Smoky roasted delicata squash (On a pizza, on a salad)

Roasted delicata squash

Roasted delicata squash

I woke up in the middle of the night recently thinking about the word “ardent,” as one does. It’s a word we should use more often, it’s a way we should feel more often. The next morning I looked it up in the good old OED. I was delighted, dee-light-ed, to discover that “ardent” once meant “burning” and “glowing,” and these are the roots of the word. I love anything that glows! I love the idea of people glowing with an emotion. It feels too easy to go through each day half asleep, especially if you have a job you don’t love. Because every day is so full of things that need to be done–cleaning and shopping and chores. It’s impossible to face everything with fervor and ardor.

I thought about this:

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I agree with Calvin! But in a world where you can’t always be enthusiastic about everything you have to do, you can at least be passionate about everything you choose to do: the music you listen to, the books you read, the walks you walk, the meals you cook.

And I thought about The Idiot (which I am still reading). People in The Idiot are in a state. They’re excited, they’re ecstatic, they’re rapturous, they’re ardent. They all glow with their desires and even with their worries and their confusion. They’re ardent in their affection, love, admiration, friendship. They seem so alive. The Idiot suffers from epileptic fits, as Dostoyevsky himself did, and the description of the ecstatic moments before a fit is both frightening and beautiful:

He was thinking, incidentally, that there was a moment or two in his epileptic condition almost before the fit itself (if it occurred in waking hours) when suddenly amid the sadness, spiritual darkness and depression, his brain seemed to catch fire at brief moments….His sensation of being alive and his awareness increased tenfold at those moments which flashed by like lightning.  His mind and heart were flooded by a dazzling light.  All his agitation, doubts and worries, seemed composed in a twinkling, culminating in a great calm, full of understanding…

I fainted once, many years ago, and I felt something like this just moments before I fell. I wouldn’t like to feel this way all the time, obviously I wouldn’t, but it’s such a strange change from the stupor I feel most of the time going about the days. And obviously it’s not practical or even desirable to be as invested in every emotion as the characters in the Idiot are. It would be exhausting! But you know what else is tiring? Feeling half-alive all day long. Feeling “meh” about everything you do, as time flies by on its strong swift wings. As in all other things, I guess we have to find some balance, and to be as passionate about the people and occupations we love as we can, and to find as much joy in our chores as we can muster. Or at least to find some moments in each day that set us afire, that glow for us.

Pizza with pistachio herb pesto and roasted delicata squash

Pizza with pistachio herb pesto and roasted delicata squash

We got some lovely delicata squash from our CSA farm a few weeks in a row. I found a way to roast it, thinly sliced, and then season it with smoked paprika, salt and pepper, and I kind of ran with that! I put it on a pizza with a pistachio-sage pesto, and it was almost like pepperoni. (Not that I really remember what that was like!) This was a late summer-into-autumn pizza, with pretty golden tomatoes to go with the pretty roasted squash. I put it on a salad layered with red rice, smoked basmati rice and farro, and with french lentils, and topped with a bright lemony pine nut sauce. I’ve included a bunch of recipes after the jump. You can mix and match! Or you can make the squash and do whatever you like with it!

Salad with roasted delicata squash

Salad with roasted delicata squash

Here’s The Wailing Wailers with Who Feels it Knows it.

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Pizza with grilled mushrooms, french lentils and roasted potatoes

Pizza with french lentils, grilled mushrooms and roasted potatoes

Pizza with french lentils, grilled mushrooms and roasted potatoes

“Do you want to hear something that doesn’t make sense?”

“Yes I do.”

Isaac and I are walking to school on a spring morning that’s warm on the inside and cool on the outside, on a morning that makes you shiver. The day will warm up, the year will warm up, but it’s all on the edge right now. He’s got one finger hovering softly on my spine just between my shoulder blades as we walk along, which is a thing that he does lately that pretty much knocks me out with the sweetness of it.

“I’m a non-evil demon wizard who is 999 years old, and Malcolm is a 13-year-old fire wizard…”

This is not the thing that doesn’t make sense. So far, this all makes perfect sense. The thing that doesn’t make sense is that Malcolm says Isaac’s not allowed to use fire against him, or is vulnerable to Malcolm’s fire, which…

“Now you’re just making fun of me!”

