Cinnamon buns with apple cider glaze

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I like a day that starts out cool and ends up cool but warms in the middle. I like a day when the light changes so fast you feel dizzy, and I don’t mind that evening comes before you expect it, and that the surprisingly deep cool shadows bewilder you with their soft blue sledgehammer. I like that the changes in the light and the warmth gently bruise you with anticipation and regret. I like a late-summer day.

On several of these warm-middle-of-the-day days lately we’ve gone to see Malcolm’s cross country meets. In the ever-increasing list of things that make me weepy, this would be right near the top. The event begins with groups of teenagers from different high schools milling about, warming up and chattering and organizing themselves. What’s the collective noun for a group of teenagers? A contrariness of teenagers? An insecurity of teenagers? Except that they don’t seem insecure, these teenagers, these stars of track and field. They seem sunny and happy and enviably comfortable in themselves. And though they’re chatty and cheerful before the race, when they’re running they’re so serious and focused, in a world by themselves. The face of each one of them, the ones I know and the ones I don’t, just knock me out with the glowing beauty of their intensity. They’re all so vulnerable and so strong, whether they sprint across the finish line or walk across it long after everyone else has finished. They’re all doing something I have never done and could never do.

The first race was on a hot hot day, and Malcolm passed us, sweating and clutching his side, before puking his way across the finish line, never breaking his stride. Well! I wanted go to him, of course I did, but he’s fourteen and was surrounded by his friends. The next race was far from home, much farther than we expected, in a land of dairy farms, small strip malls, vacant buildings. By the time we arrived the day had cooled. Bright clouds and black vultures circled overhead and the darkly purple clouds on the edges of the fields piled high and deep. Behind us the yellow fluorescent glow of empty high school hallways was strange and familiar. It felt like rain but it didn’t rain. David and Isaac and I were tired and hungry and thinking about the long ride home. After the race they ran some more, a cool-down run. And after all of this running, when we got to the car Malcolm took off again, by himself, to find a feather he’d seen in the woods during the race. It felt like a long while later that he came back over the hill, running, clutching a huge beautiful tattered brown and black feather, as if he could take off flying.

I got us lost on the way home in the maze of small houses with Trump signs on small lawns, making the long ride even longer. By the time we got back it was dark. The boys and David set the table outside and lit the lamp, and I walked to get the pizza. The moment I got home the rain came, but we sat outside anyway, under our umbrella in the glow of our lamp, with our two bright boys, collecting any little bits of information about the first weeks of school they would let slip.

img_2683Yesterday Malcolm informed me that we were going to make these, and I was more than happy to oblige! I made a soft, sweetish dough and let it rise while David and Malcolm were off spray painting furniture. While these were cooking Malcolm helped me make dinner. I haven’t cooked with him in a while, and I forgot how fun it is. Anyway! It was Malcolm’s idea to put apple cider in the glaze, and he made it himself, and they turned out delicious! If I made them again, I’d probably add some cider to the dough itself, as well.

Here’s Stars of Track and Field, by Belle and Sebastian

 

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On Waiting

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When you own a store and you sit in it all day, it can feel like waiting for guests who didn’t know they were invited. It just feels like waiting. Of course so do most jobs, even jobs that are enjoyable or valuable. You’re waiting for your next break, or for your lunch, or for your shift to be over. We spend a lot of our lives waiting. Waiting’s not so bad, most of the time. It carries a sense of anticipation, and anticipation carries a sense of hope.

