Stoner’s Delight II?

Miso S’more Bars

corner pieces
I like to think that I have a magic tongue.* A tongue so vital and active and curious that it must possess neurons and synapses and such. It can taste and feel what’s not on it. Sometimes I find more sense and more wisdom in that tongue than I ever could in my actual brain. It’s sensitive to idea. Inspiration strikes just about anytime and that crazy, infallible tongue won’t stop thinking and wagging and thinking some more until dream is reality and foodstuff comes from oven.

As such, I often feel like I know exactly what something—a flavor combination, a restaurant menu item, a cookbook recipe—tastes like without ever having tasted it, physically. I’m not sure if this tongue is a blessing or a curse. Blessing: There’s always something new to try. Curse: Well, there’s always something new to try.

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October Flowers

Rose-Scented Apple Custard Tart

apple tart
This is the first thing I’ve baked for a month. The first thing I’ve baked since this dessert, which, despite its simplicity, I’d put on my “top 5″ list if I had one. It’s the first thing that I’ve baked since I tried to bridge the gap with that crisp and since fall rushed in without warning.

This space is such an incomplete collection of the things that I cook. Just because it is silent doesn’t mean that I am not in the kitchen. But this time, I haven’t even baked anything that has gone undocumented.

And though I was spending many of these days singing the gospel of “it’s still summer,” it somehow became October. And I was walking. It was sunny, and my face naturally turned to the sun to capture its warmth. On the way up my green eyes spotted a tree—and it did not match my eyes. It was a tree of fire in a row of green. I almost tripped. Was it fall?

Yes it was fall, because it was October, and I know that October means fall. But the spotting felt particularly jarring because I live in the Eastern part of the state—the area that sees warm hues last. But there it was—this brilliant, burning red. I guess it was fall. Despising anything pumpkin spiced that doesn’t make sense, I had nothing to mark its arrival, especially since I was spending most of my time convincing people that it wouldn’t arrive for some time.

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Standing Up

Plum-Raspberry Crisp with Browned Butter and Hazelnut Topping

Plum Crisp
Where are people when they write their blog posts? Or, rather, where are people when they just write? I find myself asking this question whenever I read something—blog post, short story, whatever. I’m fascinated by the sights (window? willow tree? big-screen TV?) and the sounds (night crickets? humming refrigerator? upstairs neighbors’ paces? meowing kitty?) that surround human and computer screen and that either inspire thoughts or compete for attention.

And when? When do people write? Certainly time of day must control the above factors. What programs do they use? Do they type out their thoughts in Word, or in notepad to escape formatting, and then paste the spilled words into a post. Or, do they simply craft sentences right into the text field of their blogging platform? And do these things ever change, or are they constants? Is it socially acceptable to, in the comments field, ask: “Where were you when you wrote this post, and what surrounded you? I’m just curious.”?

Me, I prefer to write at the kitchen table, which is surrounded by three windows, and the room is filled with light until sundown. I start in word. I need a very blank space, because my mind is usually busy. The wordpress dashboard is too busy. I prefer to be accompanied by breakfast or lunch, because I like to break up the flow with stabs of fork and slow chewing. In that time, I can recollect my thoughts, and what better way to write about food than with food? The eating reminds me of the textures and flavors of the dish. It doesn’t have to be that particular dish (though that helps!) and it also doesn’t have to be glamorous. Right now, I’m eating a clean-out-the-fridge-of-the-almost-on-its-way-out-produce salad. There are multiseed crackers on the side and some prunes. But when the apartment is bustling, I take the laptop to my bedroom, sans food. Writing is less fun that way—I should see if the tone of posts written in various locations is different. I often make my final edits while sitting in my bed with all of the lights off. It’s the purest form of silence and tranquility I can find.

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FYI, It’s Still Summer

Saffron-Scented Summer Fruit Galette

pac man
Sorry, I don’t have many words to share today. And I don’t believe in trying to craft them when they’re just not coming naturally. I am here for a reason, though, and it is simply to deliver a call for action. For a brief public service announcement, if you will:

Well, here we are. That inevitable point when I start whining and complaining about how summer was lost. How my skin’s so snowy white you can tell it didn’t carry my bones to very interesting places these past months. How I didn’t do X or Y. How I haven’t been able to just breath and be—whatever that really means. But I’ll spare you. Summer cannot be lost. If you lose summer, it is your own damn fault. And, yes. I fully acknowledge that it’s my own damn fault.

