Cashew-almond tamari sauce

Cashew tamari sauce

Cashew tamari sauce

Seibei Iguchi is a low-ranking samurai in mid-nineteenth century Japan, in an era when the notion of Samurai as a way of life is fading, confused, dying out. He’s employed as a bureaucrat in a grain warehouse, literally counting beans. His co-workers call him “twilight Seibei” because each evening at the close of the working day, when they go out and drink and consort with geishas, he rejects their invitation to join them and returns home instead. He’s a widower with a senile mother and two young daughters and he needs to be home to care for them, he can’t afford to go out. But this is not a hardship for him: he loves to be with his family, he loves to watch his daughters grow. He is content. This is Twilight Samurai, by Yôji Yamada, and it is a beautiful movie, and it is a very Ordinary movie! It’s not unique in showing samurai as displaced or unglamorous–Kurosawa’s nameless Samurai in Yojimbo is hungry and lousy. But I believe it is the first film I’ve seen to show a Samurai so quietly and contentedly engaged in ordinary everyday activities, going from day to day feeding his daughters, showing them how to make cricket cages, leaving for work and returning home, and noticing that the azaleas are in bloom. This is a quiet samurai movie with little (though beautifully filmed) fighting. Seibei Iguchi doesn’t hunger for glory or political advancement or financial gain. He’s full to bursting with the business of everyday life, with its pleasures and its responsibilities. Because twilight is more than just closing time, it’s the time of day when we become acutely aware of time passing, of the poignance and value of each moment, and we sense that Seibei Iguchi feels this aching beauty at all times.

My boys liked this sauce! It’s got a nice balance of sweet, tart and umami flavors. It’s good with steamed broccoli, with spinach, with carrots. It’s nice with rice or long noodles. And it’s very easy to make! We have quite a few basil plants outside, and this is a nice non-pesto use for the leaves.

Here’s a song from Twilight Samurai by Isao Tomita.

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Peachy guacamole

Peachy guacamole

Peachy guacamole

Malcolm graduated from elementary school yesterday. Honestly, up until a couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have thought this was such a momentous occasion. A minor transition, maybe. But right now it feels like a huge big deal. I’ve gotten all emotional about it. Last night at graduation they had a slide show with pictures of all the kids, from kindergarten till now. My god, they change so much between five and twelve! It all went so fast! They’ll change so much between twelve and eighteen, and that will fly by, too. My head is spinning! The whole world is in a whirl! Even the yearbook makes me weepy. They ask all the sixth graders a set of questions about what they like and what they hope for their future, and, of course, I love Malcolm’s answers. His favorite place to be is “anywhere.” How wonderful is that? Anywhere is his favorite place to be! I’m going to put that on a t-shirt and I’m going to remember it next time I’m cranky about being somewhere I don’t want to be. And what does he want to be when he grows up? A famous adventurer!! I think that’s the best answer an eleven year old could give. I want him to be a famous adventurer! I worry sometimes that I’ll pass on all of my worries to the boys. My fears of this and of that. I want to be a famous adventurer, too, I really, do, but I’m Moley at heart. I like to write and read and go for walks and eventually make dinner and drink some wine and then go for another walk. I like to be with my family in my house in my town. I like to travel, too, and we will when we have the means, but I’m an easily contented person. And it’s not just settling, these things make me truly, actively happy. But Malcolm could do anything! He could go anywhere! And whatever he does he could do as an adventurer. He could be an adventurer architect or fireman or astronaut or mechanic. He could be an adventurer dad or artist or musician or accountant. I suppose he could even be an adventure who likes to write and read and go for walks and eventually drink some wine and make dinner! Whatever he does, wherever he goes, I hope he goes there adventurously, and happily, and I hope anywhere is always his favorite place to be.

Peachy guacamole

Peachy guacamole

Another avocado recipe?!?! That’s right. I’m avocado obsessed at the moment, and my oven is broken so I can’t tell you about the cakes or bread or pies that I’m making because I’m not making them!! This was really nice, I thought. Sweet, tart, spicy, full of fresh chives and cilantro from our garden. We just ate it with chips, but it would be nice to add to bean tacos or with croquettes.