I wasn’t, I swear, but I was laughing so hard I might have missed the crux of the problem. I said maybe they could work together to make something out of fire.

“I don’t make things out of fire,” replied Isaac indignantly, “I live in cities of fire!”

Well! They do this a lot. They make up worlds, and those worlds have rules, and those rules are constantly shifting. Their place in the world changes with the rules, as do their powers and abilities, their actions and their fates. Usually it’s Malcolm, with his older-brother-power, making up most of the rules, which means his character has more power and “wins.” But Isaac can hold his own, he’s got a fierce imagination too. Or he can just stop playing. I’ve been thinking that this is not something we outgrow, though the older we get the less fun and funny it is. It’s still people with more power making all the rules and telling us that our actions are useless and our abilities are worthless. Telling us that we’re powerless against their fire. And that’s when we summon our fierce imaginations and change the rules so that it works out better for everyone. Or we just stop playing their game.

Pizza with french lentils, grille mushrooms and roasted potatoes.

Pizza with french lentils, grille mushrooms and roasted potatoes.

This pizza was a good way to use up some leftovers. Leftover french lentils, leftover roast potatoes, leftover grilled mushrooms. But it was also delicious! Smoky from the pine nuts and grilled mushrooms, earthy and sweet from the lentils. Nicely crispy and soft.

Here’s You Can Never Hold Back Spring by Tom Waits, because I love it.

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Roasted parsnip, pecan, and caramelized shallot pizza

Pecan, parsnip and shallot pizza

Pecan, parsnip and shallot pizza

Well I finally finished reading Zola’s Nana. It took me an embarrassingly long time to get through it. I enjoyed it and admired it; of course it’s  well-written, but the truth is it made me a little sad and it’s hard to spend too much time in Nana’s world. None of the characters treat her very well, and neither does Zola himself. It’s not just that he’s cruel to her with the plot, although he is. He’s not kind to her with his words, or with the words he has her speak. I don’t think it’s intentional on his part. He wanted her to be a sympathetic character, he didn’t want her to be held responsible for all of the destruction that occurs. In his notes about her, which he assembled before he wrote the novel, he describes her as “…good-natured above all else. Follows her nature, but never does harm for heart’s sake, and feels sorry for people.” But just as she becomes “…a ferment of destruction, but without meaning to, simply by means of her sex…” so she also becomes a character Zola can’t completely realize or embrace, because he knows he doesn’t understand her and he fears her power. Zola’s style of writing is very straight-forward and unadorned, almost documentary. I learned in the introduction to my version that Zola published a work called The Experimental Novel around the same time that Nana came out, in which he said that “imagination had no place in the modern world, and that the novelist, like the scientist, should simply observe and record, introducing characters with specific hereditary peculiarities into a given environment–just as the chemist places certain substances in a retort–and then noting down the progress and results of his “experiment.” So Nana reacts to the world around her, and vice versa, because of “hereditary peculiarities” and because she’s a woman. But of course a novel isn’t scientific, and relations between anybody, either real or fictional, are never predictable. Even in reality, we create the people in our life. We take notes on their character, we make decisions about them and expectations about how they’ll act. And sometimes we’re not kind about it, particularly if we don’t understand them or fear them because they’re different from us. For the most part Zola maintains the cool clinical tone of an observer. But to me the novel is most beautiful when people behave unexpectedly, and when Zola’s language bursts through with emotion and poetry. Nana has many lovers, but there’s only one person she seems to actually love, who seems to love her, Satin. Satin calls to her, “Come along! Come along!” and “Nana undressed in the dressing-room. To be quicker about it, she took her thick mass of blonde hair in both hands and began shaking it above the silver wash-basin, so that a shower of long hair-pins rang a chime on the shining metal.” What a perfect poem of anticipation! It’s a kindness, a gift, this moment and this love, no matter how short-lived. In literature, as in life, everything is more beautiful when it’s messy and unexpected and we don’t decide about it beforehand.

I’ve been making lots of pizzas lately! I always make a “normal” one for the boys, with marinara and mozzarella, and then I make a weird one. I’ve been experimenting with lots of almost-pesto sauces, which are almost more like savory frangipane. And this one was no exception. It had a pecan sauce, which I actually made earlier in the week to have with kofta. I added an egg and a little smoked gouda and topped it with roasted parsnips and caramelized shallots. Smoky, savory, a little sweet. Nice.

