French lentil and wild rice soup

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The other day Isaac wrote some sentences. It was for school. Usually he hates writing sentences, he hems and haws and procrastinates and eventually scrawls out a few lines with little thought for legibility or the rules of spelling. But on this occasion he took his time, he enjoyed himself. He told us what he was writing about, he looked pleased, he looked happy. He read us his favorite sentence a few times, “The children were babbling like mad to hear their voices echoing off the canyon walls.” I love this! I love to see him happy with his words, happy with something he’s created. And I love the sentence itself. Sometimes it seems like we’re all children babbling like mad to hear our voices echoing off the canyon walls. We’re all talking and talking, and posting things all over the place, everything we feel and think and notice, everything that annoys us or makes us feel thankful or blessed. We’re sharing our observations and our pictures of ourselves and everyone we love, in all our moods and various flattering lightings. And we’re waiting to hear the echoes back of people liking everything we’ve posted, noticing everything we say. It’s easy to be cynical about this, but if I think about it long enough, I think this is all good, I love all of this. I love people sharing their moments and marking them as blessed or thankful moments. It’s good to notice, it’s good to feel grateful. It can’t be a new thing–people must have always felt this way, wanting to get their thoughts and feelings out, though it wasn’t so easy to share everything so quickly. And maybe it was all better when you had to take your time and think more carefully about everything you said. Maybe words are more precious when they’re not more easily shared, when you have to work and work at it till you get that wonderful buzz from getting it just right. But then I think about how easily and strangely words come to my boys when they’re not thinking about it at all. They’re not even worried about sharing it, they’re not even concerned about the reaction they get. They’re just saying what they think in all of their unselfconscious oddly perfect glory. Malcolm’s favorite adjective is “dancing,” and he uses it in the most unlikely most wonderful places. It throws you off guard with how much sense it makes. And our Isaac always has the right weird words at the right weird time. He was feeling down the other night after it got dark and we sent him to bed, and he said everything felt “damp and broken.” If you’ve ever felt down, which means if you’re human, you know that he got it exactly right. And Isaac likes to share his philosophies. Here’s one: Nobody can do everything, but everyone can try. And here’s another: It’s not done until you do it. And last night he actually spent a lot of time and effort perfecting this ridiculously beautiful tongue twister: I think I thought a thousand thoughts that no-one else could think. And isn’t that the crux of it all! When you’re having trouble getting the words out, or making something that you need to make, or doing something the you need to do…think about the billions of thoughts you’ve thought that no-one else could think. And then think about how important that makes them. And then, children, babble them like mad, until they echo off the canyon walls.

David said this soup was “perfect” and that made me happy! It’s a meaty vegetarian soup. (Vegan if you leave the butter out.) I put a lot of things in it that you certainly don’t need to add if you don’t have them. Honestly, the rice and lentils will give it favor enough. Miso and tamari give it a deeper, more savory flavor, but if you happen not to have them, no worries! If you have marmite, you could add a teaspoon of the instead or as well. I used the herbs that are still in my garden, and I think there’s a perfect balance if you use rosemary, sage, and lemon thyme. If you don’t have those, though, use what you do have! It’s a very adaptable soup. And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

Here’s Twilight Echoes by Roy Smeck.
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Black Rice and French Lentil Tacos with Pistachio Herb Sauce

Black rice, french lentil tacos

Black rice, french lentil tacos

There’s a scene in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot in which the titular idiot, Prince Myshkin (who, of course, is not an idiot at all but the wisest man in any room) tells the story of a condemned man. He describes, in great detail, the thoughts going through the condemned man’s mind, minute by minute. “He said that nothing was more oppressive for him at that moment than the constant thought: ‘What if I were not to die! What if life were given back to me–what infinity! And it would all be mine! Then I’d turn each minute into a whole age, I’d lose nothing, I’d reckon up every  minute separately, I’d let nothing be wasted!'” And someone asks Myshkin what happened to the condemned man after his punishment was changed at the last minute, and he was granted “infinite life.” Did he live reckoning up every  minute? “Oh, no, he told me himself–I asked him about it–he didn’t live that way at all and lost  many, many minutes.” The condemned man is Dostoesvsky himself! This exact thing happened to him when he was 29 years old–he was before the firing squad when a reprieve was delivered. So the account of the rest of his life must be about him, as well, he lost many, many minutes, as we all do.