Here’s Owl City with When Can I See You Again, which Malcolm’s class sang at graduation. I swear there’s nothing like these pop songs they play at dances and choir concerts to get you all choked up when you’re feeling stupidly emotional.
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Potatoes with honey, sorrel, and lemony herb sauce

Sorrel, honey, and lemony herb sauce

Sorrel, honey, and lemony herb sauce

Hello, Ordinary friends!! It’s been a while since we’ve had a Sunday interactive playlist, for the simple reason that we’ve been trying to observe screen-free Sundays. But I noticed a similar line in two songs that are on heavy rotation here at The Ordinary, and I decided to post the world’s first Saturday Interactive Playlist. The Songs were Doomsday, by Elvis Perkins, which I love love love, and Train to Chicago by Drink Me, which has long been one of my favorites. And the lines were…

    Man, I went wild last night
    O, I went feeling alright

and

    the train lurches left, lurches right
    drunk on the train to Chicago, I feel alright


I made this video!!

So I started thinking about the feeling of alright. It’s a good feeling, and I think it’s more than just okay, it’s more than a mediocre feeling of nothing bothering you too much. In fact, I think it’s a feeling of well-being despite the fact that things might not be going that well for you. It’s a feeling from inside of you, despite what’s going on outside of you. And it has a sort of memory-of-childhood comfort that despite your current woes, everything’s going to be alright. So today’s playlist is alright songs. Add them yourself, or leave a song in a comment and I’ll add it for you. Bonus points for songs that don’t have “alright” in the title. So far we have a lot of VU, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, and you can’t go wrong with a list like that!!

Potatoes with honey, sorrel, and lemony herbs

Potatoes with honey, sorrel, and lemony herbs

Sorrel! It’s delightful! It’s a little tart and lemony, but mellows when you cook it. It also darkens and thickens, which accounts for the strangeness of my pictures in this post! Our CSA, Sandbrook Meadow Farm has a plethora of lemony herbs, sorrel, savory, lemon thyme. I made a sauce of these with some white wine and honey. It’s a picante sauce, very flavorful, so I used it with some mild boiled potatoes. I think it would be nice with white beans or chicken or in an omelette. You can adjust the tart/sweet balance to your own taste. You could add shallots and/or garlic and I think capers would be nice, too, but I kept it simple this time.

Here’s a link to your ALRIGHT interactive playlist.

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Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes, and herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes, and herbs

This week, the Guardian UK had this bit of advice from a teacher to any and all parents. “Your kids are not your mates. Something I’m starting to hear with worrying frequency within the primary school setting is ‘my daughter’s my best friend.’ Often, this rings alarm bells. Your kids aren’t your mates. You’re their parent, and your responsibility is to provide them with guidance and boundaries, not to drag them into your own disputes. Your nine-year-old doesn’t need to know about your bitter feud with his friend’s mother, or which dad you’ve got the hots for at the school gate.” Well, I’m sorry, Guardian UK, you’re still my best newspaper friend forever, but I think this advice twists the issue and gets it wrong. First of all, the real problem is that a parent is telling anyone about their bitter feud with his friend’s mother or about which dad they have the hots for. Or that they have a bitter feud with their kid’s best friend’s mother in the first place. Some things are best kept to yourself! Secondly, this is such a strange definition of friendship! A friend is not necessarily someone you complain to or to enlist in your feuds. (Unless we’re all in some tawdry reality show and I’m blissfully unaware of it!) For me a friend is somebody who you enjoy spending time with, who you’re comfortable with, who you enjoy talking to, who you’ll take care of when they’re sick or down or need help with anything, and who you know will take care of you, too. And why am I bothering to get all huffy about a random article from the Guardian? I suppose it’s because just last week I was thinking happily about what good friends my boys have become for me. It’s one of my greatest pleasures in life, thinking about what good people and good friends they’re becoming. Walking with them, talking with them, cooking with them, reading with them, playing frisbee or basketball or some strange hybrid game that Malcolm invented that involves playing basketball with a frisbee while walking like a penguin. Even playing video games, which I do so badly that Malcolm laughs the whole time, is a good way to spend an afternoon. All of these are a joy to me, and more so every day. Of course I know that I’m the parent, I make the most basic rules, I tell them when it’s time to stop playing penguin ball and come and do some homework. I make them eat (at least some) of their dinner, I tell them when it’s time to go to bed. Or rather David and I do, because he’s a friend, too, and we’re all in this together. And of course I don’t expect them to take me to the doctor when I’m sick, or make me toast or decide what medicine I should take, like I do for them. But I do think it’s crushingly sweet that when I don’t feel well they bring me water, or try to be more quiet so that I can rest. And I think it’s important for them to feel needed, to feel as though they can help take care of somebody that they love. I think it’s important for them to know that we enjoy talking to them, that conversations with them are as entertaining and enlightening as with anyone else I know. From when he was very little, Isaac has said, “You’re fun to be with.” And I think it’s important for them to know that they’re fun to be with, too. The Guardian’s preachy teacher warned that being friends with your children might lead to social alienation for them later in life, but I believe the opposite. I believe they’re learning how to be a friend, and how good it feels to have a friend, how good it is to care. Or so I dearly hope!

