Roasted beet and red pepper salad with pistachios and goat cheese

Roasted beet and red pepper salad with pistachios and goat cheese

Roasted beet and red pepper salad with pistachios and goat cheese

People rarely ask me what I do. At the parties we attend–the fairly constant stream of casual gatherings, galas, brunches and luncheons—very few people say, “And what do you do, Claire.” Perhaps this is because I’m so obviously a bon vivant. One look at me and you instantly know that I spend my days composing bons mots and drinking champagne cocktails, watching the bubbles float upwards from a bitters-soaked sugar cube with a dreamy look on my face. Or maybe it’s because I dress like a giant five-year-old ragamuffin, and it seems cruel to ask, because I so obviously do nothing all day except make songbirds out of legos and nap with the dog. I think my tax return describes me as a homemaker. It’s a nice word, I suppose…much better than “housewife.” It’s got an active, creative element, and home is certainly one of my favorite words and one of my favorite concepts. It’s a big responsibility to make a home, and I’ll take it! I only think of myself as a waitress when I’m actually waiting tables, or sometimes when I realize that I can’t enter or exit a room without something in my hands, generally as many things as I can carry. And of course I’m a mom all the time, but that’s bigger than what I do, that’s what I am, among so many other things. I’ve decided lately that it’s important to decide what I do, not so that other people can define me by my employment or by the way that I make money, but as a way that I can decide for myself what it is that’s important for me to do. In the unlikely event that somebody asks me what I do, I’m almost fairly certain that I would say “I write.” If they ask me what I write, would I wander away, babbling awkwardly and incoherently? I don’t think I would, because I’ve also decided that I’m working towards something bigger than I’d realized. I realized this by deciding it, and it feels good (most of the time, if I can keep self-doubt and criticism and inertia at bay). I’ve incorporated all of the other things I do into this one bigger thing, because of course I’ll write about my sons and my customers at the restaurant, I’ll write about making a home, and all the ways that people do that. With this decision it’s become okay that I walk around the world with a constant stream of words flowing through my head. I no longer feel as crazy about this, because I can now give that stream a focus and direction; I’ve made a little pile of rocks to channel it, just like the boys do in the creek in summertime. I’ve made a little rivulet of thoughts which will grow wider and stronger and stretch its tired riverbanks, and eventually reach the sea! All by deciding what I do…what I can do, what I must do, what I will do.

Roasted beet and pepper salad.

Roasted beet and pepper salad.

I’ve said it was beet season again, and here’s more proof. It’s coldish today, but we had a lovely warm week last week (people were complaining about how hot it was! I bet they miss it now, though!) I think there’s nothing nicer on a chilly-warm fall day than a warm salad. I roasted the peppers and beets, and then piled them on a bed of arugula, tomatoes from the farm, and fresh basil. I rolled some small pieces of goat cheese in chopped pistachios, and then warmed those, as well, so they were soft and melty. Very nice, altogether. As with any salad, use what you have and what you like, whatever you’ve picked from your garden or farm or grocery store shelves. I’ve left the amounts vaguer than usual even, because you can use whatever proportions you like!!

Here’s I am I be, by De La Soul.
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Savory almond cake with toasted beets, beet greens, goat cheese and asparagus

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Last night we went to Isaac’s poetry cafe. I’ve got to start wearing dark glasses and a veil to these things, because I find them so moving that by the end I’m a puddle, despite my cynical and cantankerous nature. The kids are adorable, obviously, but it’s not this that gets me. It’s the raw, pure emotion–they’re all so animated and nervous and happy it just kills me. They’re not used to reading at all, let alone reading aloud. They stand at the front of the room, glance at their teacher, take a deep breath, and then they dive into the river of words–their words! They paddle through, head down, voice low and hushed, in a barely audible muddle, and then they’re done, they reached the other side, they’re elated, they nailed it. And it’s all so beautiful! Even when you can’t distinguish the words, the poems are full of rhythm and emotion. They’re about what they love and who they are, and these things are so clear and certain when you’re little–constantly changing and evolving, but not yet muddied and confused. They’re seven years old, so the poems are sincere in the best sense of the word. These kids aren’t trying to sell anything, or prove anything, at this age they’re not even worried about getting a good grade. They’re just telling you how they feel, and it’s so joyful and funny and even disarmingly profound in spots that you want to laugh and cry at the same time. Or at least I do. How long before the boys forbid me to attend events at their school? The whole class read a song about keeping a poem in your heart and a picture in your head, so you won’t be lonely, and this is such a perfectly Ordinary idea–this is what it’s all about! Not that you memorize a poem and walk around reciting it to yourself, but that everything is a poem or a picture, if you take the time to notice and collect it in your head in a way that you’ll remember it–with words or images or memories. My beloved OED defines a poem as “A piece of writing or an oral composition, … in which the expression of feelings, ideas, etc., is typically given intensity or flavour by distinctive diction, rhythm, imagery.” This is it exactly! Everything in your life can be given intensity and flavor, if you wake up and live. It sometimes seems that “they” are trying to make us slow and dull and stupid, so we’ll buy more that we don’t need. So I say, don’t watch the dumb shows, don’t eat the fast food, make your own meals, think your own thoughts, with passion and creativity! Nobody can take this away from you. In my visit to the OED, I also discovered the word “poeming,” as in composing or reciting poems, and I will tell you that the children in Isaac’s class were engaged in “Loud Tawkings and Poemings.” Yes they were. And so should we all be.

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Yesterday at the flea market we met a French couple selling baking pans. I liked them so much, in an instant. They seemed so kind and friendly. We bought a half dozen pans of surprising proportions, and I’m excited to use them all. One was very large with straight sides about 1 1/2 inches high. I knew right away that I wanted to make a big savory cake in it. I’m fascinated by the idea of savory cakes, because I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere, and I wonder why. We have savory pies and savory pancakes, but not savory cakes. I’ve experimented a bit, with a cake with chard and chickpea flour, and one with cornmeal and beets. This particular cake had ground almonds, and I made it like a savory version of a gateau basque, so it had two layers, combined on the edges, and containing a filling of toasted beets, mozzarella, goat cheese, beet greens and asparagus. And the asparagus tips are on top for decoration. I thought it was really delicious. Unexpected, with nice flavors and textures. Not too soft, not too dry. I was happy with the way it turned out! If you don’t happen to have a big French cake pan, you can use a regular cake pan or a small roasting pan.

Here’s Bob Marley with Wake Up and Live
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