And this summer we discovered the best kind of waiting yet. We hung hummingbird feeders in our backyard, and every morning we would sit and wait for the birds to show up. We’d just sit and watch the plants grow and the garden turn greener and greener and we’d wait for the tomatoes to ripen and we’d wait for the hummingbirds to arrive. And they did. Every single day. Almost to a schedule. A hummingbird is a ridiculous thing. Too sweet, too pretty, too rare. Something nobody can really draw or paint without preciousness, and probably something nobody should try to write about. Seeing one feels like a gift or a blessing, to use an overused but completely apt word. And that’s just when they hover for a moment in your garden. When they land on a tree or a stake in your yard, when you start to recognize one from another, when they take on distinct personalities, when they hover close to your face as if they’re trying to tell you something, when they stay for a while in the glowing green twilight light of your perfect summer garden while you sit and breathe the dusty smoky air and drink the hummingbird-green chartreuse you got for your summer birthday. Well, that’s worth waiting for. That could bring tears to the eyes of a person less steely than myself. Of course the thing about a hummingbird is that she doesn’t announce herself. She’s not preceded by a fanfare, she makes no noise. You have to chance upon her, or you have to be watching. You have to wait with focus. And while you’re waiting, every faintly or fastly fluttering thing will attract your attention, and you’ll realize that they’re all pretty, too. The bugs and bees and bigger blundering birds,  the twisting falling leaves. And no matter how focussed and expectant you were, the hummingbird will always be a heart-bothering surprise, turning up out of nowhere. And even if she’s exactly where you were directing your focussed gaze, the space will feel buzzing new and strange, like a slice of another world.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this waiting and watching, I started wondering about the French word for wait, attender, and I became curious about the connection between waiting and attending. So I searched it up, as the boys would say, and here is my scholarly report. From various old languages, Old French, Old English, Old Latin, we have “To direct one’s mind or energies, to expect, wait for, pay attention.” “To stretch to or stretch towards” “To heed, take care of, protect.” I love them all! To stretch yourself towards the the thing you are hoping for and waiting for! I love that! And I love the sense of expecting, too, it’s one step beyond hoping. And I love the sense of protecting and caring for, which I suppose is from the “waiting-upon-someone” sense of the word; dancing attendance, as the Williams Shakespeare and Yeats might phrase it. But mostly I love the heeding and the directing of energies and the paying attention. I love the idea that we’re not just killing time, waiting, we’re heedful, we’re attentive. We should wait for everything the way we wait for hummingbirds, keenly, and we should notice everything else that happens while we’re waiting with the same keen attention. We should stretch ourselves towards the thing we anticipate and expect, and we should notice every beautiful thing that flies by us as we’re waiting. And then we should stop writing about hummingbirds, because nobody should try to write about hummingbirds.

On a side note: I had a recipe to go with this, but honestly, I haven’t had time to write it all down, it’s not a recipe I feel happy about, and I’m tired of pretending this is a food blog, which it hasn’t been for several years. I’m not saying there will be no more recipes, but there won’t always be recipes.

There will always be songs though! Here’s Bob Marley and the Wailers with I’m Still Waiting.

 

 

Yeasted cornmeal crepe

IMG_0572.jpg“I’m not worried!”

“You’re mom, Mom.” said Isaac.

“It’s like you have a dog with you at all times you have to worry about.” Said Malcolm.

“An imaginary worry dog!” I cried, loving the idea. (Our very real dog and actual perpetual source of worry had been left home for this trip.)

Isaac said, “Mom always has to worry because she’s always with Clio or us, for her to not worry she’d have to go on a walk all by herself.”

Last time I wrote it was blizzarding, and now it’s snowing pale petals and golden sycamore seeds. After a slow start, we’ve had a rare spate of perfect spring days, and the boys and I are going on an adventure. Usually David is their man for adventures and I drive the getaway car. But David is too tall for this adventure, and though it’s my lack-of-height that gets me invited, I’m still honored that they want me along. They discovered a special secret place and they want to show it to me. Am I going through a list of possible dangers in my head? Of course I am. Malcolm assures me, “Really, mom, the hazards are few.”

It’s a pair of tunnels that run off the canal under the path on the other-side-of-the-canal to a strange sort of pond in the-secret-passage. It’s a new place they’ve discovered under a familiar place. An unknown hollow under ground we’ve walked hundreds of times. The entrance is a strangely pretty concrete ditch, and the tunnels themselves are dull concrete and lined with a trough of dark boggy mud. But there are small seedlings growing in the muck, spindly and skinny and stretched towards the light. And the light on the other side of the tunnel is spring distilled–glowing and green. To me the tunnels could lead to a magical world, and to the boys they’re  a good place to hide in a post-apocalyptic world-at-war scenario. Which tells you all you need to know about how children’s literature has changed in the last few decades.

They show me how to walk with your feet on either side of the tunnel walls, so that you don’t fall in the bog; they point out impressive spider webs above our heads; they adorn the walls with their own graffiti tag in white crayon. They cut away the thorn bushes from the far entrances of the tunnels so we can stand on the edge of the pond, and they’re sad that it’s filmed with gasoline. People think they’re so powerful, Malcolm says, but they make garbage and coca cola and guns. Malcolm wants to stay for hours and eat sandwiches perched over black mud and garlanded with spider webs. But I’m ready to go home.

