PIne nut and sundried tomato sauce

Pine nut and sundried tomato dip

Pine nut and sundried tomato dip

When I was in high school, our English teacher handed us a xerox (or maybe it was a mimeograph, this was a long long time ago). It contained words in sentences, but there was nothing to identify it. No title, no author’s name. We didn’t know if it was fact or fiction, we didn’t know when or why it was written. The sentences were short, simple and strangely repetitive. The words were small plain words, and a few of these unimportant words were repeated from sentence to sentence or within sentences. The story was disarmingly uneventful. The teacher asked us what we thought of the writing, and we were all under-impressed and thought the author had a lot of work to do, tightening the writing and combining sentences and working a little harder to keep our attention, making it a little easier for us to get through the story. We’d been fed certain rules of effective writing for over a decade and we had thoroughly absorbed them. I didn’t think about this at the time, but I’m fairly certain that if the author had sent the first few pages of his manuscript to an agent or publisher today, they’d have given up after the first paragraph, and he’d never ever hear from them. Well, guess what? The author was Ernest Hemingway. That’s right, Ernest Hemingway. And though I doubt any of us had read enough Hemingway to form any kind of opinion about him at that point, we’d heard of him. We knew that other people liked him. He was well-known and well-respected. And suddenly we saw everything differently. The simplicity of the story seemed significant, even profound. The simplicity of the language seemed elemental, important. The repetition made beautiful, resonant little circles of words. And everything we’d learned about writing was bullshit. Well I’m very grateful to this teacher, because I think the understanding we gleaned from this lesson applies to all things, at least all things creative, and I consider life the biggest creative endeavor of them all. Don’t trust platitudes, be wary of easy advice. Don’t “kill your darlings,” your darlings are what make your writing yours. What would the world be like if Dickens or Nabokov had been more restrained, or had edited their work till it was spare and sellable? “Write about what you know” doesn’t mean write about the clumps of dirt in your backyard, it means write about what you know to be true, write with honesty about how it feels to human, even if you’re describing life a hundred years ago, a hundred years hence, or in a world that never existed. Speak with the rhythm in your head, even if you think people won’t understand it or be able to keep up with it or slow down to it. They might find it beautiful in the end. When they realize who you are. And read everything you encounter, everyone you meet, as if you’d love what they do, if you knew who they were.

Sundried tomato and pine nut sauce

Sundried tomato and pine nut sauce

Speaking of simple! This is one of those simple yet delicious dishes. I bought a little bottle of sundried tomatoes in olive oil. If you buy dried sundried tomatoes, you might want to soak them in hot water (and then drain them) before using them in this recipe. This is a creamy vegan sauce with lots of flavor. You could add smoked paprika or roasted garlic if you want, they’d both be nice here. We ate this with roasted vegetables and chard croquettes one night, and with tacos the next night. You could dip things in it, or spread it on things, or toss it with pasta or rice. I think it would be fine however you’d like to use it!

The Hemingway I spoke of earlier is from his Nick Adams stories, or In Our Time. To this day, I’m not his biggest fan, but I love these stories. Here’s a sample of the language.

    As he smoked his legs stretched out in front of him, he noticed a grasshopper walk along the ground and up onto his woolen sock. The grasshopper was black. As he had walked along the road, climbing, he had started grasshoppers from with dust. They were all black They were not the big grasshoppers with yellow and black or red and black wings whirring out from their black wing sheathing as they fly up. These were just ordinary hoppers, but all a sooty black in color. Nick had wondered about them as he walked without really thinking about them. Now, as he watched the black hopper that was nibbling at the wool of his sock with its fourway lip he realized that they had all turned black from living in the I burned-over land. He realized that the fire must have come the year before, but the grasshoppers were all black now. He wondered how long they would stay that way.

Here’s Simple Things by Belle and Sebastian.