Here’s Nantes by Beirut, because it sounds almost like “Nana” and it’s got the French connection.

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Tarragon pesto pizza with salsify and asparagus

Tarragon pesto pizza with salsify and asparagus

Tarragon pesto pizza with salsify and asparagus

American Mythologies, #4: Catcher in the Rye is a sophomoric over-rated novel about teen angst.

    The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. A controversial novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation.The novel’s protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion.

Thus speaketh Wikipedia, and although ordinarily I would eschew Wikipedia as a less-than-scholarly source, when dealing with American mythologies, it is the authority, the ultimate collection of all of the opinions that have gathered over the years to become myth. Whether or not you like Catcher in the Rye, I think we can all agree that it has achieved mythic status in the pantheon of American literature. And Salinger’s legendary reclusiveness has only added to the mysterious air of cool that clings to the novel. I would argue that, over the years, our ideas of what the novel is about have taken on a life of their own, so that now they seem more real in some ways than the original story, and they bear little relation to it. Now we think of Holden as a rebel, a maverick, and if they ever made the book into a movie (which, mercifully, they never will) it would star James Dean or a young Marlon Brando. Wikipedia tells us, “Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States,” because Holden was a bad role model, further adding, “Often the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself.” No less than three shootings have been somehow associated with the book. Of course none of this has anything to do with anything that actually happens in the book. The very phrase, “teen angst” is disparaging; it suggests that the nature of the angst is trivial and misguided, a self-centered foolishness to be outgrown, born of boredom and a bratty hatred for everything and everybody. Teen angst is all about ME, and why I’m so unfortunate. And I think Holden is thinking about everyone around him: his elderly teacher, the ducks in Central Park, his kid sister, his old friend, his dead brother, children in some mis-heard song, some miserable kid prostitute in a green dress. I think that’s why it’s beautiful. I don’t think Holden hates anyone, I think his problem, the source of his pain, is that he loves everyone he meets. Even with the people he doesn’t like he finds something to love. The kid who is a terrific bore is an excellent whistler, “So I don’t know about bores. Maybe you shouldn’t feel too sorry if you see some swell girl getting married to them. They’re don’t hurt anybody, most of them, and maybe they’re secretly all terrific whistlers or something. Who the hell knows? Not me.” He loves everybody: the mother he meets on the train, the nuns he meets in the station, the grippey teacher who yells “good luck” at him, the girl whose roller skate he tightens. He’s not the scowling kid who scrawls “Fuck You” every where he goes, he’s the kid who gets depressed when he sees that somebody else has done that. He doesn’t hate school because he’s too cool for it, it’s just the opposite, he hates the fact that people are forced to be more cool, more contained, to dim their enthusiasm. “What I mean is, lots of time you don’t know what interests you most till you start talking about something that doesn’t interest you most. I mean you can’t help it sometimes. What I think is, you’re supposed to leave somebody alone if he’s at least being interesting and he’s getting all excited about something. I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It’s nice.” He doesn’t mistrust adults or authority figures, unless they’re hypocritical or tyrannical. I think he recognizes that they’re as confused as he is, that you never really outgrow the bewilderment caused by human connection, by sex, by loss, by loneliness. I think Holden is a teenager in the way Calvin is a six-year-old, his age allows him to say things we’re all feeling, as does the fact that he keeps calling himself a moron and a madman. There’s a passage in the book in which he’s talking about Laurence Olivier’s performance of Hamlet and he says, “He was too much like a goddamn general, instead of a sad, screwed-up type guy.” And I think Holden is that sad, screwed up type guy, too, not a fighter, not a rebel. And he’s got good reason to be sad. In Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the title characters go through the long list of woes that have afflicted Hamlet, and then they say, “And why are you behaving in this extraordinary manner?” It’s like that with Catcher in the Rye, too. His brother died at the age of eleven, when Holden was only thirteen. Three short years prior to the time that the story is set. He’s been in one boarding school after another since that time, alone, lonely, homesick, mourning. It’s Christmas time and he’s afraid to go home because he’s failed out of another school. Why would he behave in this extraordinary way? Why would he have a breakdown and become sick and sit in the park thinking he was going to die? Why would he talk aloud to his dead brother, wracked with regret over the one time he didn’t let him ride to his friend’s house years ago? How could he not! He’s searching for some sort of meaningful connection, and he’s disappointed by people who pretend to be something they’re not, or hide who they really are. But he loves them anyway. I know I quote this passage too much, but he reminds me of Alyosha in Brothers Karamazov, “Do you know, Lise, my elder told me once to care for most people exactly as one would for children, and for some of them as one would for the sick in hospitals.” Holden feels sorry for people a lot, and I think that’s a form of love. At the end of Franny and Zooey, when Zooey, as an adolescent, says everybody is a moron, his brother Seymore tells him to shine his shoes or be funny for the fat lady, and then Franny and Zooey get this idea of a cancer patient somewhere, listening to them talk, and then Zooey says the fat lady is christ, which means that everybody is christ, but they’re Jewish, so it’s not in any Christian sense of the word. It’s about loving everybody that you meet. And I think Holden does that. In Brothers Karamazov Ivan talks at great length about the suffering of children, and he asks Alyosha if he would kill one child to bring peace to the entire world. Alysosha wouldn’t, he would save the child, and Holden, standing on the edge of a cliff, would save all the children if he could, as they come running through the rye.