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While we’re walking home I worry about worrying too much and worry about the boys knowing that I worry too much. Popular knowledge dictates that we should emulate the good old days, when parents stayed indoors smoking and day-drinking while their children ran wild on train tracks and super-highways and incurred character-building injuries. But surely, as in all things, there has to be a balance. I don’t lock my boys indoors; they’re not terrified of the world. They’re curious and adventurous and scared of most scary things and scared of a few not-very-threatening things, like everyone else on the planet. They roam our town. That very day they went back to sit in the tunnel and watch birds and spy on people walking on the path above. They sat until the thrill wore off and a savage goose chased them away, then they went for a ramble in the secret passage. They were gone a while. The fact that they knew I worried made me worry less. They came home safe and told us stories.

And isn’t that how it should be? We walk the path together or we walk the path alone, we explore the secret places all around the path. We’re never free of worry because we’re never free of love. We know there’s someone glad to see us when we get home, waiting to hear our stories.

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These were a sort of cross between a flatbread and a crepe. Easy and fun to make, and very tasty. Everybody liked them. We ate them like pita bread, with croquettes, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce inside. And the next day Malcolm wrapped them around scrambled eggs.

 

Here’s Tunnels by Johnny Flynn

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Flourless chocolate almond cake with coffee and cinnamon

IMG_0364.jpgLast Saturday was a blizzarding day. The sky was white and bewildering, the time passed quickly and not-at-all, and the snow lay in deep, perfect drifts all around. A week later, the snow is still in giant gravelly piles where it was pushed away from all the places people walk and drive and park. The time is still passing strangely. The hours pass in the usual way, some flying some crawling, but at the end of the day it’s all a blur and I haven’t done half the things I’ve persuaded myself that I need to do. It’s days like this that make you want to turn into Malcolm’s latest superhero creation: Slothman. Slothman’s super power is that he goes slowly, he takes time to enjoy things. And he enjoys everything. Malcolm believes that people, and himself in particular, move too fast. He is a speedy fellow. So if he could turn into slothman he would slow down, everything would slow down. He could be happy just sitting up in a tree doing nothing but just sitting up in a tree. That in itself would become something to enjoy. The funny thing is that I think Malcolm already has this quality in spades. Not the slowness part, he is fairly full-speed-ahead in all endeavors. But the enjoying part. When you’re doing something with Malcolm–cooking or playing cards or going for a walk–he’ll announce, “This is fun.” And because he says it, you stop and think, “this is fun,” and then, strangely, it becomes more fun, just because he said it. And on the day that Malcolm told me about Slothman, we were on a walk. He’d been jumping puddles rimmed with black mud, and I was worried about his shoes, because it’s my job to worry about his shoes. Malcolm stopped walking and I yelled, “No jumping puddles!” But guess what–he wasn’t jumping puddles, he wasn’t moving at all. He was standing perfectly still, with a beaming face, and he said, “It’s so pretty! The light through the trees! And the shadows!” I looked ahead on the path and it was pretty, it was beautiful. The pale hopeful January light through brambled leafless trees. I thought about taking a picture, but it would never work, I couldn’t capture it. So we just stood for a moment and watched the shifting slanting light, until Clio woke us and we moved on.

 

Snowy weather is always good baking weather, so we’ve been making lots of cookies and cakes and bread. One day I ran out of flour, so I made this cake. It’s very tasty! Soft and flavorful, but with an almost crispy layer on the top. The flavors–cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, almond–they’re perfect together! This wasn’t at all hard to  make, and it was even easier to eat.

 

Here’s Groovin in Style by Ken Parker

 

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Nutmeg gingerbread ice cream

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“Our family is the most powerful in the world.”

It’s a lazy morning over Christmas break and Malcolm and I are sitting together on the couch under a blanket and under Clio. We’re both just waking up, just pondering a day ahead with no plans and no obligations. All around us is sprawled a cheerful post-Christmas chaos of toys and socks and books. Malcolm has just cracked a joke that made David laugh aloud, which is a thing Malcolm loves to do.  And then he declares us the most powerful family in the world.

“How so?” You might well ask. “Wherein lies this supreme power?” Is it because we possess vast wealth, an intimidating arsenal, or confounding Machiavellian genius? No, no it’s not, although obviously we have all these things. According to Malcolm, the source of our power is that we have so much fun together. With the addendum that when we have nothing to do we sit around with a dog on top of us. Well, there it is! The secret to ultimate power revealed by a 13-year-old.

Predictably, I love this! I love that my son sees the ability to have fun as a source of power, that he sees that our cohesiveness makes us strong. I wish this understanding could be applied to all things, to all groups of people. I wish that threats and violence, rather than shows of strength, were recognized as the offshoots of weakness that they are. I wish this understanding applied even to countries. Can you imagine if we displayed our power not by amassing weapons but by showing how much we make each other laugh, how well we get along? Can you imagine the Fox News pundits sitting on their set with a dog sprawled on top of them, criticizing the president not because he showed weakness by not bombing people, but because he wasn’t making enough people laugh at international summits? Cohesiveness and joy, that’s what it’s all about.

