Here’s Louis Armstrong with Song of the Islands
I think there’s nothing more comforting than mashed potatoes! They smell like a holiday while they’re cooking, and they’re so pleasing and soft and gently flavorful. I had some left over, and I wanted to make something that accentuated their comfortingness, so I made these little croquettes. I kept them very simple, but they’re not bland. It’s just mashed potatoes mixed with smushed white beans, eggs, white sharp cheddar, and rosemary and sage. Quick and easy. I made a red sauce to go with them, with some balsamic and garlic and shallots, so it’s got stronger sharper flavors which were nice against the simplicity of the croquettes.
“And because the breath of flowers is far sweeter in the air (where it comes and goes like the warbling of music) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for that delight, than to know what be the flowers and plants that do best perfume the air. Roses, damask and red, are fast flowers of their smells; so that you may walk by a whole row of them, and find nothing of their sweetness; yea though it be in a morning’s dew. Bays likewise yield no smell as they grow. Rosemary little; nor sweet marjoram. That which above all others yields the sweetest smell in the air is the violet, specially the white double violet, which comes twice a year; about the middle of April, and about Bartholomew-tide. Next to that is the musk rose. Then the strawberry-leaves, dying, which yield a most excellent cordial smell. Then the flower of vines; it is a little dust, like the dust of a bent, which grows upon the cluster in the first coming forth. Then sweet-briar. Then wall-flowers, which are very delightful to be set under a parlor or lower chamber window. Then pinks and gilliflowers, especially the matted pink and clove gilliflower. Then the flowers of the lime-tree. Then the honey-suckles, so they be somewhat afar off. Of bean-flowers I speak not, because they are field flowers. But those which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but being trodden upon and crushed, are three; that is, burnet, wild-thyme, and watermints. Therefore you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.”
Francis Bacon on gardens. It’s an essay in the middle of The Essays or Counsels, civil and moral, of Francis Ld. Verulam Viscount St Albans. In between essays on religion, judicature, faction and ambition, lies a beautiful little essay about gardens. It’s civil and moral discourse, because he believes it’s important to have a garden, and to attend carefully to the arrangement of it. He names every flower that will bloom every season of the year in London where he lives, and he suggests that you discover what will grow year round where you live. And then he has this lovely little section on the scent of flowers, which has such odd and particular language it reads like a poem. Secret roses that hold their smells fast? Strawberry leaves when they’re dying? Honeysuckle though it be somewhat far off? What is a little dust? What is the dust of a bent? But let us not speak of bean-flowers, because they are field flowers.We got some sweet potatoes from the farm, and I decided to make these little baked gnocchi with them, and then some spinach sauce to dip them in. The gnocchi are based on a choux pastry batter. They’re somewhat denser than regular choux pastry, because of the sweet potatoes, but pleasantly so. I flavored them with sharp cheddar and sage, and the sauce is flavored with jalapenos, almonds and lemon.
Here’s Tom Waits with Trampled Rose.
What we have here is a meal in which one night’s dinner becomes the next night’s dinner in a different form. Typical Ordinary leftovers shenanigans. I’m on the record as saying that one of my favorite combinations is chard, pine nuts and raisins. So the first night we had that, with some herbs and butter beans thrown in. We ate it with bulgur which I had made with lentil broth. The next day, I made some very tender buttery rolls or hamburger buns. And I combined the leftover beans, chard and bulgur to make burgers. I added some bread crumbs, some smoked gouda, and an egg, and I made them into patties and fried them in olive oil. Very tasty!! The night after that, I broke the burgers into pieces, mixed them with greens and kidney beans, roasted peppers and tomatoes, and made tacos. And on and on it goes!!
Here’s Memphis Minnie with Today Today Blues. Just because I like it, today!
BY SEAMUS HEANEY
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Here’s Kimya Dawson with I Like My Bike.
I love potatoes and greens, and I love greens and olives, so this was a nice combination of both. It’s also got capers (or flavor dynamites) and fresh herbs and tomatoes from the farm. We ate it with whole wheat pearled couscous mixed with pesto and chickpeas. And, of course, the next night I made croquettes out of the leftovers. All good! All easy!
Here’s Belle and Sebastian’s The Loneliness of the Middle Distance Runner. One of my favorites!
I can’t stop listening to the same three Nina Simone songs! As soon as they’re over, I go back and listen to them all again. It’s not just that I love them, but I feel as though I need to hear them. They happen to be the first three songs on our new album…My Baby Just Cares For Me, I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free, and Ain’t Got No…I Got Life. I’ve been in such a strange mood, lately, and something about the strength and frailty of these, the doubt and joyousness, just feel perfect to me right now. And the boys have started liking them, so they ask to hear them over and over. It’s gotten to the point that the songs are stuck in my head (and David’s too!) all night long. They’re taking over! I feel as though I need to listen to something else for a while. This isn’t the first time this has happened…when the boys were little and I was feeling old and tired, I discovered the Arctic Monkeys, and played their albums till the songs wore a hole in my head. When I was in my twenties, I became obsessed with Old blues guys and Tom Waits, who has always sounded like an old guy. I think I needed some weight and gravity in my life, and I played these songs until I was in a blue mood, but it always made me feel better somehow. So this week’s playlist is songs that go beyond earworms to take over your life. Not just a pleasant song that gets stuck in your head, but songs you need to hear over and over and over and over. Does anyone else do this? Can you remember songs from various points in your life that have meant a lot to you at that time? That you listened to as you lay in awe on the bedroom floor? As ever, I’ve made the playlist collaborative, so add what you like, or leave a comment and I’ll add it.We had some leftover farro, so I decided to make farro croquettes. I used small, sharp asian turnips from the CSA and roasted mushrooms. This was very loosely based on something called “turnip paste,” I think, which is boiled turnips mixed with shitake mushrooms, steamed, sliced and fried. Someday I’ll try to make the real thing. The flavors were nice here…roasty, nutty, with just a bit of edge from the turnips.