I’ve gone on and on, and I could go on even more! I could write a book about this book. But I won’t. I’ll tell you about this pizza instead. I think it had nice flavors, sort of nutty from the salsify and asparagus, and bright from the tarragon. We grew salsify in our garden this summer, and we’re just harvesting it now. It’s a funny sort of root, with a mild sweet nutty flavor. It’s quite hard to find in stores. You could replace it with parsnips if you can’t find salsify. It’s similar, and much easier to clean. Or you could leave it out altogether. This would still be tasty.

Here’s Just One of Those Things by Art Tatum, because it’s a song Holden likes.

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Pizza with pecan sage pesto and roasted mushrooms and potatoes

Pizza with pecan sage pesto

Pizza with pecan sage pesto

I’m feeling a little foggy in my brain lately, and if I’m being honest I’ve been in a bad mood. A terrible bad mood. (As opposed to my usual wonderful bad mood.) I’ve been epically discouraged, and I don’t really feel like doing anything. Blame it on the hibernating weather, if you like. So today I sat down to do nothing in the form of watching the supplementary material on a DVD we watched a week or so ago. Interviews with the director and the stars. This wasn’t the usual Hollywood miasma of self-congratulatory celebrities recounting hijinks with forced jollity. This was people remembering a film they worked on fifty-two years ago, reflecting on their lives at that time and on what they had become. And I swear to god the director had a message for me. It’s an odd story. Serge Bourguignon made Sundays and Cybele in 1962. It was his first feature and he was thirty-three years old. It didn’t do very well in France, it didn’t get distribution, but it got rave reviews at the Venice film festival, a New York Times reporter called it a masterpiece, and it won the oscar for best foreign language film. Needless to say, all this attention and affection from critics and Americans meant that the film got distribution in France, and also that it earned scorn from the other French filmmakers of the New Wave. Their films were fast, unplanned, edgy. Sundays and Cybele is slow and dreamlike, and it’s finely made. I’ve always admired the collaborative nature of the French New Wave, how they made films together and talked about films together and wrote about films together. It’s always seemed like it would be fun to live in such a time, to have friends like that. Bourguignon describes the new wavers as a club of cool kids, which he wasn’t part of, and I’d never really thought of it in that light. And then I read a modern scholarly essay on the film, and the author talked about how differently the film would be received now than it was then, because we’re all so jaded and cynical now and people grow up so fast. But to hear the people talking, people were always jaded and cynical and even in 1962 they watched the film with doubt and suspicion. The film tells the story of a thirty-year-old soldier, scarred by his experiences in Vietnam, who has trouble remembering, trouble fitting in. He meets a twelve-year-old girl, abandoned by her parents, who develops a strong attachment to him. They love each other, they’re good friends, and that is all. They’re children together, and she helps him as much as he helps her. Complicated, of course, but beautiful, like most human relationships. The director and the stars describe the filmmaking process as a wonderfully serendipitous time. Everything happened exactly as it should, everyone was happy, every moment was perfectly captured just as it should be. And the film is ridiculously beautiful, gorgeously filmed, so perfectly acted it doesn’t feel like acting, with a wonderful score, and a strangely dizzyingly clear feeling of looking at the world through patterns in glass or water.