We wanted to make some new holiday traditions just the four of us. Malcolm’s idea was to make a gingerbread house. So we did. Hoo boy. We made a derelict, condemned house out of gingerbread. We were going to put licorice vultures on top but the roof caved in. So we were left with a lot of (very tasty) gingerbread. David had the brilliant idea to crumble it up and mix it into nutmeg ice cream as it froze. Delicious! Very simple, but with strong, wonderful flavors. So this is a good use of leftover gingerbread house, or you can make a few extra gingerbread cookies next time, or you could just buy some gingerbread men.

Here’s Soul Power by the Heptones

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Chervil pesto pizza (with mashed potatoes)

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Happy Boxing Day, Ordinary friends. In keeping with my recent holiday tradition, I’m feeling under the weather, all tired and achey. Fortunately Malcolm declared this a day that nobody has to get anything done and everybody can stay in pajamas all day, so all will be well. Since it’s boxing day, I’ll tell you about two of my favorite presents this year, which were, in fact, boxes. One is a pencil box, and it’s the prettiest pencil box you’ve ever seen. It’s strangely like a pencil box I was obsessed with as a third grader. All of the other girls had pencil boxes with sliding tops from WH Smith, and I wanted one so badly. And I got one! And I still remember how it smelled, and what a satisfying feeling it was to pack it with pencils and pens and erasers and how it felt like a box full of possibility for all the things I could write or draw. This box is a similar shape and size, with a sliding top, but instead of being made out of some weird plastic-wood, it’s made out of beautiful walnut, with a grain like flame or waves. and it’s hand-dovetailed by my favorite hands in the world. I put my special pen inside, and I’m fairly sure the box’s magical powers will imbue the pen with motivation or inspiration, and I’ll be able to write again. The other box is a Trojan DJ box set, and I’m COMPLETELY OBSESSED!! OBSESSED! This is 50 tracks (!), and each one is better than the one before, there are no stinkers. I love this music so much I want to eat it! This music is from the very late 60s and very early 70s, and it involves deejays taking popular tracks and mixing them up, and then toasting over them. Toasting is all good things! It’s blessing and praise, but it’s a little bit roasting and boasting as well. It’s poetry. It’s strange catch phrases or noises that are so simple but express so much. [What does this sound like? Hip hop! Of course! (Did you know that DJ Kool Herc was born in Jamaica?!?!)]  This is simultaneously the most moving, fragile, wobbly, and icily cool music I’ve heard in a while. I imagine a culture of DJs who support one another in friendly competition. They know one another and quote one another. It’s alternately funny and profound, or both at once. One of my favorite DJs in the box is King Stitt. He got the name King Stitt because he stuttered as  a child, and he got the name “The Ugly One” because he was born with a facial malformation and had very few teeth. But he was discovered because he could dance. I love that! And then he made a name by talking, and I love that too. He embraced what made him different, and realized that it made him cooler than cool. And he was one of the first DJs. He achieved success and everyone followed him. I like to imagine a community where this story is possible. I like to have these voices, which are so perfect and alive, in my foggy dispirited brain. To quote King Stitt, “Hot it from the top, to the very last drop!”

 

We have a forest of chervil growing in our garden. It’s the one herb that has thrived despite the few frosty nights, the drizzly days, and my constant picking. So I gathered some to make a pesto. Chervil is a lot more delicate than basil. It’s got a slight lemony-anise flavor, and it makes a lovely pesto. I made this like a normal basil pesto, with pine nuts and olive oil and garlic. Then I put it on a pizza with mashed potatoes for comfort and fresh tomatoes for liveliness. And that’s that.

 

Here’s King Stitt doing Fire Corner.

 

 