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and fresh herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and fresh herbs

Here’s another of my world famous pizza-like tarts. It has a yeasted crust with olive oil in it, which, let’s face it, is a pizza crust. But it also has an egg and cheese custard in the middle, which makes it like a big flat quiche. This one began as a way to use up leftover grilled portobellos and some cooked tiny potatoes. I decided to use them as toppings here. I also used smoked gouda, to accentuate the smokiness of the grilled mushrooms. And we have such an exciting variety of herbs in our garden, and I used them all!! I love a big medley of herbs together, with all of the unexpected and delightful flavors. Some herbs I think of as better cooked…sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano. And others I like best fresh and raw–basil, tarragon, cilantro. So I mixed some in with the custard and baked them into the tart, and others I scattered on top at the end.

Here’s The White Stripes with We’re Going to be Friends.

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Savory puffy pancake with chickpeas, tomatoes and chard

Savory chickpea pancake with chard, tomatoes and chickpeas

Savory chickpea pancake with chard, tomatoes and chickpeas

Some faces are more symmetrical than others. Some lips are fuller, some eyes are bigger, some skin is smoother or paler or tanner. (And, yes, some girls are bigger than others, and some girls’ mothers are bigger than other girls’ mothers.) And in some decades or some centuries paleness or tan-ness is valued, sometimes society dictates that full lips are aesthetically pleasing, sometimes it’s rosebud lips, sometimes it’s plumpness, sometimes it’s skinniness. Fashion is fickle, society is fickle, and as individuals our ideas about human beauty are mysteriously linked to the aesthetic preferences of society-as-a-whole. And of course everybody knows about inner beauty. Intelligence, humor, kindness, compassion, all shine in a person’s face and make them more beautiful; it’s (probably) a scientifically proven fact. But somehow this notion still implies a judgement from without, and it removes the spirit from the body, it sets aside the physical. I’ve been thinking about a different definition of beauty that’s both physical and even more deeply inner than the cliché that the phrase “inner beauty” has become. It’s a definition of beauty that we own, ourselves. I think our bodies are beautiful because of the pleasure that they give us. And this pleasure comes in many forms: it could be in tasting food, or hearing music, or making something with our hands. It could be in running or dancing or feeling the strength of our muscles. The mind is part of the body, too, so we can take pleasure in thinking, even in something as simple as that. And, of course, it could be in “the great joy that they had expected, and countless little joys of which they had never dreamt,” to borrow a phrase from EM Forster that I’ve always thought and hoped was a euphemism for physical love. Your body is beautiful because it is capable of doing these things and feeling these things, and you can walk through this world glowing with this knowledge. And the real beauty of this definition of beauty, is that though it comes from inside of you, and it is yours, all of these things are more pleasurable and more beautiful and more glowing when they are shared with somebody else.

This beauty doesn’t change with the seasons and the fads. This beauty is strength against insecurity bred by cruel comments and the constant bombardment of images of people who look different and supposedly better than you. Certainly your body changes as you age, but you will find new ways that it brings you pleasure. You will be beautiful forever, and your beauty is yours.

Savory pancake with chickpeas, tomatoes and chard

Savory pancake with chickpeas, tomatoes and chard

My oven is broken! It’s the strangest thing. It gets to a certain temperature, and then it just stops. It decides that’s quite hot enough, thank you. So I’ve had a nice time the last few days thinking of ways to cook things without it. The stovetop still works, and the broiler. So I decided to make this sort of puffy savory pancake to cook over sautéed vegetables. I cooked it first in the skillet, with the lid on, and then I put it under the broiler for a minute or two to brown up. I suppose it’s not all that different from a yorkshire pudding, except that it’s not baked at all. And it’s similar to socca, because it has a bit of chickpea flour in it. We had some beautiful chard from the farm, and I love chard, tomatoes and chickpeas, so that seemed like a nice under layer for the whole project. You could add olives or capers, I think they’d be nice here, but I’ve been putting them in everything lately, so I left them out.

Here is, of course, The Smiths with Some Girls are Bigger than Others.