I love the fact that Myshkin knows Dostoevsky, not by name, but as a man he’s spoken to, at one time or another. And one of the things I love most about The Idiot is just how much Dostoevsky seems not to know Myshkin, from time-to-time. He loves him, clearly, as does everybody who meets him, even the angry anarchists who don’t want to love him at all. And at moments he has beautiful flashes of insight into Myshkin’s thoughts and feelings–just before his epileptic fit, for example. Because, of course, Myshikin is Dostoevsky, in part, his creation, born of his imagination. But there are times when Dostoevsky says, regarding the Prince’s actions and emotions, “…we can supply very little information.” He doesn’t know where the Prince disappeared to, or why he left! He doesn’t know, and he gives us only the hints and rumors that any of the other characters would be privy to. And at the end, when we wonder why the Prince acted the way he did in a certain crisis, he says, “And yet we feel that we must limit ourselves to the simple statement of facts…because we ourselves, in many cases, have difficulty explaining what happened.” Of course this has the effect of allowing us to see Prince Myshkin as a strange and inexplicable creature in a society in which people have certain expectations for the way people will act and speak. But it’s also a beautiful description of the creation of a character who becomes alive for the writer and the reader, a character you think long about after you’ve finished the book.

When Dostoevsky wrote he didn’t know what would happen next in his story, so that he was just as surprised by it as the reader. And the first parts of the book were published in journals before he’d written the next, so he couldn’t go back and change his mind. The story becomes as inevitable as our lives. The Idiot is meandering and strange and strangely written in a way that I find thrilling. In a clumsy, beautiful, heartfelt “explanation,” Ippolit, the angry anarchist, who considers himself condemned to death by the last stages of consumption, tells us about the joy of traveling when you don’t know where you’re going, and of trying to understand things and express things  you will never be able to understand or express, “Ask them, only ask them one and all, what they understand by happiness? Oh, you may be sure that Columbus was happy not when he had discovered America, but when he was discovering it; you  may be sure that the highest moment of his happiness was, perhaps exactly three days before the discovery of the New World, when the mutinous crew in their despair almost turned the ship back to Europe, right around! The New World is not the point here, it can just as well perish. Columbus died having seen very little of it and in fact not knowing what he had discovered. The point is in life, in life alone–discovering it, constantly and eternally, and not at all in the discovery itself. But what is the point of talking? I suspect that everything I am saying  now sounds so much like the most common phrases that I will probably be taken for a student in the lowest grade presenting his easy on ‘the sunrise….’ But, nevertheless, I will add that in any ingenious or new human thought, or even simply in any ernest human thought born in someone’s head, there always remains something which it is quite impossible to convey to other people, though you may fill whole volumes with writing and spend thirty-five years trying to explain your thought; there always remains something that absolutely refuses to leave your skull and will stay with you forever; you will die with it, not having conveyed to anyone what is perhaps most important in your idea.”

Black Rice, French Lentil tacos

Black Rice, French Lentil tacos

I love the flavor or black rice, so nutty! And I especilaly love it mixed with a bit of smoked basmati, which makes it ridiculously tasty. And of course I love French Lentils! I made both of these separately, then stir fried them with some garlic, added spinach and cannelloni beans, and seasoned with smoked paprika and garam masala. We ate them with warm tortillas, grated mozzarella cheese and an herbaceous pistachio sauce. Really nice! It was also very easy to make, and tonight the leftovers will turn into croquettes.