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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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Kale and chickpea flour gnocchi pakoras

kale and chickpea flour croquettes

kale and chickpea flour croquettes

Thirteen is a ridiculous age. How can a person be so achingly sweet one moment and so sassy-bordering-on-cruel the next? How can a person be sunny and confident one second and in tears over some imagined slight the next? How can a person be mature and wise, as good a friend and advisor as anyone could hope for, and turn into a childish menace because someone got more pizza than he did? I’m sure I was a piece of work when I was thirteen. Moody, disagreeable, constantly saying things I regretted the second I said them. And now we have a thirteen-year-old in the house, and it all comes rushing back, that feeling of being helplessly unable to control what you think or feel or say. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and remembering, and remembering makes me feel anxious all over again, lying awake worrying. And then one night we were in the car and the boys were bickering. I sighed and said, “It gets me down when you do that.” And Malcolm said, “Everything gets you down! I hate it when you’re depressed. But when you’re happy it’s the best thing in the world!” Well! That hit me like a ton of bricks! 46 is the most ridiculous age! One minute you’re feeling happy and hopeful, and the next you’re walking around the house sighing and sad, bringing everyone in the family down with you! But that’s not okay. I’m the adult. I’m the parent. It’s my job, my responsibility, to make the boys feel better when they’re down. Or to recognize that I can’t make them feel better, and to give them the space they need to be cranky, to ignore the things they say that they probably instantly regret. It’s my job to recognize when I’m being miserable and childish and to snap out of it. I was thinking about all of this and feeling a little bad, feeling a little irresponsible.

Apparently there was a slight chance we could see the aurora borealis from our part of the world. We knew we wouldn’t see the lights, but we took a drive above the town anyway, because when it gets dark an hour earlier you take any excuse to get out of the house after dinner. We parked next to the cemetery on the hill and looked down at our town, surprisingly noisy, and so beautifully bustling and bright we’d never see anything spectacular in the sky. Malcolm lay on his back and stared up at the stars, while in the town below him most of the people he’d known most of his life went about their lives. It must have been a little dizzying, and just the thought of it set me reeling. When he stood up I hugged him and he said, “I love you, too.” And that’s hopeful! That’s heartening! I don’t even need to tell him, and he knows!

kale pakoras

kale pakoras

I thought of these as being a combination between pakoras, which Isaac likes, and Gnocchi, which Malcolm likes. They have chickpea flour in them, and they’re fried in olive oil so they’re very crisp on the outside, but they have an egg and a little cheese in them, and they’re nice and soft on the inside. They have kale, but the boys loved them anyway.

Here’s Beginning to See the Light by The Velvet Underground.
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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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Roasted beet “relish” with olives and feta

roasted beets, feta, olives, pine nuts

roasted beets, feta, olives, pine nuts

Desk Set is one of my favorite movies of all time. All Time! That’s a very decisive statement for someone as indecisive as myself! It’s so well-written. It’s witty all of the time, and downright funny in flashes. It’s incredibly generous to the characters–the writers love all of them, even the extra-quirky ones. And the characters love each other. Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, obviously, glow in each other’s presence. That’s a given. But one of my favorite aspects of the film is the friendship between Katherine Hepburn’s Bunny, and her friend Peg Costello, played by Joan Blondell. They have a history, they look after each other, they make each other laugh. One of the best passages in the history of film is the office christmas party. Peg and Bunny drink champagne and scotch and  martinis and lord knows what else (“they’re all the same base–alcohol!”) They become giddy, and you feel giddy watching them. At one point, they’re reminiscing about New Year’s Eves through the years, about being lonely, and Peg tells a story about a missed opportunity with a well-dressed man. Katherine Hepburn raises her paper cup of champagne in the air and says “More power to you!”

This is a line and a delivery that has been stuck in my head a lot lately. And I want to keep it there. I happen to have a snarky voice in my head from time-to-time. When I was a teenager they called me Miss Snide–in the minefield of high school, sarcasm is sometimes the best defense. And this voice lingers in my head, right into middle age. It’s a sarcastic, and often, sadly, a judgmental voice. Society is to blame! We live in a world full of petty criticisms, mean anonymous comments, articles that rate people and compare people and criticize their every move. I try to hold the voice in check. I don’t want to waste my time in being critical of trivial things. I believe that people should be able to wear what they want to wear, say what they want to say, and act how they want to act, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else. I want to be generous and affectionate all the time. But I’m not, I’m just not. So, lately, when I feel myself being snidely critical of some small thing a person does or says or wears, I imagine Katherine Hepburn, paper cup of champagne in the air, declaring, “More power to you!” If every single cruel and acidic comment on the old internet could be replaced with “More power to you!” Well, that wouldn’t be so bad. More power to you! More power to each and every one of you!

Roasted beets, olives, feta and pine nuts

Roasted beets, olives, feta and pine nuts

I made this earlier in the summer, but since beets are making a come back at the farm, I’m posting the recipe now. More power to me! It’s an easy recipe, with lots of strong flavors, but most of the children I fed it to liked it. It’s almost like a relish, because the beets are chopped so finely, so you can have it on the side of anything, or on some good bread, or however you like to eat it.

Here’s Go Where You Wanna Go by the Mamas and Papas

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