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chickpea guacosalsa or salsamole

Chickpea saslamole

Chickpea saslamole

This afternoon Clio and I walked to school to pick up the boys, as we always do. I looked down at her, and she seemed very serious, head down, ears bobbing as earnestly as ears can bob. Yes, she has a light elegant gait and shiny white socks, but at this moment her pace was very businesslike. She had somewhere to be, and she was determined to get there. Dogged, I thought, Clio is demonstrating the definition of dogged.
Clio

Clio


I know that Clio considers walking the boys to and from school her job. She knows by some mysterious internal clock when it’s time to get them, and if I make any move around that time, she follows me frantically, worried that she’ll be left behind. What a wonderful work ethic she has! She knows where she’s going and she heads there at a relatively steady pace. If you were, oh, I don’t know, writing a novel, say, this would be the equivalent of writing a little bit every day, forcing yourself to write a few pages so that you will get where you’re going in a timely manner. We don’t take the same route every time, but we always arrive in the same place. She’s happy to let the walk take her where it will as long as we’re headed towards the school, but if I try to turn in the wrong direction she stops. She looks at me with serious, wondering eyes, she won’t move. She’s goal-oriented, but she’s willing to explore different options in achieving that goal. She’s willing to let herself get distracted by important things, like squirrels or sparrows, she’ll gladly stop to greet a friend, but she always has one paw back on the path, ready to continue the journey. Most of all, Clio’s work is full of the weighty buoyant responsibility of love. She enjoys the walk, sure, and she doesn’t mind the wait at the other end, as long as she has a few sticks to chew on. But the real reward is leaping happily on the boys when they finally emerge from the school. Her love for them has brought her out, in every kind of weather, when the sidewalks were slick with rain or treacherous with slush and ice. She’s joyfully, bouncingly dogged. She’s a true amateur.

Chickpea salsamole

Chickpea salsamole

This is so easy, so delicious, and so versatile. It’s a little like guacamole, a little like salsa, and a little like a cool chickpea salad. You could add anything you want to this! Garlic, raw or roasted, onions or chives, jalapeños, olives, capers, hot sauce, cheese…anything! I used cilantro from our garden and beautiful golden oregano from the CSA that we belong to. I like this to stuff inside a pita or tortilla with some croquettes or beans and rice.

Here’s Uncle Tupelo with I Want to be your Dog. I LOVE this cover!
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White beans with sorrel and chard

White beans with sorrel and chard

White beans with sorrel and chard

It’s so strange sometimes to be an American. In many ways we’re taught that we’re the center of the universe, the richest, smartest, most advanced, most imitated, most moral country in the world. With the biggest, best-prepared military. No amount of statistics will prove otherwise, because this is just something we know, it’s a gut feeling. And although we’re proud of the fact that America was founded by a bunch of rebellious forward-thinking intellectuals, we seem to have arrived to a point where it’s treasonous to question anything. These last few days I’ve found myself unaccountably moved by the story of Bowe Bergdahl and his father, Robert. I suppose, on one level, it’s not that surprising that as the mother of two boys I sympathize with a man saddened and anxious that his son is a prisoner in another country. And admittedly I don’t know many of the facts of the case, but nobody else seems to, either, and that doesn’t seem to stop them speaking with self-righteous idiocy about it. I believe that, in part, I’m reacting so strongly because the whole affair seems to demonstrate how skewed our values have become, or at least how different from my own. How can we accuse a young man of cowardice for questioning the legitimacy of a war we know we know we should never have started in the first place? How can we question his morals and judgement instead of jailing members of the administration that cynically lied to us to persuade us to enter an unnecessary conflict that would result in the deaths of thousands of Americans? I’ve heard Bergdahl criticized for saying that he’s ashamed to be American, but sometimes it seems impossible not to be. I’m ashamed to be American every time someone on Fox News claims to speak for all Americans. This passage is (supposedly) from en e-mail Bergdahl sent to his parents, “I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live. We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks…We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them…I am sorry for everything.” Who would tell their child to shut up and carry on in this situation? Who would tell them to stay put and not to question anything? Who would tell them that it would be cowardly to leave? The same people who criticize him now as a traitor and a coward, the same people who have never lost a child or witnessed the nightmarish chaos of war. I suppose it’s easy to have clear-cut answers to questions you don’t let yourself ask. Robert Bergdahl describes this decade of war and what led to it and what we’ve taken away from it as “the darkening of the American soul.” Right now it feels that he is not wrong.

