Kale and sweet potato empanadas with pecans, goat cheese and smoked gouda

Kale and sweet potato empanadas

Kale and sweet potato empanadas

“For years, Cohen’s approach was to shoot three rolls of film over a two-hour walk, develop the rolls directly, have dinner, then go back to the darkroom, develop eight to nine prints directly from the negatives, and cast aside the rest. Cohen did this several times a week for decades. He estimates he has 600,000-800,000 images that he’s never seen or developed, not even on contact sheets.” Mark Cohen is a street photographer who shoots images from his hip, without looking through the viewfinder. In an article in today’s Guardian, he describes his methods. He doesn’t carry a camera with him all the time, he goes on specific walks just to take photographs. This used to be in his home town of Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, but he’s recently moved to Philadelphia, and now he takes trolley rides, “I get on a trolley and go to a specific intersection. I like to go to the same one 10 times, so I understand the texture of the neighbourhood.” His photographs, not surprisingly, are unusually framed, they’re askew and disorienting–not focussed on face and shoulders, but on whatever part of the body he happened to catch. There’s something beautiful in this discombobulation. The photos of people feel more intimate and specific to one person, because they capture some part of that person nobody would notice, but they also feel like a document of people everywhere at this particular moment in time. They look familiar, like family snap-shots, like people you knew, and in their abstraction they become surprising and new…you see the human form in a different light, as a collection of angles and light and shadows, vulnerable and beautiful.
Bare thin arms against aluminum siding

Bare thin arms against aluminum siding


I love the eccentric ordinariness of this whole process. I love the way it’s described as part of his routine, as natural as making a meal. In describing his career trajectory, from gallery shows in New York in the seventies to relative obscurity (although he has a show in Paris at the moment) he seems more than resigned. As his career waned, he remained as productive as ever, perhaps even more so. ‘Removing himself from the New York scene gave him a “purity”, he says, by virtue of “not having a personality so involved in the dissemination of work”. But by his own admission, he “dropped out” in the late 80s. “Gallerists couldn’t sell my stuff,” he says matter-of-factly. “My work’s not the most optimistic. It’s not like Yosemite.”‘ In all of these things: his subject matter, his seeming need to take photographs, the fact that he hasn’t developed many of his negatives, or even looked at them, he reminds me of Vivian Maier, another brilliant photographer who had a unique view of the world all around us. They capture time as it passes, they save moments in the lives of strangers and make them into something remarkable–something worth noticing, something worth saving. There’s a feeling almost of melancholy in the works of both photographers, something almost lonely in a glimpse into the life of somebody else. But there’s tenderness and compassion, too: we feel a connection.

kale and sweet potato empanadas

kale and sweet potato empanadas

Autumn empanadas!! These were warm and smoky, earthy, sweet and tangy. Very very nice on a chilly autumn evening. The kale and sweet potatoes are from the farm, as are the sage and rosemary. I used a combination of goat cheese and smoked gouda, for the nice contrast in flavor and texture. These were mostly soft and pleasing, but they did have a bit of crunch from the crust and the pecans.

Here’s Jimmy Smith with Just a Closer Walk With Thee.

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Jerk patties with pigeon peas, butternut squash and kale

Jerk patties with kale and butternut squash

Jerk patties with kale and butternut squash

Malcolm has been trying to remember a song. It’s a song I listened to all the time when he was little, that I sang along to. (These claims check out, because I do tend to become obsessed with songs and sing along with them over and over.) Malcolm is the boy with the long memory. If we’re trying to remember where we put something, or if we watched something, or who said what, we ask Malcolm. I love to think about Malcolm looking out on the world with his wise, observant, beautiful eyes, these past ten years, and collecting a trove of thoughts and images and recollections, and storing them in his remarkable brain. It’s one of the things that makes him seem wiser and more mature than his years. (As opposed to, say, giggling over fart jokes with his brother in the back seat. And there’s also plenty of that!) I used to have a good memory for strange, inconsequential things, but I feel as though my memory is fading with my eyesight, which is a weird sort of impaired, half-awake feeling. So we’ve been trying to recall this song. On Saturday night we sat on the couch, and he leaned heavily against me in the sweet way I’m sure he won’t do for much longer, and he played songs on his iPod (or fragments of songs – he’s an erratic DJ!). We thought about all the songs we’d listened to when he was very little. We listened to songs that used to make me burst into tears when I was very pregnant or just after he was born, because I was overwhelmed with the scale of our impending change. We tried to remember all of the songs he’d sing along to, with delightfully incorrect words. And there’s no medium more powerful for conjuring recollections than music! And as we listened for old memories in the songs, we were weaving new ones as well, so that years from now these songs will have layer upon layer of remembrance. We never did figure out which song he had in mind, but in the end, of course, it didn’t matter. The joy was not in remembering this one song, the joy was in remembering.

Food is another great trigger of memories! I remember walking around Central Park in the blazing hot sun during a street festival. I coveted the jerk patties, so bright and festive and fragrant, but they usually had chicken or beef in them. Not these, my friend! These have kale and pigeon peas. And I developed a new technique with the butternut squash. I grated it and then roasted it. I like it this way, especially in a pie – it turned out more roasty, and a lovely texture. I tried to minimize the time it took to make these by rolling out a long thin sheet of dough (two feet by ten inches, maybe) putting big glops of dough along one side, folding over, sealing, and then cutting apart. Kind of like making ravioli. If this seems, actually, to be more work, feel free to divide the dough in six, roll out thin rounds, and make this half-circle shaped.

Here’s Stars of Track and Field by Belle and Sebastian. Malcolm used to sing “Stars and dragons still too far.”

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