As ever, my story is after the jump, and yours could be, too. My rules so far have been–make it quick, and don’t over think. But make your rules up as you go along.
I made this galette up as I went along, until it got to a place that I could actually imagine eating it, and then I knew I’d arrived at the right combination! I roasted some mushrooms and some butter beans. Roasted butter beans are one of my new favorite things! I combined these crispy-soft items with some fresh baby spinach and some crunchy toasted pecans, and then threw in some melty mozzarella, and I baked the whole thing up in a free-form pie. Delicious! And quite easy, too.
Here’s a song from one of my favorite storytellers, Mr. Tom Waits. Gun Street Girl.
Louis had wanted a camera for so long, since he was s tiny boy. He’d been desperate for it. He’d tried to make something out of cardboard and mirrors, but of course it hadn’t worked. Finally I bought him one, because I wanted to see the world the way he saw it. He’d stopped talking to me, the little man he was now. He’d gotten so quiet, and his eyes were shadowed and shy when he looked at me. He wouldn’t tell me the important things, any more. So I thought the camera would show it—would show what he was focused on. I’d know where he went when he left our dark house. I’d know how he passed the long afternoons that he didn’t come home, I’d know who he spent them with. And I’d have his photographs up on our crumbling walls, and I could look through them like windows into his bright odd world. Well, it would be something to see besides the brick of the next building, for a change. Besides my old face in the mirror. Maybe he’d have pictures of playing ball with friends, I thought, and I’d know who they were. Or girls. Maybe he’d have pictures of bright young girls.
I went with him to buy the camera. He was shinier than I’d seen him in years—just glowing. He gets a light in his eyes when he’s happy that you never see from anyone else. You can’t look away. He used to watch the birds that way, in our window. The pigeons would get trapped in our window, between the buildings, and they’d raise a frantic fluttering, and he’d watch their madly stuttering shadows with radiant eyes. I’ll always remember that. His eyes were just so, in the camera shop. He wanted a good camera, and I was glad to see him happy so I bought him one. It was the money for our rent and oil for the winter, but we’d find it somewhere, we always do. And then I bought myself a camera, too. I don’t know why. It’s so far beyond our budget that it didn’t seem to matter any more. I felt desperate, too, all of a sudden. I wanted to see. To see beyond our dark walls. Or just to see our own dark walls, even those, to see them through this glass, kept forever. To keep even my chores, to keep my scrubbing and dusting, my potato-boiling and shopping, my cabbage-chopping and all my toiling. Maybe it would all be beautiful if I looked at it like this. He looked surprised, abut my camera, but he didn’t seem to mind. We hadn’t shared anything in a while.
And then it was my turn to be surprised, that first day we went out. I didn’t know where we’d go, but I couldn’t see how he’d want me there. I didn’t know where a boy of his age could go that his old mother wouldn’t be an embarrassment. Would it be a soda shop? A friend’s house? Would he meet some girl?
But we walked and walked to the ends of town. The buildings became lower and shabbier, the traffic sparser. The people fewer, and they stared. They stared at us as we passed through these strange quiet streets, carrying our cameras.