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Golden beet and pine nut purée

Golden beet and pine nut purée

Golden beet and pine nut purée

It’s my birthday!!! AAARRGGHHHH! And I’m only telling you this because…I’m telling everybody! I’m like a little kid when it comes to birthdays. Except that I’m not, really, I’m the exact opposite. I overheard Isaac telling Malcolm, “Mommy doesn’t want it to be her birthday,” which as a birthday-obsessed seven-year-old is a concept he can’t fathom. It’s not the birthday itself I have a problem with, of course, it’s the getting older part that’s hard, that’s putting me in a blue mood. I was thinking the other day that I might come across as a somewhat cheerful, hopeful person, here at The Ordinary. In truth, I’m a moody old cuss. I’m discouraged by the strangest slightest things. And it might seem like I’m a patient mother, but I yell at my boys more than I thought I ever would, and I’m short-tempered with them sometimes even when they’re sweetly trying to get my attention to tell me nice and funny things. Sometimes I just want some quiet to think my own thoughts. Sometimes I just want to look out the window. And my boys don’t like all the weird food I make, though they are almost always kind enough to taste it. They don’t always eat healthy meals, sometimes I just let them drink sugar water, not because they’ve persuaded me that they’re part hummingbird, although I might believe that, but because I’m powerless to stop them because THEY DON’T LISTEN TO A WORD I SAY! And I do genuinely want to love and care for all people, like Alyosha says to do, but I have a noisy foul-mouthed inner misanthrope fighting to get out. I do honestly believe that success should be measured not by good grades or a big salary, but by how happy you are with what you do, day-to-day, and by the way you make your life as creative as possible in all the small moments, and how you notice and remember everything. But I get in foul moods when all I can think is “everything I’ve ever tried to do has failed.” And where am I going with all of this downwardly spiraling self-pitying birthday confessionalizing? I dunno. I think I want to tell you that I woke up this morning and my foolish birthday blue funk had lifted. I feel sanguine and hopeful. I have a lot that I want to do–small things and big big projects, and I feel excited about trying, whether or not they get done. I feel happy about thinking about them, even just thinking about them. I feel good about writing, just writing, whether anybody reads it or likes it doesn’t matter, I feel good about putting thoughts in order, and stringing words together, and surprising myself with all the odd phrases that come out of my constantly surprising mind, which you think I’d know better after 44 years of constant company. Last night in the car I had thought myself into a despondent mess, and Isaac said, “Mommy!! Guess what? Somebody’s being born, somebody’s being born, somebody’s being born, somebody’s being born, somebody’s coming home, somebody’s coming home, somebody’s coming home, somebody’s coming home, somebody’s sleeping, somebody’s sleeping, somebody’s sleeping, somebody’s sleeping…all over the world, right now!” And this morning Malcolm gave me a birthday letter that began “Have you ever wondered how the earth was created, God or science?” and ended, “P.S. Are crab apples edible? Because Charlie likes them and I want to try.” In the face of all of this blissfully cheerful existential information, How can a person stay cranky for long? Well, she can’t, and I won’t.

Beet greens with golden-beet pine nut sauce

Beet greens with golden-beet pine nut sauce

Golden beets, man. They’re pretty! And so darn tasty. We got some more from the farm, and I recently went on a ridiculously indulgent birthday shop and bought pine nuts and all sorts of other pricey items. So I decided to make this golden beet and pine nut tarator sauce. It’s got grated toasted beets, sage, rosemary, pine nuts, garlic, and a bit of balsamic. It was very tasty and surprising. Moreish, as the British say. We dipped fresh sweet peas in it, and crackers, and then I mixed it in with sauteed beet greens. It would be good with roasted vegetables, or tossed with pasta, or as a dip for chips, or any other way you can think of using a creamy flavorful sauce.

Here’s Big BIll Broonzy, who has a birthday today, too, playing Hey Hey, which I know I’ve posted before, but, hey, it’s my birthday!
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Tarragon and walnut pesto

tarragon and walnut pesto

tarragon and walnut pesto

Hey, kids! It’s Saturday storytelling time! As I’m sure you recall, this means that along with your daily recipe and song, you’ll get a story, too! Each week, everybody in our small salon of auteurs (well, generally me and one or two other people) writes a story based on a found photograph. If you’d like to write a story about it, and I hope you do, send me a copy and I’ll post it here, or send me a link if you have somewhere of your own to post it. Who are these men? Where are they? What are they reading?
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I bought a bunch of tarragon. I put some in a tart, and I had a lot left. I love tarragon, but I can’t put it in every single meal! So I decided to use it all in this pesto. We ate it with flatbread, beans and greens. You could toss it with pasta, or spread it on a pizza, or even serve it as a dip with chips or crackers. Strangely, Malcolm has said in the past that he doesn’t like tarragon, but he loved this, an gobbled it right down. It is very tarragon-y. This is vegan, but if you wanted it to be more like a traditional pesto, you could add parmesan, if you liked.

Here’s Duppy Conqueror by Bob Marley. It’s about ghosts, you know.
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