Bourguignon talks about his career after Sundays and Cybele, which went really nowhere. He doesn’t sound bitter. And he says, I have written films since, I have dreamed films, and maybe someday another little miracle will happen, and I will make another film. Well! I have dreamed films! I have written films! And the film I have written, which on my good days I know that I will make someday, has almost exactly the same plot as Sundays and Cybele. That’s why I first noticed the film! That’s why I watched the DVD as soon as it became available on DVD! It’s the strangest thing, I tell you, the strangest thing, to sit here feeling old and discouraged and watch Bourguignon, who by any account has had remarkable success in his life, sounding old and discouraged. And then sounding so hopeful! It’s discombobulating. Well, I will make my film one day, and I look forward to watching Bourguignon’s next small miracle of a film as well.

pizza with pecan sage pesto

pizza with pecan sage pesto

I’ve been making lots of cheesy crusty things lately, to set myself up for hibernation, and this was no exception. Very autumnal! It’s smoky and flavorful. It’s more of a custard than a pesto, I guess, but either way…

Here’s Marisa Anderson in a tiny desk concert for NPR. I think she’s remarkable.

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Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes, and herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes, and herbs

This week, the Guardian UK had this bit of advice from a teacher to any and all parents. “Your kids are not your mates. Something I’m starting to hear with worrying frequency within the primary school setting is ‘my daughter’s my best friend.’ Often, this rings alarm bells. Your kids aren’t your mates. You’re their parent, and your responsibility is to provide them with guidance and boundaries, not to drag them into your own disputes. Your nine-year-old doesn’t need to know about your bitter feud with his friend’s mother, or which dad you’ve got the hots for at the school gate.” Well, I’m sorry, Guardian UK, you’re still my best newspaper friend forever, but I think this advice twists the issue and gets it wrong. First of all, the real problem is that a parent is telling anyone about their bitter feud with his friend’s mother or about which dad they have the hots for. Or that they have a bitter feud with their kid’s best friend’s mother in the first place. Some things are best kept to yourself! Secondly, this is such a strange definition of friendship! A friend is not necessarily someone you complain to or to enlist in your feuds. (Unless we’re all in some tawdry reality show and I’m blissfully unaware of it!) For me a friend is somebody who you enjoy spending time with, who you’re comfortable with, who you enjoy talking to, who you’ll take care of when they’re sick or down or need help with anything, and who you know will take care of you, too. And why am I bothering to get all huffy about a random article from the Guardian? I suppose it’s because just last week I was thinking happily about what good friends my boys have become for me. It’s one of my greatest pleasures in life, thinking about what good people and good friends they’re becoming. Walking with them, talking with them, cooking with them, reading with them, playing frisbee or basketball or some strange hybrid game that Malcolm invented that involves playing basketball with a frisbee while walking like a penguin. Even playing video games, which I do so badly that Malcolm laughs the whole time, is a good way to spend an afternoon. All of these are a joy to me, and more so every day. Of course I know that I’m the parent, I make the most basic rules, I tell them when it’s time to stop playing penguin ball and come and do some homework. I make them eat (at least some) of their dinner, I tell them when it’s time to go to bed. Or rather David and I do, because he’s a friend, too, and we’re all in this together. And of course I don’t expect them to take me to the doctor when I’m sick, or make me toast or decide what medicine I should take, like I do for them. But I do think it’s crushingly sweet that when I don’t feel well they bring me water, or try to be more quiet so that I can rest. And I think it’s important for them to feel needed, to feel as though they can help take care of somebody that they love. I think it’s important for them to know that we enjoy talking to them, that conversations with them are as entertaining and enlightening as with anyone else I know. From when he was very little, Isaac has said, “You’re fun to be with.” And I think it’s important for them to know that they’re fun to be with, too. The Guardian’s preachy teacher warned that being friends with your children might lead to social alienation for them later in life, but I believe the opposite. I believe they’re learning how to be a friend, and how good it feels to have a friend, how good it is to care. Or so I dearly hope!

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and fresh herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and fresh herbs

Here’s another of my world famous pizza-like tarts. It has a yeasted crust with olive oil in it, which, let’s face it, is a pizza crust. But it also has an egg and cheese custard in the middle, which makes it like a big flat quiche. This one began as a way to use up leftover grilled portobellos and some cooked tiny potatoes. I decided to use them as toppings here. I also used smoked gouda, to accentuate the smokiness of the grilled mushrooms. And we have such an exciting variety of herbs in our garden, and I used them all!! I love a big medley of herbs together, with all of the unexpected and delightful flavors. Some herbs I think of as better cooked…sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano. And others I like best fresh and raw–basil, tarragon, cilantro. So I mixed some in with the custard and baked them into the tart, and others I scattered on top at the end.