Here’s Idiot Wind by Bob Dylan

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Black rice, french lentil, roasted mushroom croquettes

IMG_5008I like the idea of Roland Barthes’ Mythologies. Have I read them? I have not, not even a smicker of them, as our Malcolm used to say. Will that stop me talking about them? It will not! According to my understanding, Barthes examines certain aspects of modern life that have become accepted as fact and shows how they are, in truth, myths: stories that we use to define ourselves and our place in the world. Barthes was writing in France in the 1950s, and it seems that now, here, in America in 2014, we’ve woven such an insane tangle of stories to explain ourselves to ourselves and the rest of the world that it’s almost overwhelming. It seems important, though, to take a step back from time to time, and to try to unravel them to arrive at some truth. Some ever-shifting never-reachable truth. Here’s one I’ve been thinking about lately. “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” It all starts in pre-school, when they’re handing out crayons or cookies. The fundamental idea, of course, is to be content with what you’re given, and to shut up and stop whining! At its most basic, it’s toddler crowd control. At its most basic, I like the idea. I would like my children to be capable of contentment, a difficult state to achieve. I would like them to be grateful to get anything at all. I would like them to be even-tempered and agreeable rather than whiny and difficult. Of course I would. And I would like to live in a world where these qualities are rewarded. But the truth is that we don’t live in that world. We can send an army of five-year-olds home chanting the catchy little rhyme, but if they absorb the lesson too completely how will they ever become successful modern Americans? We’re not supposed to be happy with what we have! We’re supposed to want more! Too much is never enough! We’re supposed to want whatever other people have. It’s one of our older myths, as Americans, that if we work hard and strive for more, for better, we can achieve success and riches. How would advertising work if people were content with what they had and who they are? It wouldn’t! It wouldn’t work, and billions of advertising dollars would be wasted trying to manipulate people based on desires and insecurities they didn’t really feel. In America we award the loud people, the talkers, the salesmen, the people who want what they get and want what everyone around them gets, too. We don’t admire people who settle. We’re scornful of people who don’t strive to better themselves, even if they face insurmountable odds such as we can’t even dream of. I believe there are countries where ambition is looked upon as a negative quality, as a vice, but we don’t live in such a country. As long as we’re telling stories about the world we inhabit, I’d like to tell this one: You get what you get, and you change it to make exactly what you need. And if you don’t get the right parts to make what you need, you share with your neighbor. You trade them the parts they need for the parts you need, and everybody creates exactly what they want. Obviously, if everyone makes a picture with the one crayon they’re given, which might not even be a color they like, it won’t be as satisfying as if everybody shares all the colors to make their pictures. Everybody makes something beautiful. And still, nobody gets upset.

Black rice, french lentil and roasted mushroom croquettes.

Black rice, french lentil and roasted mushroom croquettes.

Croquettes! Or kofta, if you like. Or burgers. These would make great veggie burgers! These are very flavorful, very umami-ish. They have a nice texture-quite crispy. We ate them in warm tortillas with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, grated sharp cheddar. Which was delicious! But you could also make them larger and put them on a bun to make burgers. Black rice is not hard to find, I think, but you could make these with any other kind of rice, even rice leftover from your take-out food. All of these things, the lentils, the rice, can be used in other meals, which is good because the recipes given below will give you more than you need.

Here’s Bob Marley with Want More.

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Pesto, lentil and tomato tart