White beans with sorrel and chard

White beans with sorrel and chard

I’m sorry to go on and on, by by god, it’s been on my mind. We will turn, instead, Candide-like, to our garden. We have such a lovely garden this year, and it’s a great solace to walk through our tomatoes and peppers and salsify and herbs. We’re growing sorrel. I love the word “Sorrel” and I like the idea of it as an herb. It’s lemony to bitterness when raw, but it mellows when cooked to add a bright tart citrus-y bite. I included it with mellow-flavored potatoes and white beans and earthy chard. I kept the seasoning quite simple–white wine, salt, pepper, and a little rosemary. We ate this over farro, but it’s hearty enough to eat as is. Or you could eat it with rice, couscous, bulgur, anything you like!!

Here’s Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie, which I heard all the way through for the first time just the other day.

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Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

    There is shadow under this red rock,
    (Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
    And I will show you something different from either
    Your shadow at morning striding behind you
    Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
    I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

These lines, of course, are from TS Eliot’s The Wasteland, a poem I have long-loved. I only recently learned that the phrase “a handful of dust” comes from a meditation by John Donne, part of a series of meditations and prayers called Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and seuerall steps in my Sicknes. Donne wrote these meditations while recovering from a nearly fatal illness, they’re about health, pain, and sickness, and they’re quite melancholy. In this particular meditation, number four, Donne starts by describing each person as a little world, which is an idea that I love. “It is too little to call man a little world; except God, man is a diminutive to nothing. Man consists of more pieces, more parts, than the world; than the world doth, nay, than the world is. And if those pieces were extended, and stretched out in man as they are in the world, man would be the giant, and the world the dwarf; the world but the map, and the man the world.” And what is it that makes us so immense, that makes the air too little for this orb of man to move in? It is our thoughts, our imagination. “Enlarge this meditation upon this great world, man, so far as to consider the immensity of the creatures this world produces; our creatures are our thoughts, creatures that are born giants; that reach from east to west, from earth to heaven; that do not only bestride all the sea and land, but span the sun and firmament at once; my thoughts reach all, comprehend all. Inexplicable mystery; I their creator am in a close prison, in a sick bed, any where, and any one of my creatures, my thoughts, is with the sun, and beyond the sun, overtakes the sun, and overgoes the sun in one pace, one step, everywhere.” No matter how confined our bodies are, whether it’s because we’re sick or imprisoned or merely stuck in traffic or a waiting room, there’s no limit to where our thoughts can travel. It’s like Pierre as a prisoner! “The harder his position became and the more terrible the future, the more independent of that position in which he found himself were the joyful and comforting thoughts, memories, and imaginings that came to him.” We might all be in the gutter, but we can look up at the stars! We might have to “live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowing overhead,” but our imaginations and memories and reveries can soar with the flowing skies. And, as Donne tells us, when two of these little worlds come together, in friendship, or in love or marriage, we have everything, we have everywhere.

    For love, all love of other sights controls,
    And makes one little room an everywhere.
    Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
    Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
    Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

My friend Neil told me about a recipe involving chicken baked with quince and caramelized onions. As a lover of quince, I was greatly intrigued! I thought about various substitutions for the chicken, and in this version I’ve settled on butterbeans. They’re big and juicy, and they take on a nice substantial texture when they’re baked. I mixed them with some pre-cooked quince and caramelized onions, and gave them a sauce of brown sugar and butter, salt and pepper, and a dash or two of white wine. I tried to keep the flavors quite simple, with only salt and pepper as seasoning, but you could easily add thyme or rosemary or any other herb you like. You could add olives or capers or pine nuts. I thought of this a little like fancy baked beans (although I used a can of cooked beans, because I’m lazy!)

Here’s Back in the Good Old World by Tom Waits, because I was just listening to it, and it seems to fit, somehow!

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Ricotta pistachio tart with crispy eggplant and castelvetrano olives