Here’s The White Stripes with We’re Going to be Friends.

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Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded mushrooms and eggplant

Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded mushrooms and eggplant

Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded mushrooms and eggplant

Yesterday we had torrential rain on and off all day. In the middle of the grey morning, Malcolm came home sick from school. We sat on the couch with his soft blanket and soft grey dog, and he ate a warm blueberry bagel, and asked if I’d read aloud to him from Go Saddle the Sea, one of my favorite books when I was his age. It’s the tale of a boy named Felix traveling through Spain on a beloved, bad-tempered mule. The boy is about Malcolm’s age, and he’s fair and strong and smart and resourceful, like my Malcolm is. It felt so perfect to sit with Malcolm on this icy wet day, warm and dry, reading this book, thinking about how, when I first read it and loved it, I could never have guessed about Malcolm, never have guessed that someday I’d have a boy so sweet and clever and complex. Malcolm is so strong and capable and level-headed that I’ve come to rely on him to help me with so many things, and it seemed so strange to see him miserable and sick, lying on the couch “crying without even trying.” I’ve probably mentioned it before, but one of my favorite quotes of all time is this one, “Do you know, Lise, my elder told me once to care for most people exactly as one would for children, and for some of them as one would for the sick in hospitals.” It’s Alyosha from Brother’s Karmazov, who is kind and thoughtful to everybody that he meets. It might sound condescending, but I think the point is that we were all children once, and everybody gets sick sometimes. We’re all in it together, we’re all here to care for each other. I think about this passage sometimes when I’m waiting on tables, or talking to co-workers or teachers or total strangers, when I’m feeling bitter and ill-used, when somebody is rude to me. It’s hard sometimes, but with an effort I can remember that they were children once, they’re still somebody’s children, somebody cared for them as I care for my boys. I can remember that they have been sick, or imagine that they’re even in present pain, that they certainly have cares and worries that I’ll never know about. Yesterday I was thinking that being sick makes us into children again. It makes us needy and vulnerable. Everybody wants to be taken care of when they’re not feeling well, no matter how old and important they may be. Malcolm’s so strong and capable, he’s growing up so fast, he does everything so fast, he never stands still. It felt like a rare gift to have this rainy day with him, though I’m sorry he was so miserable. It’s like a rare chance to slow things down a little, to travel back in time to his (younger) childhood, to my childhood. It seems like a reminder that though we’re always looking forward, always looking inward, everything goes in cycles and turns in circles, and we can take an afternoon to sit under blankets and read an old book, watch cartoons, eat crackers and ginger beer, doze and wake. A day well-spent.

Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded eggplant and mushrooms

Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded eggplant and mushrooms

This was really two meals. The first night I marinated and breaded some mushrooms and slices of eggplant until they were tender and crispy. We ate these over couscous, with a sauce of pistachios and castelvetrano olives. The second night, I made some pizza dough, spread the sauce over, topped it with a mixture of smoked gouda, sharp cheddar and mozzarella, and then scattered the leftover mushrooms and eggplant over that. Delicious!

Here’s A Tribe Called Quest with Excursions, “I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles”

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Pizza with chard, golden raisins and pine nuts

IMG_3452“O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!”

“And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.”

I love this exchange. It is, of course, spoken by Hamlet and his friend Horatio, and it is, of course, followed by “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I love the idea that a “stranger” is not just a new or unfamiliar person, but a wondrous strange person as well, and I love the implication that we’re all strangers. We’re all full of wondrously inexplicable ideas and emotions and inspiration. We’re all new somewhere, we’re all unusual to someone. And therefore we should welcome strangeness in others, even if they happen to be ghosts yelling at us from underneath the stage. Hamlet and Horatio are students of Wittenberg University, and are presumably deep in the study of rational thought, they probably both believe, as most students do, that it’s their job to understand everything and explain everything. But the ghostly visit teaches them that this isn’t possible for anyone. Nobody’s ideology is broad enough to hold everything on heaven and earth, nor even to hold dreams of everything. And this is why it’s important to welcome what you don’t understand, and make room for dreams of it in your own philosophy, because you’re asking others to make room for you in theirs.