Tomato, pesto, french lentil tart

Tomato, pesto, french lentil tart

This is the 900th post to come at you from The Ordinary. Nine hundred recipes and songs, 900 confused and meaningless meandering rambling essays. It’s crazy, I tell you. Crazy. It’s a crazy amount of words. The other night, whilst half-awake, I found myself composing an Ordinary post in my head, and I realized that I hadn’t done it in a while. And I realized that I missed it. I’ve always had words running through my head–does everybody? And I’ve always arranged them into phrases, and imagined them written. When I was little, I narrated my life in the third person. And then maybe everything was silent for a while. I can’t remember. Maybe I thought in pictures instead, and music, maybe I thought about movie scenes. But when I started writing posts from The Ordinary, when I really started writing essays, and not just providing tepid descriptions of food I’d cooked, I started to write in my head again. I was always thinking of things I could write about. Everything I saw or watched or heard or read seemed to filter itself into an Ordinary post. The world became reorganized in this way, reimagined, seen through Ordinary eyes. Everything seemed worth talking about. And then it was the novel, it took over my thoughts, and the characters spoke to each other in my head, and that was the best feeling of all. And then I fell out of the habit, and suddenly nothing seemed worth talking about, even everything I’d already written. The more you do something, the more you do something, and I think that’s good, and important to remember. If you’re feeling listless and detached, if you’re feeling whybotherish, start to do something you once enjoyed: draw, make music, cook, write. It might be hard at first, it might not come out like you’d planned, but the more you do it, the better it will feel, the more you’ll think about it when you’re not thinking about it, the more you’ll come back to it as your natural resting place. The very act of doing it will give it meaning and value, if you persevere. And that’s where I am now, coming out of the hazy lazy listless summer slump to sharpen my thoughts again, to point them in a certain direction and then follow wherever they lead. I’ll take all the splinters of words and images that have slept in my head all summer, and string them together, so that the words chasing each other around my head in the middle of the night become worth writing down in the morning, so that they become worth sharing.

Lentil, tomato and pesto tart

Lentil, tomato and pesto tart

In keeping with this august benchmark in Ordinary history, I’ll tell you about this very Ordinaryish tart. I love lentils! Especially French lentils! And I love tarts! And I love all of the abundant produce of summer. The pesto I made from basil from our yard and from the CSA we belong to. The tomatoes are from our yard (and they’re wonderful!) Everything was nice together, I think. Fresh, but earthy and satisfying. The crust is yeasted and has a little chickpea flour in for flavor, the pesto is made with pistachios, almonds and sharp cheddar. The lentils are flavored with a little cinnamon, cardamom, coriander and smoked paprika. Lovely spices for lentils.

Here’s 9th and Hennepin, by Tom Waits, because it’s been in my head all morning, and because it’s one of the best collections of words I’ve ever heard.
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Butternut, nut, chard, and french lentil pie

Butternut, nut and french lentil pie

Butternut, nut and french lentil pie

HAPPY NEW YEAR, ORDINARY FRIENDS!! I’m feeling light of heart and weighty of thoughts, which seems in keeping with the situation and the season. Clio and I took our scamper on the towpath this morning to our favorite field, where the sky arches overhead in bright clouds, and the field bows underfoot in a gentle slope to a rushing singing creek, and that’s how my spirits feel. Buoyant and grounded. Castles in the air with foundations on the ground. I’m feeling resolutionary. As I mentioned last year, to me, “resolve” doesn’t mean to give something up, but to come into focus, to become harmonious, to be solved, or healed. And this year, for some reason, I’ve been thinking about how many typical New Year’s resolutions face inward, they’re about ways to change yourself and make yourself healthier or more successful. We got a message from a fortune cookie recently that said “Only when free from projections, we can be aware of reality.” Well, I’d like to respectfully disagree with the fortune cookie. I believe it’s all projections. It’s all images and moments that we create and collect: the sunshine and shadow, the bright vivid colors and the dusky quiet times. And just as we’re the authors of our own stories, we’re the auteurs of our own film: we decide how everything is connected. We connect all the flickering moments. And I’d like mine to be inspired by Ozu and Berri and Tati. Quiet and thoughtful, humorous, beautiful within each frame and from frame to frame. Celebrating the oddness and worth of ordinary moments. With just the right music and just the right movement at exactly the right time. Of course “projection” also means casting our ideas and our stories outside of ourselves. Sharing them with others, and creating an understanding of everything else through the experiences and lives of others. Empathy. So that will be part of it all, too. We’ll focus, and then we’ll project. We’ll share a cup of kindness, a draught of good will. In the days of alchemy, “projection” described the process of throwing a stone into a crucible to create change: change from base metals to gold, originally, but eventually it described any change. “I feele that transmutation o’my blood, As I were quite become another creature, And all he speakes, it is projection.” So on this day of new beginnings we’ll think of this, too. We’ll think of focussing, reflecting, projecting, in the glowing hopeful lengthening days. Oh, and I will learn to play ukulele!

Roasted butternut, french lentil and nut pie.

