EVERYWHERE there are big beautiful Mulberry Trees growing with millions of dark, juicy, sweet, totally edible, totally delicious berries on them just ripe for the picking. I have a bunch of trees growing wild at my house, Sweetheart and I stopped for lunch at a roadside stand and there was a Mulberry Tree in the parking lot (dessert!), even on our block in Brooklyn, right by the bus stop, there are low hanging branches of this sweet fruit (and a bunch of bamboozled people waiting for the bus looking at me funny as I stop en route to the subway every morning to pick+shove a handful of the sticky sweet berries in my mouth). pickedmulberriesThe Mulberry itself tastes most like a blackberry (almost I-dentical, actually), but bigger and juicier than the wild blackberries that are just starting to green up on the thorny embankments around here. So much sweet bounty, just growing for the taking? I say: FREE PIE! When the boys were down visiting from New York, Tony had specifically asked for a pie, so Seth and I took a ladder and a bowl out to the back yard and spent 20 minutes in the tree canopy, picking classically: a berry for the bowl, a berry for me, a berry for the pie, a berry for the pie-hole. We filled our bowl and baked her up. Deee-licious.mulberrypie

Mulberry Pie 

This recipe was pretty inexact, which is usually not how I roll with baking, but with a berry pie, (apparently) it doesn’t really matter.

-One large bowl freshly picked Mulberries, enough to fill a tarte pan
-1/4 c. sugar
-2 tbs. flour
-2 piecrusts (I cheated and used pre-made)
-butter
-1 egg white

Preheat oven to 400

Toss Mulberries in sugar and flour

Line tarte pan with one pie crust, cutting off any excess, fill with berries

Cut a design into your top crust (or lattice it, or cut a slit… do what you feel! I cut stars)

Dot the top of the filling with as many pats of butter as you are comfortable with

Layer the top crust on top and crimp the edges (again, cutting off any excess)

Lightly whip egg white and brush crust with it

Bake for 15 minutes at 400, reduce head to 350 and bake for another 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown

If you can possibly stand it, let the pie rest until cool so the gooey berry filling will set (cutting the pie warm means the filling will be oozy, you can make your own t-chart about the detriments of oozing filling vs. the benefits of eating warm pie).

Have any of you ever made mulberry pie? mulberry jam? I’d love any stories or recipes since I feel like I just discovered this AND it’s supremely old fashioned (my favorite combo).