“Now, on a Sunday morning, most of the windows were occupied, men in their shirtsleeves leant out smoking, or carefully and gently held small children on the sills. Other windows were piled up with bedding, above which the dishevelled head of a woman would briefly appear. People called out to each other across the street, one of the calls provoked a loud laugh about K. himself.” I read The Trial by Franz Kafka in high school. Now, decades later, I will admit to being a little fuzzy on the plot and themes, and whatever else we probably wrote our paper on. But for some reason this image, of a man leaning out the window in his shirtsleeves on a Sunday morning glows in my memory and my imagination. I could feel the air, morning-cool, but warming every moment. I could see the man’s shirt, it was white, with thin blue stripes, soft and light. I could even feel K.’s awkwardness, his sense that he wasn’t part of this busy world of people starting their day. I like to read about people at windows, and I don’t know why! But I’ve collected a few samples, for your delectation, and I expect a 5000 word essay on my desk tomorrow, explaining the significance of the window in each example vis-a-vis the tropes of subtexts signifying the microcosm of the other in the substantiality of the now. Or you could share some memorable quotes describing people leaning out of windows that have stuck in your mind half your life. Or you could say, “you’re crazy, man, nobody collects literary passages about windows. I’m out.” The choice is yours! Ready? Begin!
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?
(T.S. Eliot, of course! The lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock)
It was to remember the streets of Harlem, the boys on the stoops, the girls behind the stairs and on the roofs, the white policeman who had taught him how to hate, the stickball games in the streets, the women leaning out of windows and the numbers they played daily, hoping for the hit his father never made.
(James Baldwin, Another Country, which has people leaning out of windows all over Manhattan and the South of France)
..while at times I feel that to be able to cross the Rue Saint-Hilaire again, to engage a room in the Rue de l’Oiseau, in the old hostelry of the Oiseau Flesché, from whose windows in the pavement used to rise a smell of cooking which rises still in my mind, now and then, in the same warm gusts of comfort, would be to secure a contact with the unseen world more marvellously supernatural than it would be to make Golo’s acquaintance and to chat with Geneviève de Brabant.
(That would be Proust)
Young Woman At A Window
She sits with
her cheek on
in her lap
to the glass
(And our William Carlos Williams)I wasn’t really sure where I was going when I made this pate, but I like where I ended up. This was delicious on small whole grain toasts, with a few sprigs of arugula and a thin slices of smoked gouda. It’s made by braising fennel and garlic in white wine with a bit of rosemary, and then pureeing this mixture with walnuts and ricotta, adding an egg, and baking until set but soft. It made a nice side dish warm, the first night I made it, but it was better the next day, at room temperature on toast.
Here’s Woody Guthrie with Do You Ever Think of Me (“At my window, sad and lonely, often do I think of thee…”)
1 medium-sized fennel bulb
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
2 T butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 t rosemary, chopped
1 t balsamic
salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400.
Remove the core and stems from the fennel bulb and discard any brown or damaged parts. Chop the rest to be about 1/3 inch dice.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and the rosemary, and cook for about half a minute. Then add the fennel, stir and cook until the fennel and garlic start to soften and brown. Cook till the pan is quite dry, then add the wine. Stir and cook until the wine is syrupy, then reduce heat to very low, cover the pan, and cook until the fennel is quite tender, fifteen or twenty minutes. You can add a spoonful or two of water if you need to, to keep the pan from drying out.
In a food processor, combine the fennel, ricotta, walnuts and balsamic, and process until smooth. Taste for salt and season with plenty of pepper. Add the egg and process again.
Spread the puree into a buttered dish. You want it to be about 1 inch thick.
Cook for about 30 minutes, until the puree starts to brown and crack on top and pull away from the sides of the pan.
Let cool slightly, and then spread on toast or crackers.
We ate it with a few sprigs of baby arugula and some shavings of smoked gouda, and I recommend this way very much!