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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French lentil, roasted potato and smoked gouda pizza

French lentil and roasted potato pizza

French lentil and roasted potato pizza

Like many, many people, I suspect, I spent some time yesterday watching films and videos of Pete Seeger. In particular, we watched clips from his television show Rainbow Quest, which aired from 1965- 1966. It was videotaped in black and white, and although his wife, Toshi, was credited as “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer,” it happens that she actually directed the show. The program was made on a low budget, funded by Seeger and a co-producer, and though it’s humble and understated by today’s slick standards, it’s full of the generosity and joy that seems to pour out of Seeger. He seems so friendly and kind in a way that makes those ordinary qualities the most weighty and important in the world. Watching him, you can feel that he’s brimming over with the desire to share; to share music and knowledge and love. On his guitar he wrote the words “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” and the whole rich history of Seeger’s political activism just makes sense in this light. Looking back now it seems so easy to decide to be on the side of the oppressed, the poor, the hated. It couldn’t have been easy at the time, and we have the songs and spirit of Seeger to thank for helping to lead us in the direction of generosity and affection. He touched so many people, with his uncalculating unselfconscious enthusiasm. He was a teacher and a disseminator. It seems that his desire to make music and to perform was never about fame or stardom, it was about the joy of making the music and the need to send that music out into the world so that others could hear it as well. He had a curatorial spirit, which is a quality I greatly admire, because it’s so unselfish and giving. You never see him singing when he doesn’t invite others to sing with him, his friends, his colleagues, his audience. We watched a clip of him on Johnny Cash’s TV show in 1970. He sings Worried Man Blues. Cash sets him up a chair at the edge of the stage, because he knows that Seeger needs to get the audience to sing with him. Seeger talks about the worries that we all share, and then he talks about the hope waiting for all of us, “Well I looked down the track just as far as I could see, little bitty hand was waving back at me.” We watched Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash on Seeger’s show as well. They tell stories, they sing together, they talk about friends they’ve loved and lost, and sing their songs as well. They sing folk songs about living and loving and dying and being remembered. Johnny Cash died four months after June, and Pete Seeger died yesterday, six months after his wife, Toshi. Just watching these clips of them, over the years, makes you thankful for enduring love and friendship in the world, wherever we can find it. Pete Seeger sings a song for June and Johnny, “Little birdy, little birdy, what makes your wings so blue, it’s because I’ve been a dreaming, dreaming after you, Little birdy little birdy come sing to me a song, I’ve a short while to be here, and a long time to be gone. Little birdy, little birdy, what makes you fly so high, it’s because I am a true little bird, and I do not fear to die.”

French lentil, roasted potato and smoked gouda pizza

French lentil, roasted potato and smoked gouda pizza

This is a very comforting wintertime pizza. Warm and smoky, soft and crispy.

Here’s Elizabeth Cotten on Rainbow Quest, telling the heartbreaking and hopeful story of how she met the Seegers because she worked for them as a cleaning lady and cook, and Pete Seeger’s step mother discovered that she played the guitar, though she hadn’t played in years.
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Harvest pie with potatoes, tomatoes and basil

End of summer pie

End of summer pie

Autumn is a good season for time travel. Not extensive trips involving complicated machines, but small, simple glimpses into the past. Maybe it’s the way scents travel in the clear air, or the way the light seems more slanting and golden, but for the last few days I keep finding myself in some other time of my life. Not that I’m just reminded of another time, but for a moment I’m there. I’m a child walking to school in England, or a twenty-three year old walking through the world with my new friend David. For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot the past few days about time passing. Not in the usual way that I think about it passing in my life or in the lives of people I love or in the seasons changing, but on a larger scale, a bigger cycle, about how the world has changed so much and is constantly changing, but under all the clutter and confusion people haven’t changed that much. We still all want the same things: someplace safe to rest our head when we’re tired, enough food to eat, sunshine when it’s chilly and shade when it’s warm. People have probably always struggled, as we do now, to free ourselves from the burden of being hopelessly, irredeemably, the center of our own universe so that we could be kind to others, and see everything around us with more clarity.

End of summer pie

End of summer pie

Here’s a good pie for the change in seasons! It’s like a pizza, so you can call it that if you want. I made the crust much thicker than I usually make my pizza crust, so it would be comfortingly soft and strong enough to hold up to all the toppings. All the herbs and vegetables are from our farm. I like potatoes on a pizza, it’s one of those things that shouldn’t work, but somehow does. I parboiled these and then tossed them in a little olive oil, so they’re soft but just starting to crisp up. I love the combination of tomatoes, potatoes and basil, but you can add any kind of vegetables or cheese or herbs you like on here.

Here’s Good Feeling by the Violent Femmes. I’ve been listening to them a lot lately…talk about a portal to the past!!

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