Ricotta pistachio tart with crispy eggplant and castelvetrano olives

Ricotta pistachio tart with crispy eggplant and castelvetrano olives

The other day Isaac asked why gold is valuable, and we instantly answered, “because it’s rare.” By this same logic, it’s more thrilling to see a cuckoo than a sparrow or a wild rose than a blade of grass. When I was little I had a small notebook with a mouse on the cover. I loved it. And I collected different kinds of grass, I pressed them in the book, and I was going to try to identify them. Well, it’s hard to identify different kinds of grass! Similarly it’s hard to tell one sparrow from another. They’re not widely varied in color or size, and we see some kinds of sparrows so often it almost doesn’t seem worth our while to determine which particular type each is. We almost don’t notice them anymore. But sparrows have some of the prettiest songs. And not just remarkable for their sweetness, but also for being virtuosic, haunting, with a beautiful tone unlike any other bird’s. And when you see them sing, (which isn’t hard to do, they don’t need to hide because nobody is looking for them, except for other sparrows, of course!) they look joyful, they look happy to be singing. And grass is some of the prettiest, sweetest smelling vegetation on the planet, though it’s not often brightly colored and showy. The true grasses, and the sedges and the rushes, cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns. And grasses are among the most useful of plants, giving us food, drink, thatch, even paper. And each blade of grass and each sparrow is unique, is unlike any other, and has experienced life as no other has, which makes them rare, which by our original logic makes them valuable. And being a human, I can’t help thinking about this in human perspective, and thinking about how each person is unique, is wonderfully rare, has a whole world of thoughts and experiences and feelings inside of them that nobody else has ever had ever. And as any grammatically minded person will tell you, it’s impossible to be more unique, it’s a word that can’t be modified. We don’t have stages of uniqueness, you’re not more unique, or somewhat unique or quite unique. Either you’re unique or you’re not, and, as it happens, you are. Which makes everybody equally rare, equally valuable. The thing we all have in common is that we’re all uncommonly precious.

Ricotta pistachio tart with crispy eggplant and olives

Ricotta pistachio tart with crispy eggplant and olives

This is a tart on a pizza crust. The thing that makes it a tart rather than a pizza with strange toppings, according to my own definition, is that it has eggs in it, so it’s almost like a wide shallow quiche. You can put any toppings you like on it, but I highly recommend this combination. Make the eggplant one night, and you can use the leftovers in a million different ways.

Here’s a lovely little film about Django Reinhardt playing j’attendrai. He’s my new favorite!
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Chocolate chocolate chip almond, pear, and pimms cake

Pimms cake with chocolate, almonds and pears

Pimms cake with chocolate, almonds and pears

May is bird watching season where I live. David and I have ventured out a few mornings into the wild and winding path that is the other side of the other side of the canal. We’ve seen some birds: parulas, yellow throats, red starts, orioles, hummingbirds, thrushes, too many warblers to name, and catbirds, catbirds, catbirds. Of course we’ve seen the nesting bald eagles, who are so much more important than any other bald eagle in the world because they’re our nesting bald eagles. They’re our neighbors. We’ve stumbled on a valley of new ferns so fragrant you could get drunk on the smell, we’ve seen a magical tree full of warblers of every description, a glowing field criss-crossed by swooping tree swallows. And we heard a cuckoo. A cuckoo! Cuckoos are famously hard to see, because they’re lurkers, they’re shy. Once, we thought we saw one, but it was very far away, and suspiciously similar to a kingbird. But I thought, if it’s just the two of us, and we both want to see a cuckoo, and we both decide we’ve seen a cuckoo, then we’ve seen a cuckoo! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, about people seeing what they want to see and hearing what they want to hear. (In fact it’s a theme of my novel, but I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about that any more.) It’s such a tempting and dangerous practice to read the universe around you as you want to read it. We all do it, on some level, it’s unavoidable. I suppose the trick is to be aware of it, and then to expand and bend your universe-reading powers to the light, if possible. Everything talks to you, if you listen. The birds say “Sweet sweet sweet,” on a sweet morning, my dog sings “hello,” and “I love you,” because I think she does. The oracle of delphi sits on a stool above a chasm in a rock, inhaling vapors from the earth. She makes predictions, in a gibberish language, and then a priest interprets them and predicts the future. But we don’t need a priest, we can hear what we want to hear, we can predict our future as we want to shape it, as everything around us is telling us it can be, if we listen carefully. Eventually we did see a pair of cuckoos, startlingly handsome, in plain view for quite a while. And you’ll never guess what they called us!

A friend of mine posted a picture of herself on a train drinking pimms. I’d read about pimms, but I had never tried it, and I became completely obsessed. I love it! We drink it with ginger beer. It’s spicy, surprising, almost savory. I thought it would make a nice flavoring for a cake, and I thought it would go well with almonds and pears. It did, and it did!

Here’s War es also gemeit, a poem put to music by Schubert, about a miller who hears what he wants to hear in the voice of a brook.

Was this, then, what you meant,
My rushing friend?
Your singing and your ringing?
Was this what you meant?


Now, however it may be,
I commit myself!
What I sought, I have found.
However it may be.

After work I ask,
Now have I enough
for my hands and my heart?
Completely enough!
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