Pizza with chard, pine nuts and golden raisins

Pizza with chard, pine nuts and golden raisins

This is my all-time favorite pizza! Why? Because chard, raisins and pine nuts is my favorite meal, and the only thing that can make it better is the addition of some melty cheese and a thin crispy crust, that’s why!

Here’s Stranger Blues by Elmore James

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Savory cake with mushrooms, chard, pecans & pistachios

Savory cake with chard, mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

Savory cake with chard, mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

“Mom? Someday? Can we go to a junkyard? And bring home junk? And make sculptures with it? What are those things called?”
“Sculptures?”
“Yeah.”
“Um, they’re called sculptures.”
“Yeah. You know a lot of people think junk is just junk, but it’s not!”
“What is it?”
“Art materials!”
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.

Savory cake with chard, roasted mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

Savory cake with chard, roasted mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

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

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Castelvetrano pistachio and white bean pizza with a chickpea flour crust

White bean, olive and pistachio pizza

White bean, olive and pistachio pizza

“I am the Light of This World,” is the name of a song by The Reverend Gary Davis that I am currently completely obsessed with. It’s got a surpassingly sweet tune, seemingly simple, but actually a beautiful collection of voices woven around each other. The song rises and falls and goes round and round like water, and it feels good to let yourself get carried along with it. And the lyrics kill me. He doesn’t see the light, he doesn’t have the light, HE IS THE LIGHT OF THIS WORLD! He sings, “I’ve got fiery fingers, I’ve got fiery hands, And when I get up in heaven, Gonna join that fiery band.” I love the hopeful honest triumph of this whole idea. He’s not boasting, he’s stating the truth. I think of him as glowing, he sounds as though he’s glowing, and it must come out his finger tips and all along his hands as he plays his guitar, with so much skill and soul. He spreads the light with his music. I love to think about people having a light inside them, even being that light. I believe that this is something that every creature has, and as we grow and become jaded and mature, we learn to hide our light, we become closed and dark and careful. You can see it in dogs and children, though, everything they feel comes beaming out of them, unfiltered, unshaded, so bright and powerful you can warm yourself in their glow. I found a remarkable excerpt from an interview Gary Davis did with Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold, the wife of Alan Lomax. He’s so wise and funny and poetical. He speaks often of light, of his light, “It takes bitter medicine to do you good. But it’s a fact – I have had greater light on this experience about things, that’s why nothing don’t go hard with me. That’s the light that substantiate me to tell anybody what to weep and cry over and what to laugh over.” The light is knowledge, the light is faith, and the light is kindness and warmth. Again and again, Davis’ spirituality shines through as the strength to overcome sadness and trouble, and as the warmth of kindness, so that “You can know how to treat everybody, you know.” He describes death as a deep dark shower of rain, and lord knows that he’s experienced plenty of loss in his life, but he says, “I want to live as long as I possibly can.” He’s still got a lot of work to do, and as long as he’s in this world, he is the light. “The weakness of man’s strength and the brightness of his knowledge is what makes a man the finest of God’s creatures to walk the earth. I’m all the time studying what I can do for my people. You can’t do nothing for yourself unless you do it for somebody else first. You can’t bake a corncake for yourself unless you bake it for somebody else. It ain’t worth the effort.

In this world we have to talk a little and hush a heap.

Love is just like a vein in a spring:
Keeps you with supplements to cherish up what you have.”

Amen.

White bean, olive and pistachio pizza

White bean, olive and pistachio pizza

I’ve been wanting to put white beans on a pizza for a long time. Why? I DON”‘T KNOW! I just thought it would be good, and it was good! I’ve put chickpeas on pizzas, and that turned out well. I wanted this to be a simple pizza, mostly white and green, with some flashes of red from the tomatoes. So it’s got pretty castelvetrano olives, tasty toasted pistachio kernels, white beans, and just a smattering of cheese. It’s a light and tasty affair. I added some chickpea flour to the dough, making it almost like a socca (except that it also has yeast and white flour in it!) I think this gave the crust a kind of earthy substantiality and crispiness that worked well as a base for all of these bright flavorful toppings.

Here’s I Am The Light of this World.

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