I tried to make a mark over the letter a, like such: Ā. In the process I accidentally deleted my entire farmers market post; my post about the local artisanal butcher Dai Due and how to pronounce their name properly, the post about leaf lard and chicken liver mousse with strawberries, and dogs; my post about baking the picture perfect coconut cream pie, an architectural wonder, it's white dome reaching for the refigerator light but instead, confessing to you the most epic of pie-making failures.
"It's Monday again," says my refrigerator, "take that," a pie dish full of coconut cream mush sits flat on the bottom shelf staring up at me blankly. I gasp. It's like a horror movie or drama in which the main character is too brash, dreams too big and has to start again from the beginning. Sisyphus.
My blog failure chased the pie making failure into the woods. It's raining and thundering and cold. Soon enough it will be a distant memory, I'll glean what I can and move on. In the meantime, I send a small dog out into the storm to relieve herself. She comes in and waits patiently while I undo her rain jacket so she can return to bed. This is what I wish for myself, that I could unpeel the layers and get back under the covers. I'd like to listen to the rain on the roof, feel the warmth of the dogs on my legs and drift off.
There is no sense in that. Instead I spread liver mousse over warm maple oatmeal bread. It's earthy and satisfying. I think about what I'll do differently next time. I'll hit "Save", I'll chill the pie crust before baking it. Sometimes I just want it all, I want everything all at once. I want dinner and pie and a happy husband and a clear spring day and a dog dancing at my feet instead of hiding away.
For now I have this post but no pie. In a few days I'll have pie and no post. Lesson of the day: it all works out in the end.
You know what never happens to me? Getting a message first thing in the morning saying that I can have the day off. That just never happens. This is the first time in 2 1/2 years that I received that message and then an email to confirm it. I played the message for Michael while we were in bed and he declared it a "snow day". I suddenly felt energized; I felt relaxed and free and completely unburdened.
The thought crossed my mind that maybe making buttermilk pie makes wishes come true. Maybe I set the wheels in motion Tuesday night as I rolled out the crust, beat the eggs and poured in the buttermilk; maybe I wasn't just making pie but bringing a wish to fruition, creating love and leisure. Maybe.
What followed was the most perfect day. I had my coffee and headed out to the bookstore. I've been hungry for new cookbooks. My current collection is meager and pitiful. Every time I look at them I want to clear my shelves and start fresh. I made a little list and went to see and feel the weight of the books. Looking at them online wouldn't do.
The bookstore has shelves and shelves of cookbooks. It gave me hope in a way that the Michael Pollan video that I watched a few days ago made me feel a little despair. Can you feel just a little despair? I don't know for sure, but I've been going back to that video in my head over and over again and the most indelible part of it wasn't the horror of the commercial food industry but a quote from Harry Balzer, a food marketing analyst. Michael Pollan relayed a conversation he had with Balzer who remarked that cooking, in another generation, will be regarded as quaintly as quilt-making is in ours.
This bit of dialogue would probably have faded from memory soon enough if I hadn't made a really simple spinach & tofu risotto the night before. I took a serving of it to work and shared with a co-worker. She asked how I made it. I told her it was really easy, you just chop half an onion and two cloves of garlic, sautee them in oil and a bit of butter for flavor. She stopped me and said, "I thought it was easy." Right then I knew there was a very real possibility that Mr. Balzer was right. Michael Pollan was right. There is a misconception out there that cooking is complicated and it has to be to be in order to be considered good cooking.
I wished that my co-worker would have been open to the rest of the recipe, open to adding a can of undrained diced tomatoes to the onions/garlic mixture and letting it all cook together for five minutes. How simple to throw in a bit of oregano, add two cups of cooked brown rice and half a block of tofu that's been whirred smooth in a blender beforehand along with a 10 oz of chopped spinach (frozen or fresh). Add half a cup of grated cheese, swiss or cheddar along with half a teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of pepper. Mix it all together. Let it cook down a few minutes more before popping it in the oven at 350° for about 30 minutes. Voila - dinner is served.
Yes, there is prep work. You do need to cook the brown rice, you do need to whir tofu in a blender but it's so satisfying and there is no way that a fast food joint can compete - not even with their iceberg lettuce salad. Maybe it's just a phase, but I've been consumed with cooking lately; consumed with simple cooking. I make one thing and want to make another and another. This is why I went in search of cookbooks yesterday.
Oh, the bounty. I was not disappointed. Here are a few titles on my list:
I'm about a third of the way through Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close. I've reached a point where just about every page has a line worth jotting down or at least carrying with you if only for the day. It is "the fillet" of the book if the character Bernard Berkman from The Squid And The Whale were describing it. Here are a few of the lines that made me pause, and repeat and move on again:
"The beautiful girl didn't know the time, she was in a hurry, she said, "Good luck," I smiled, she hurried off, her skirt catching the air as she ran, sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all of the lives I am not living." (p. 113)
" "Thomas, please meet my friend Simon Goldberg." I said hello, I didn't know who he was or why I was being introduced to him, I wanted to find Anna, Mr. Goldberg asked me what I did, his voice was handsome and broken, like a cobblestone street, I told him, "I don't do anything," he laughed, "Don't be so modest," Anna's father said. "I want to be a sculptor." Mr. Goldberg took off his glasses, untucked his shirt from his pants, and cleaned his lenses with his shirttail. "You want to be a sculptor?" I said, "I am trying to be a sculptor." He put his glasses back on his face, pulling the wire earpieces behind his ears, and said, "In your case, trying is being." "What do you do?" I asked, in a voice more challenging than I'd wanted. He said, "I don't do anything anymore." Anna's father told him, "Don't be so modest," although he didn't laugh this time, and he told me, "Simon is one of the great minds of our age." "I'm trying," Mr. Goldberg said to me, as if only the two of us existed. "Trying what?" I asked, in a voice more concerned than I'd wanted, he took off his glasses again, "Trying to be." " (p. 126)
The last excerpt brings me to a quote I read this morning by Paul Theroux, "You can't want to be a writer, you have to be one."
It looks like the theme of the day is being. Being in the now, experiencing the present. My mind swims back and forth, past and future. It's exhausting. The only respite is sitting quietly to meditate. My goal this week is to allow myself to indulge in sitting three separate days. More than anything it's resful if I can make the dialogue inside stop. I reassure myself that it's ok to stop, nothing is at risk. If I am so devoted to the chatter, do not fear. It will start again as soon as I stand up straight.