Roasted butternut, french lentil and nut pie.

If this seems a lot like last year’s New Year’s pie, that because it is! Same butternut squash, french lentil and chard. And yet, it’s completely different. I’ve been playing around with savory nut custards, lately, and this is further evidence of that. It has more eggs, and I whizzed them with hazelnuts, almonds and pecans until they everything was quite smooth. The butternut was roasted in halves rather than small pieces, and then blended right in with the nut mixture. The chard and lentils provide a nice difference in texture, and smoked paprika and smoked paprika add a nice savory to the sweetness of nuts and squash.

Here’s Feeling Good, by Nina Simone.

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Basmati risotto with french lentils, roasted mushrooms and spinach

Basmati and french lentil risotto

Basmati and french lentil risotto

For as long as I can remember, Isaac has asked for one thing (well, he’s asked for lots of things–this boy loves toys!). But his highly detailed and elaborately illustrated wish lists for birthdays and christmas have always included one particular toy: a caped Boba Fett. Did he see one, once, when he was very little, a vision of the perfect Star Wars guy, the very model of a model of a modern masked intergalactic bounty hunter, who will live in his memory forever? I don’t know. The point is that he’s never gotten one, but he never stops asking for it. It’s become a sort of quest, the elusive image of a perfect toy. A guy who can move his arms and legs, and has armor, and has a jet pack and has a cape. (A jet pack and a cape? Kids, don’t try this at home.) Isaac’s not an easily disappointed boy, he’s always happy with whatever presents he does get. The whole thing isn’t ruined because he didn’t get a caped Boba Fett. But he keeps asking. And if we ever saw a caped Boba Fett, we’d get it for him, and we’d be happy that he’s happy. But for now, I like the idea of Isaac not having caped Boba Fett. I like the idea that he could get it someday, it’s an event to anticipate, it’s a happy possibility. Maybe we all need a caped Boba Fett in our lives. Some pleasant perfect thing we’d really like, though can live without. Something to look for in our travels, to daydream about, to look forward to having some day. By the time we find caped Boba Fett, we might all actually have jet packs and morally-ambiguous grey green armor, but until then, we can dream, and Isaac will keep asking, he’ll keep putting caped Boba Fett on his list.

Basmatto

Basmatto

I had some leftover cooked french lentils and french lentil-cooking broth. I thought it would be nice to make risotto, sort of a comforting mujadara-type rice and lentil dish. Well, I didn’t have arborio rice, so I thought I’d try it with basmati instead, fully aware that it would never be as creamy and soft as the traditional type. I made basmatto. I used a combination of lentil-cooking broth and water blended with baby spinach as broth. I roasted mushrooms separately, and tossed them in at the end, so they didn’t become mushy and slimy. This was a very savory, tasty, meaty, satisfying meal. Good comfort on a cold day, and easy to make, too.

Here’s Boba Fett’s theme from the Star Wars soundtrack. Described by Wikipedia as “not music, exactly” … but “more of a gurgly, viola-and-bassoon thing aurally cross-pollinated with some obscure static sounds.” Yeah.

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Pearled couscous & french lentils with yellow squash, and burgers!