However, I shake my fist at those who mark summer’s end with this coming holiday weekend. Please. Give me until September 21st, kay? I’ve seen local apples and pears at my farmers’ market for weeks. I’ve bought them. They’re sweet-tart and crispy and shiny and vibrant and everything that makes this born-and-raised New England girl happy. But they are demon fruit. And they’re not going to trick me. They may have tricked Eve*, but they will not get me. There will be no apple anything coming out of this kitchen. I will partake in no apple or pear pies, crisps, muffins, slaws, compotes, sauces, or dumplings—no matter how cute the word “dumpling” is. Hear that? I AM NOT HAVING IT. OK, so I’m eating apples and pears, but I am eating them raw and cold and crisp. That’s IT.

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Picking Raspberries

raspberry–pink peppercorn custard cups

fixings

I am so honored and excited to have a guest post featuring this creamy-dreamy recipe for raspberry–pink peppercorn custard cups (with whipped cream! and candied pistachios!) on The Vanilla Bean Blog while Sarah lives what she is calling the “Summer of Fun” for herself and for her gorgeous family. Sarah’s space is one of my favorite’s—if not my very favorite—on the web, and I am so grateful to have found her blog in 2011. If I could be half the blogger she is, I’d be doing something right. Her voice and words grip me, her photos move me, and her recipes are beautiful. Stop on by to read my post but, more importantly, to discover, if you haven’t already, Sarah’s site.

The Spinning Drum

Blueberry-Cardamom Brioche Swirls

juicy blueberry
Laundromats. I haven’t thought much about them before. I am one of those rare and lucky city dwellers to have always had either in-unit or decent in-building washers and dryers. Well, until I moved into my current apartment. My house has a small coin-operated washer and dryer in a dark corner of a wet and murky unfinished basement. Neither machine works particularly well, making the setup even less inviting. So I use a laundromat. Down a hill and onto a main road, it’s a mere 2-minute walk from my house. This laundromat is really just a small room with washers on the right and dryers on the left. Oh, and a drop-off area for lazy people (or, most likely, lazy, parent-supported kids), so they can leave bulging knapsacks of their things for the little elves that must hide behind that door to tend to.

But, like I said, I had never really given laundromats that much thought. I assumed I preferred my laundry experience more private. My fondest laundry memories involve running through wet bed sheets hanging from wooden clothespins on the rotating clothesline in my grandparents’ large backyard on hot days. With my arms spread open and solid colors, stripes, and light pink flower buds flashing through my eyes I crashed into the silky fabrics, imagining that my touch would somehow facilitate the drying process. I’d run that thing in circles until I was dizzy and the sheets felt just a little less wet. I’d done my job.

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Currently…

Currant Caramel Cream Cake

Currant Cream Cake
Please note that I refrained from titling this post “currantly.” Hold your applause, though. Since I mentioned it, I obviously thought about it.

Currently, my patience is lacking. I’ve started shaking in my chair, due to lack of inspiration, I guess. I’ve suffered; others have probably suffered. I’ve been a little too honest, a bit less nice, and a lot sarcastic.

But pluckin’ currants, or what I like to call, spiny little devils—now that’s a lesson in patience. That will slap the sarcasm right out of you. When faced with small 1/2-pint boxes of rubies and pearls and branches, I usually feel helpless before I start, like my fingers will be too weak for the task. Pulling out each thin stem feels a bit like plucking an eyebrow; the stem resists, releasing from the thick skin of the tiny, seed-filled berries with an inaudible pop. It usually comes out clean and whole but sometimes, it will leave behind a tiny fragment of itself. The process can be pleasant, though. Each of my plucks feels prodding and deliberate. It calms my nerves. I plucked the currants for this cake alone at 10pm in my 85-degree mid–heat wave kitchen, which I had lit dimly. I resisted the urge to play music or to check emails while plucking. I focused on just plucking. With each branch, I got faster and better; my plucks became cleaner and more graceful.

