“Um, they’re called sculptures.”
“Yeah. You know a lot of people think junk is just junk, but it’s not!”
“What is it?”
I realize that lately the subtitle of Out of the Ordinary could be “Isaac and Claire talk on the way to school.” And I never intended it to turn out that way, but the truth is, I come home and I think about all of the odd things he’s told me. I think about them for hours, setting off a little chain of loosely connect thoughts which generally lead back to whatever he was talking about in the first place. Today I thought about junkyards, and I thought about the Gleaners and I and Vik Muniz’ Wasteland, and Agbobloshie, and aircraft boneyards. And I thought of the term “rag-and-bone,” which has been in my head for days, although try as I might I can’t remember what put it there in the first place. And of course that made me think of “Rag and bone shop of the heart,” so I had to look up the whole poem. The Circus Animal’s Desertion. What a name for a poem! What a poem! It ends thusly:
Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.
And it’s so strange to think about Yeats lacking inspiration or feeling disappointed. It’s so strange to think about him looking back on his career with any kind of sadness or regret, or looking into his heart and feeling despair or disdain for what he finds there. I want to tell him what Isaac would tell him, that those old kettles and bottles and bones aren’t junk, they’re art materials. He can make himself a new ladder out of old iron and broken cans, a ladder that might be more true and stronger than his old one. But of course he knows that, he knows it all, because he found his inspiration, he wrote this poem, and it’s beautiful and he must have felt that in his deep heart’s core.I’ll blame it on the weather, on the seemingly endless winter, but I’ve wanted to make warm comforting bready meals lately. Last night it was this savory cake, which is a lot like a pizza with the toppings baked right into the dough. I made the dough rich and tender, with butter, milk and an egg (I think of it as brioche-like). And I filled that with my favorite combination of chard and mushrooms. I used pecans and pistachios, but you could use one or the other, whichever you have. We ate this with leftover asparagus pesto and with a pecan sauce something like this one.
Here’s Rag and Bone by The White Stripes
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 T soft butter, cut into small pieces
2 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
In a large bowl combine the yeast, sugar, milk and butter. Leave in a warm place (like the oven on proof) till the yeast gets foamy and the butter gets very soft. Mix everything together, squishing the butter against the side of the bowl to be sure it gets mixed in. Add the flour and salt, and stir to combine. Beat in the egg and enough warm water to make a very thick but stirable batter, maybe another half cup or so. Leave in a warm place for about an hour or an hour and a half.
12 oz or so mushrooms, cleaned and chopped quite fine
olive oil to coat
1 T olive oil
1 plump clove garlic, minced
1 t rosemary
1 large bunch chard, washed, stems removed, chopped quite fine
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
1 – 2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1/4 cup toasted chopped pistachio kernels
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the mushrooms with the olive oil and spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast for 20 – 25 minute until they’re crispy and dried out. Stir them frequently so the mushrooms on the edges don’t burn.
Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and rosemary, stir and cook for a minute or two, add the chard and cook until it’s wilted but still bright. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of balsamic. In a large bowl mix the chard, mushrooms and cheese.
Generously coat a large cake pan with olive oil. Pour the batter into the pan, leaving about 1 or 2 T in the bowl. In the same bowl mix the chard, mushrooms and cheese with the leftover batter. Pour this mixture into the center of the cake, spreading it slightly with a spoon or fork, but leaving about an inch margin all around. Sprinkle the nuts over the center.
Let the cake sit for about fifteen minutes, and turn the heat up to 450. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden brown and pulling away from the pan.