We came to the marsh, and he kept walking, walking through the reeds, passing through the always changing lights and shadows of the moving reeds, his white shirt glowing like snow on this bright hot day. He put one hand back, and his finger on his lips, he grew quiet and slow. But the marsh wasn’t quiet. Everything that lives in a marsh is noisy and strident, with a rattling, buzzing voice. They all sing that way—the frogs and bugs and birds of the marsh. They all speak like the wind rattling through the reeds. I thought about that and I thought about my son and me with voices like the dusty shadows of our rooms, like the cramped quiet spaces between our hard houses. But he had stopped. With a hard trilled “konk la reeeee, chuck!” I saw what it was. A bird’s nest. A blackbird’s nest. A pretty drab brown blackbird in her fragile-strong nest, just trying to keep her little ones alive until they could fly away. Well, I laughed to see the kind of girl he was out watching! A very different kind of bird! I laughed, and I took a picture of my boy, glowing in the dark and shifting reeds, under the wide pale sky.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 t salt
lots of ground black pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, frozen
Combine the flour, wheat flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Grate in the frozen butter. Mix with a fork until coarse and crumbly. Add just enough ice water to make a workable dough. Knead for under a minute, to make sure everything is well combined. Form into a patty, cover in foil, and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
1 can butter beans
olive oil to coat
mushrooms and shallots prepared like this, with plenty of sage, rosemary and thyme
2 cups packed baby spinach, washed, dried and finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup mozzarella, cut into small cubes
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425. Rinse the butter beans and drain them well. Toss them lightly with olive oil, and roast alongside the mushrooms and shallots till everything is brown and crispy – 20 to 25 minutes should do it. Tip the mushrooms and beans into a bowl. Stir in the spinach, pecans and cheese. Mix in the egg and season with salt and pepper.
Roll the dough into a wide round about 1/8th inch thick. Place on a lightly buttered baking tray or a wide cake pan. Pile the filling in the center, leaving a border of several inches. Fold up the edges and crimp them, leaving a space in the center.
Bake for about half an hour, till the crust is puffed and golden, and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Let cool and sit for a few minutes, then slice and serve.
Hi Claire, I’ve been enjoying your blog lately – it kind of creeps up on you like a purry cat.looking for a friendly lap. Today you made me laugh out loud, and yesterday I was engrossed by the story of a fellow worrier.
I have always been a worrier, and have often been told to stop crossing my bridges before I come to them. Easier said than done isn’t it?. I struggle with loss, and even the idea of loss, so I guess I will always be risk-averse, but a few things things have enabled me to be a bit more chilled as the years go by. The first was studying psychology – I began to recognise when I was ‘catastrophizing’ and to learn to turn the volume down a little. The second was being released from the grip of my hormones, which I then realised had been buffeting me from pillar to post throughout my adult life. And finally I have the very mixed blessing of not remembering whatever it was that I was worrying about in the first place!
Thanks for your kind words. It’s oddly comforting to know that there are so many other worriers out there!
He didn’t know what it was about, but he knew enough to know he should get out of the house quickly. On the street he found he’d left his jacket behind, but he didn’t want to go back in. It was a chilly day but not raining, so he set off down the road. Spring was late that year and the trees he passed had not yet come into leaf.
Down by the lake it was very quiet. There were no people, no dogs, and you couldn’t hear the traffic any more. There was a bird singing very high up, and he squinted into the sky to see it. When he looked down again he could not see properly for a moment, because the light had got into his eyes, and so he nearly stepped on the nest without noticing it. He rocked back on his heels and reached out for something to grab hold of, but there was nothing but reeds. For a moment his mind seemed to slip away and he was not sure where he was.
Then he looked down and saw what had caught his eye. There were six eggs, speckled brown and fawn, and the nest was made of woven reeds mixed with some dry stuff like straw. He squatted down and reached out a finger, wondering whether they were warm. But before it touched he pulled back. What if the bird could tell someone had been here? He raised his head and the bird was there, standing among the green stalks and watching him. It was a black bird with a red patch on its face. They were eye to eye.
He stood up carefully and slowly. The bird waited. He backed away, trying to be quiet, but his feet made a sucking sound as he pulled them free of the mud. Looking back, he saw the bird cock its head, as if irritated; and then, as he watched, it stepped forward and settled itself on the nest.
The water had got into his shoes, and he supposed he would get into trouble. He thought of staying longer, to see whether there were any more black birds with nests along the shore; but then he decided to head back. It wouldn’t do to stay out too long, and perhaps it would be teatime when he arrived.
Thank you TFD, it’s beautiful! I was hoping you’d write one–I love your stories. I’m going to reply more coherently when I’m less tired. Busy day of work!