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Abundance

Potato Salad with Pea-Yogurt Dressing

Potato Salad yogurt
I’ve been more inspired than ever by the farmers’ market this year. I’m not sure why. My meals have been easy but beautiful in how fresh they are. But last week I saw a shift at the market—a sudden one. It was ten times fuller, more vibrant than it had been just a week before. There was now an American flag of berry varieties, corn (!), potatoes, multi-colored carrots, cherry and grape tomatoes. I am missing the asparagus and strawberries of early summer, but my mood brightened as I made my rounds, trying not to buy everything. (As I walked, I recited a staccato chant, “one person, one stomach, shared refrigerator.”)

But despite those spring/early summer goods being gone, there were still so many peas. Peas. Have we not had our fill? Since the farmers’ markets started for the season, every farm, every vendor has had what seems like a bottomless basket of English Shelling Peas. I love them, sure. They’re sweet and crunchy and green, and I love the way they pop in between my teeth. But their supply seems never-ending. I had always thought their season was relatively short. I thought they couldn’t survive the heat. But hordes swarm them week after week, picking, eating, bagging, buying, and there are still so many once I reach the market at my late hour.

I’ve been thinking hard about something lately. These thoughts weren’t initially spurred by peas, of course. My dad’s friend and co-worker, let’s just call him [J] for the sake of anonymity, passed away last week. He started suffering a year or so ago from an advance stage of cancer. Boom. Out of no where. I’d be lying to you if I said I knew this man. I met him once. Tall, skinny as heck, long-haired, and a bit country. That’s all I remember about him. But what I do know is that he trained my dad at his company (my dad has been with the company for around 25 years) and my dad eventually became one of his bosses and managers. My dad said he was brilliant; he may have even used the term “genius,” I don’t know. But I do know that he was someone who touched my dad’s life profoundly.

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Mr. 66

Butter-Toasted Almond-Amaretto Ice Cream with Sautéed Cherries

Cherry Sundaes
I see him everyday. He’s a constant that I appreciate. He’s stoic, not showing much outward feeling of pleasure or pain. He brightens my mornings, my evenings, and my weekends. I don’t know the mystery man’s name. To me he is just Mr. 66.

I have long had a fascination with commuters—my nameless companions and the strangers. My feet usually do the work in the mornings, but sometimes I take the bus. The 66 bus. The bus so infamous that it has it’s own fake twitter account. There are familiar visages in sight every morning. The sitting old, sour-faced woman whose nose scrunches up every time a young person’s backpack accidentally graces her face on the sardine-can of a morning commute. The young mother with the rhinestone-studded, electic blue iPhone case and her super stylin’ little boy, a 2-year-old Lebron James fan. There’s the guy who looks strikingly like someone I went to high school with and who is always biting off a cream cheese–filled plain bagel from Kupel’s. I know their stops, and they probably know mine.

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Deconstruction

lamb meatballs with rhubarb chutney

salad and meatballs
Deconstruct. I find the action behind that word quite frightening. It’s hard. Construct. Construct is better. Building is much easier. There’s a start and an end goal. But evaluating, breaking things into pieces, and adapting as a result—well that’s just so much more difficult. Important but arduous.

I vividly remember my least favorite task in elementary school—second and third grade to be exact. Storyboards. Instead of writing a report, analyzing at the beat of our own young-minded understanding, we had to break up a story into parts. Concrete parts. I am now an ardent maker and follower of rules. But to me then, nothing was concrete. We were required to fit a story into distinct categories and subcategories, from “exposition” to “climax” to “dénouement.” The “scenes” that represented these categories were drawn carefully in Crayola colored pencil within clear lines and boxes. Rigid. One scene could not mean or be or act as two things. We had to identify a protagonist and antagonist. Well, that just wasn’t me. I wanted the protagonist to be the character who was compelling to me. And this character was often not the technical protagonist. And in third grade, what if I desperately wanted the story to be my story and what if when character X walks to Y wearing Z, it was me who I envisioned in her place? I’ve changed. I am more practical. I do see aspects of life in concrete terms now. But deconstruction can still be a struggle.

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