Pearled couscous and french lentils with yellow squash, tomatoes and fresh herbs

Pearled couscous and french lentils with yellow squash, tomatoes and fresh herbs

I’m in a little bit of a blue funk these days. MId-summer slump? Mid-life crisis? A skewed perspective? I’m anxious about the future and regretting a past that hasn’t even happened yet. I’ve been looking at my life from the outside too much, maybe, and that’s never a good thing. You can’t think about it too much, right? You just have to splash through it like it’s cool creek water, try not to slip on the mossy rocks, and enjoy the dousing you get if you do. But I’m not going to talk about that, because who cares!! I’m going to talk about Adventure Time, again. I just love it, as Malcolm would say. I find it such a comfort…it makes me feel happy. I love the friendship and the humor, and the way that the whole world of the show is morally complicated but ultimately righteous. We bought the second season the other day, and we got a few Tintins at the same time (I have to tell you that we got some real books, too, with lots of words and chapters and the like, just so you don’t worry too much about the boy’s intellectual development.) And I had a major revelation! I love Adventure Time the way I used to love Tintin, and maybe haven’t really taken to anything else since. It makes me happy in the same way: watching it reminds me of being little with a new Tintin and a plate of fries, which was such a good feeling. (It’s not fries anymore, it’s grolsch and punjabi mix, which we had yesterday during a thunder storm, and which will surely be one of my best memories of this summer.) Well, I started to think about similarities between Adventure Time and Tintin, and I think I’ve gathered enough that I could write a thesis on it. A nice thick scholarly thesis. They both wear the magical Tintin blue. They’re both drawn in bright solid colors, they both have yellow-blonde hair. They’re both young boys who live, improbably, in a dangerous adult world, with only a dog for a companion. In both cases the dog is a sort of saltier, more mature individual…Snowy with his whisky drinking, and Jake with his gruff voice and tail-wagging appreciation of imaginary cute girls. The dogs are like manifestations of the maturity that these strangely independent boys lack but need to survive in the world. Tintin and Finn both cheerfully and eagerly face every challenge, and it’s this very enthusiasm that helps them to win the day. Yes, I love these boy-and-their dog stories, but it got me thinking that what the world needs now is a girl-and-her-dog story. It will be about Clio and me! A perplexed overgrown child, strangely out of place in the complicated and often sinister adult world, and her wise-cracking canine companion. Of course in this scenario, it’s Clio who has all of the enthusiasm, gumption and curiosity, but she has enough for two, so that’s alright. Our adventures will be slightly more low-key than those of Finn and Tintin. We’ll sleep an extra hour after the alarm goes off! We’ll chase cats (and squirrels and birds and dried leaves) on the tow path! We’ll walk the boys home from school! Can’t you just see it? Can’t you hardly wait to read about our exciting adventures?

Couscous french lentil burgers

Couscous french lentil burgers

We got some big beautiful yellow squash from the farm, along with some pretty plum tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs. I wanted them fresh and flavorful, so I only sautéed them lightly, and I made a sort of pilaf of whole wheat pearled couscous and french lentils as a sort of base for the bright vegetables. We topped it all with pine nuts and grated mozzarella. Nice summery meal. Everybody liked it, even the picky boys. The next day, I combined the leftovers with some romesco sauce to make burgers, and they were almost better than the initial meal! Juicy and flavorful. We ate them with fake bacon, smoked gouda, lettuce and sliced tomatoes. If you don’t happen to have romesco sauce lying around, it’s worth making some just for these, but also because it’s so delicious in its own right.
Couscous and french lentil burgers

Couscous and french lentil burgers

Here’s Finn’s Baby Song, it’s been stuck in my head for days!

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Ring-shaped pie with french lentils, chard, walnuts, and butternut squash

