Brioche-crusted pie with greens, butter beans, raisins and walnuts

Brioche crusted pie

Brioche crusted pie

Isaac woke up early with a nightmare. He wanted to cuddle, and it was a cold sleety slatey morning, I should have cuddled. But I mumbled something cranky about having to make his lunch and got myself a cup of coffee. He told me about his dream, but I only half-heard. He was on a field trip, and there was a train, and it left without him. He told me that last night, he and Malcolm were playing a game of catch with a stuffed dinosaur, and Malcolm told him they wouldn’t be able to play games like that when they got older. They talked about getting older, and Isaac told Malcolm he doesn’t want him to go away when he turns eighteen, and they both agreed to live in this house when they’re married and have children and dogs of their own. I think about time passing constantly, perpetually. The thought of it is a strange sort of weight, sometimes pleasantly grounding, sometimes like falling down on hard rocks. It’s so poignant to me to think about the boys thinking about time passing, thinking about this moment as something they won’t have forever. It’s so strange to think about them almost regretting this time even as it passes, and fondly remembering this illicit game of after-dark-dinosaur-catch even as they’re playing it. And, of course, I thought about how time works in such a way that by the time they’re eighteen they’ll feel differently about everything, when they’re married and have kids and dogs of their own they’ll see the world from a completely different center. And how when they’re older they’ll realize that they can still play catch with a stuffed dinosaur any time they like. And this being the day before Thanksgiving, I thought about how grateful I am that they’re good friends, and how thankful I am to have them as my friends. And I thought about yesterday at the doctor’s office. We went for flu shots, and Malcolm was near-tears-worried. We sat in the waiting room, which happens to be across the street from our house, and I looked at our house from the outside. It was just that time of day when the lamps came on, and the cars’ headlights made colorful splashes on the slick grey streets, but it hadn’t ever really been light all day. Our windows were lit and warm, and our dog was waiting in the doorway watching us. We waited over an hour, which felt horrible, what with all the anxiety and apprehension. But we were closed into a little room, waiting, and it started to be okay. The boys made each other laugh about stupid things, which probably seemed funnier because we were nervous. They were weighed and measured, and they’re growing about an inch a month, which seems crazy and beautiful, and I had that strange feeling of pride that starts when they’re tiny babies and put on an ounce or two. And I realized I want to be thankful for all the moments, not just when we’re gathered around an abundant table, but when we’re sitting in a waiting room, or stuck in traffic, or arguing over homework, or when they’re driving us crazy by playing catch with a stuffed dinosaur when they should be asleep. All of it, I’m so grateful for all of it.

Brioche-crusted pie

Brioche-crusted pie

I’ve gotten to the point where I call any yeasted dough with eggs in it “brioche dough.” I know! It’s not right! It’s lazy and inaccurate. So this isn’t really a brioche dough, but it’s a tender, rich, flakey sort of dough. And it’s nice and crispy on the outside. I filled it with my favorite combination of greens, raisins and nuts, but you could put anything you like in there. I used kale and chard, but you could use spinach or broccoli rabe. I used walnuts but it probably would have been better with pine nuts, and you could easily use pecans or almonds. You see, it’s very versatile. I think this would make a nice vegetarian Thanksgiving option, and in fact I plan to make something similar for dinner tomorrow, and maybe I’ll tell you about it some other time.

Here’s Bob Marley and the Wailing Wailers with Put it On.

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Empanadas with greens, chickpeas and cranberries

Kale, cranberry and chickpea empanadas

Kale, cranberry and chickpea empanadas

I’ve been thinking about the way our world changes, and specifically about the way people bring about that change. Our history as humans is a pattern of progress and change, progress and change. We’ll head blindly in one direction, unable to see quite where we’re going because it’s so close, and then somebody or somebodies will push us in another direction. With a grand gesture, with a slow protest, with a war, with a sit-in, with a newspaper article, with a violent act, with a strike, with a clear bold voice, or in a confused tangle of contradictory words. I’ve been thinking about certain small acts of rebellion that I love, certain quiet ways that people have changed the rules. They change the world slowly, almost imperceptibly, but the change grows in widening waves. The personal becomes political and art becomes powerful. I love to read about blues musicians from the last century, growing up in a world of poverty and discrimination and finding a way to make music no matter what the odds. Nobody hired them a music teacher so they’d understand the rules of musical theory. Big Bill Broonzy made a fiddle from a cigar box, Elizabeth Cotten taught herself to play guitar upside-down, they figured it out themselves, with the help of some friends. They sang about their lives, the way they actually were, the trains running by their door, the work they had to do, and they sang about the way they wished their lives could be. The rules they answered to in life were harsh and unjust, but in music they made their own rules, they made music the way they wanted it to sound–that was theirs. And with books like Catcher in the Rye, Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird, we find a whole new world of writing, with the language people actually use, according to the rules of conversation and not those of grammar. These books are intimate and personal and real, and they describe the lives of normal people as they actually are. This small feat frightened people enough that they were all banned, at one time or another. And, of course, I love filmmakers who make films the way they think they should be. Hollywood films have quite a rigid set of rules that dictate the way they’re made. These rules are nearly invisible to the viewer, because they’re designed to make a film seem more realistic, and because we’ve grown up with them, we’ve learned them, without even realizing. Well, I love a director like Yasujiro Ozu, who defies these rules. He sets the camera where he thinks it should be, he moves it when it needs to be moved (not very often!) he crosses sight lines, he leaves out plot points. Not to be rebellious, but because he knows how he wants his films to look. His films are mostly about middle-class families going about their lives. They seem placid and uneventful, at least compared to most movies. But in showing us the way we live, in showing us hurtful pettiness and gossip, thoughtlessness and ingratitude, he makes us think about the way we could live, the way we could treat the people around us. It’s subtle and slow, but it seeps into you and makes you notice everything differently and more clearly. And I believe this small slow change is the most important, and that it extends to all things…not just to art and politics, but to life, which is the very heart of art and politics. We can change the world with the food that we eat, the cars that we drive, the books that we read. We change the world by struggling to understand it, by recognizing the rules that govern us as they are, and by deciding the way we want them to be. We change the world with every kindness to another person, and it’s a shame that this sounds sappy, because it’s true.
Kale, chickpea and cranberry empanadas

Kale, chickpea and cranberry empanadas

Well, I totally wasn’t going to go on and on about this today! It’s been on my mind, man. I think it’s because David and I just bought some Big Bill Broonzy CDs and they’re phenomenal, and because I’m reading this biography of Jean Vigo. Yeah. So! These are summery sorts of empanadas, I think. I made them for our anniversary picnic dinner. Empanadas make the best picnic food, because you can eat them with your hands and walk around with them, and they combine so many flavors and food groups in one neat package. I also boiled some little potatoes and tossed them with herbs and butter, and they are also a fun, if messy, picnic food. Our picnic was spoiled by dozens and dozens of ticks…a sickening tickening…but we came home and sat in our backyard and finished our empanadas, or lovely smoky, savory sweet empanadas.

Here’s Big Bill Broonzy with Feelin Low Down. Phew, what a song!

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