Ring-shaped pie with french lentils, chard, walnuts, and butternut squash

chard-french-lentil,-butterWe had a lovely snow on Christmas eve, light and soft, the kind that makes the whole world seem clean and quiet. Snow makes Clio crazy, it brings out one of the “four formes of canine madnesse, the frantic or crazed madnesse.” She leaps about the yard, and then races in with icy snow in her pink paw pads, and leaps off of the furniture with mad abandon. I watched her on Christmas eve, and thought of Steenbeck, our old dog, buried in the yard under Clio’s frenetic paws, sleeping beneath a blanket of silent snow. I felt a sudden sadness, but it was a comforting sadness, in some inexplicable way. And on New Year’s Day we went to a party at a friend’s house, up on the hill above our small city. We walked up, it being a clear, cold day, and it felt good to shake some of the holiday-induced torpor from my mind. The party was lovely, with many children instantly interacting, as they so delightfully do, making things, and sharing things, and giggling. And we drank some good red wine, and talked to friends from town and just out of town – some we see nearly every day, some we see once or twice a year. It felt social, and cheerful, and just right for a New Year’s day. We left at dusk, which still comes early though the days are getting longer, and we walked home through the big old cemetery that over-looks our town. The stones were centuries old, but the names were familiar – the names of families that still live in our community. We read the name of the man who built our house in the 1850s, the name of the man we bought our house from ten years ago, the names of the people that own businesses in town, of families that our children go to school with. My boys raced along the paths, pelting each other with snowballs and laughing. And we walked down into town back to our old house, sleepy from the wine but sober from my thoughts, and made a warm meal, and watched a Buster Keaton movie, cuddled on the couch. It sounds idiotic, but I’d been thinking the night before about all the people that have ever lived. All of the humans that have walked on this earth, and lived, and loved, and wanted, and worked. Some in good fortune and freedom and wealth; most, probably, in poverty and servitude. But all wanting the same things, surely: affection, friendship, some degree of comfort, a kind hand, a warm meal. And I thought about it again, up on the hill, covered in a blanket of melting snow…”falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” I felt, again, that sort of comforting sadness, looking out on our beautiful town, on all of the houses lit up and ringing with laughter, with people crying, “happy new year!” Which brings us to my resolution, if I have one, and, I think I do, but in true Clairish style, it’s vague and muddled, so I hope you’ll forgive this ramble. I don’t make resolutions to lose weight, or be healthy, or give up bad habits. I’ve said before that I believe in finding a balance in everyday life, and that those things are built into the fabric of that balance, cycling continually day-to-day, working against each other. Everybody gains a bit of winter weight, but we’ll eat soup meagre for a week, run up and down the towpath with Clio a few times, and be fighting-fit come spring! To me, “resolve” doesn’t mean to give something up, but to come into focus, to become harmonious, to be solved, or healed. So I hope to bring things into focus and harmony in this new year, moment-to-moment and day-to-day. To notice everything, to recognize how vivid and poignant every moment is, how completely alive each person that I meet – how like me and how completely unique. I hope not to let fatigue, crankiness, or laziness cloud my senses or lessen my appreciation of time spent with my children and David; of strong flavors, good sounds, beautiful sights. Not to be crippled by the sense that time is passing, but to let that awareness help me to feel more keenly. Not to be distracted by our fast, cold, cluttered, cynical world from clarity, light and warmth.

Well, this is my grand ambition for the new year, and this was the pie I made for New Year’s eve and New Year’s day. To eat leftovers on New Year’s day feels like striking out in the direction of frugality and good sense! I made the pie in a ring, because I’d read that ring-shaped foods are considered lucky. I made the crust rosy-golden with cornmeal and smoked paprika, because it seems like a fortuitous color. I filled it with lentils and greens, for luck, walnuts for crunch, and roasted butternut squash for flavor and sweetness, and capers for their flavor-dynamite explosion, so that our life will be sweet, flavorful, tangy, and substantial. Or, you know, whatever…who believes these old superstitions anyway?Ring-shaped pie Ring-shaped pie[/caption]

Here’s a whole album for you. It’s Jordi Savall playing Francois Couperin’s Pi├Ęces de Violes, we bought it for ourselves for Christmas, and it’s meltingly beautiful. Full of light and warmth and generosity, like a good life should be!
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