chard-french-lentil,-butterWe had a lovely snow on Christmas eve, light and soft, the kind that makes the whole world seem clean and quiet. Snow makes Clio crazy, it brings out one of the “four formes of canine madnesse, the frantic or crazed madnesse.” She leaps about the yard, and then races in with icy snow in her pink paw pads, and leaps off of the furniture with mad abandon. I watched her on Christmas eve, and thought of Steenbeck, our old dog, buried in the yard under Clio’s frenetic paws, sleeping beneath a blanket of silent snow. I felt a sudden sadness, but it was a comforting sadness, in some inexplicable way. And on New Year’s Day we went to a party at a friend’s house, up on the hill above our small city. We walked up, it being a clear, cold day, and it felt good to shake some of the holiday-induced torpor from my mind. The party was lovely, with many children instantly interacting, as they so delightfully do, making things, and sharing things, and giggling. And we drank some good red wine, and talked to friends from town and just out of town – some we see nearly every day, some we see once or twice a year. It felt social, and cheerful, and just right for a New Year’s day. We left at dusk, which still comes early though the days are getting longer, and we walked home through the big old cemetery that over-looks our town. The stones were centuries old, but the names were familiar – the names of families that still live in our community. We read the name of the man who built our house in the 1850s, the name of the man we bought our house from ten years ago, the names of the people that own businesses in town, of families that our children go to school with. My boys raced along the paths, pelting each other with snowballs and laughing. And we walked down into town back to our old house, sleepy from the wine but sober from my thoughts, and made a warm meal, and watched a Buster Keaton movie, cuddled on the couch. It sounds idiotic, but I’d been thinking the night before about all the people that have ever lived. All of the humans that have walked on this earth, and lived, and loved, and wanted, and worked. Some in good fortune and freedom and wealth; most, probably, in poverty and servitude. But all wanting the same things, surely: affection, friendship, some degree of comfort, a kind hand, a warm meal. And I thought about it again, up on the hill, covered in a blanket of melting snow…”falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” I felt, again, that sort of comforting sadness, looking out on our beautiful town, on all of the houses lit up and ringing with laughter, with people crying, “happy new year!” Which brings us to my resolution, if I have one, and, I think I do, but in true Clairish style, it’s vague and muddled, so I hope you’ll forgive this ramble. I don’t make resolutions to lose weight, or be healthy, or give up bad habits. I’ve said before that I believe in finding a balance in everyday life, and that those things are built into the fabric of that balance, cycling continually day-to-day, working against each other. Everybody gains a bit of winter weight, but we’ll eat soup meagre for a week, run up and down the towpath with Clio a few times, and be fighting-fit come spring! To me, “resolve” doesn’t mean to give something up, but to come into focus, to become harmonious, to be solved, or healed. So I hope to bring things into focus and harmony in this new year, moment-to-moment and day-to-day. To notice everything, to recognize how vivid and poignant every moment is, how completely alive each person that I meet – how like me and how completely unique. I hope not to let fatigue, crankiness, or laziness cloud my senses or lessen my appreciation of time spent with my children and David; of strong flavors, good sounds, beautiful sights. Not to be crippled by the sense that time is passing, but to let that awareness help me to feel more keenly. Not to be distracted by our fast, cold, cluttered, cynical world from clarity, light and warmth.

Well, this is my grand ambition for the new year, and this was the pie I made for New Year’s eve and New Year’s day. To eat leftovers on New Year’s day feels like striking out in the direction of frugality and good sense! I made the pie in a ring, because I’d read that ring-shaped foods are considered lucky. I made the crust rosy-golden with cornmeal and smoked paprika, because it seems like a fortuitous color. I filled it with lentils and greens, for luck, walnuts for crunch, and roasted butternut squash for flavor and sweetness, and capers for their flavor-dynamite explosion, so that our life will be sweet, flavorful, tangy, and substantial. Or, you know, whatever…who believes these old superstitions anyway?Ring-shaped pie Ring-shaped pie[/caption]

Here’s a whole album for you. It’s Jordi Savall playing Francois Couperin’s Pièces de Violes, we bought it for ourselves for Christmas, and it’s meltingly beautiful. Full of light and warmth and generosity, like a good life should be!
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Eggplant-french lentil burgers and rosemary buttermilk buns

Eggplant-french lentil burger

I’ve been so distracted lately! I just can’t sit still! I just can’t focus. I’m an important person, dammit, I’ve got a busy schedule, I’ve got important things to attend to! There’s work to be done. Important work. And only I can do it! And it’s not getting done. Today I’ll gladly blame the boys, because they’re home from school. But yesterday…there’s really no excuse! I literally sat and read in Malcolm’s science almanac about endangered animals. For quite some time. Did you know that when sailors found dodos, they ate the birds, cut down their habitat, and released cats and other animals that destroyed their nests? What is wrong with people? I looked at pictures of baby okapi and baby tapirs. I looked at pictures of puppies (on rescue sites) that I can’t afford at the moment. Sigh. Today, though, after a staggeringly unproductive morning and cranky boys and lots of messes and more crankiness and unproductivity, we went to the Princeton art museum, which is one of our favorite places to go. There’s something heartening about all of the animal-figure art, from all over the world and all through the ages. Dogs, deer, opossums, pigs, cows, lizards, frogs. They all show up somewhere. When we go to an art museum, each person in the family picks an animal before we enter, and then we count how many we see. It really makes you look at all the little corners of the paintings, and at each little sculpture!

Buttermilk rosemary rolls

Of course I don’t really have any important work to do, I was just kidding. But I have made a lot of food lately I’d like to tell you about. Let’s start with these eggplant-french lentil burgers and buttermilk rosemary buns. We’ve gotten a lot of eggplant from the farm, and I’m trying not to bread and roast all of it. So I roasted a whole eggplant, pureed the flesh, mixed it with toasted ground oats and walnuts and some yummy french lentils, and made big juicy burgers. While I was making them, David tried to decide if he should use the crusts of bread for his sandwich, or save them for burger buns. I said, “Don’t be silly, I’m making burger buns. Who do you think I am?” And he said, “A crazy person!” And, of course, he’s right. But these buns were very tasty. They’re yeasted, but they have buttermilk in them. Very tender and delicious.

Here’s Jungle Brothers with Sounds of the Safari. It has lots of animal sounds. I don’t think tapirs or okapi make much noise, though.
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French lentil, roasted mushroom tart with savory almond topping

French lentil mushroom tart

I feel strangely excited, and of course I’m going to tell you why. It has to do with the election. Wait! Wait! Don’t tune out! I’m not going to tell you about my humble beginnings and how I love America more than anybody else does, and I’m not going to ask for a small donation. It’s a little hard to articulate, but I feel genuinely hopeful about this. It seems to me that, in some way, the needs of the people – the very human needs of all the people – is shaping the rhetoric of the election in a way that I don’t remember happening before on this level. (Of course that might be because my memory is full of holes and I’m politically dumb as a bag of flour.) Feminists have talked for decades about the personal being political, which is an idea that I embrace. This election cycle, (as they call it, which also makes it seem human and part of nature, somehow) it seems as though all of the politicians are struggling to connect with us by making the political personal. Maybe it’s the healthcare debate. Whatever your feelings on the subject, I think everybody agrees that healthcare is about us at our most human and most vulnerable. Of course it’s also about insurance companies and corporations, but at its most crucial, it’s about our life and our death, our bodies and our well-being. I think it’s hard not to become emotional when we consider this issue, which makes it difficult to discuss rationally, perhaps, but it’s important for us to learn this form of discourse – to learn to talk about personal emotional subjects. Maybe it’s because times have been so hard for all of us. We’re all hurting, and it makes us more insular, for better or for worse. We’re anxious about our homes, and our ability to keep them. We’re thinking about the food we put on our table. And this election is about women. We’re told over and over that the women are going to decide this election, and that’s forced a (sometimes uncomfortable) discussion about women’s bodies, and women’s work, and the value of that work. Of course, everything’s intimately connected. The “serious” issues of war, taxes, foreign policy – they’re all ultimately personal, they’re about our daily lives, our loves, our families, the chance to follow the path to old age that we all travel together. I always have this feeling, when I listen to politicians talk, that there’s a truth and sense that they can’t tell us with their words, that we hear anyway. Sometimes they try to hide it – when they tell us we need to go to war, with a barrage of words and falsified facts, I feel like most people understand the truth anyway – we know their motives. This year I feel the sense is closer to the surface under the muddle of words – the sense that we’re all in it together, and we’ll learn a way to talk about that.

Since the food we put on our table is an important issue, i’m going to tell you about this handsome tart! It’s actually quite simple. It’s a standard flaky pate brisee crust, with rosemary and black pepper added for deliciousness. On top of that we have a layer of french lentils sauteed in port wine and balsamic vinegar. Lentils might seem like an odd ingredient in a tart, but they add real substance and texture, and their lovely meaty flavor. And the mushrooms are chopped chunkily and roasted, so that when the savory almond custard is baked all around them, it’s almost like a savory clafouti or toad-in-the-hole. If I do say so myself, and I do, the whole thing turned out super-tasty. David liked it a lot, and said it’s a “birthday meal.”

Here’s Women’s Realm by Belle and Sebastian

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