Sunday, July 3, 2011

Simple words, simple food

Indulgent readers will recall last year's summer vacation, which involved France, my dear old Person and me, the Tour de France, and oh, right: our TV. It's that time again, my dears, for early July brings the high American holiday of Independence Day, and also heralds the beginning of the Tour de France. This will mean occasional mention of my TV boyfriend, Fabian Cancellara, rather a lot of eye-rolling from my very kind dear old Person, an embarrassing number of hours logged by the DVR, and perhaps a few photos. New this year - and you'll be thankful to know this - is the role of Twitter in the 3-week long summer interlude. Twitter might mean less Tour conversation at Eat Here, but of course I'll keep you posted if anything big happens. (I know, I know.)

In the meantime, a very Happy Fourth of July to all. I do hope everyone has a lovely time with friends and family, dogs and burgers, and for those of you who've had enough rain to make them possible, bright fireworks bursting against your starlit skies. Whatever you're cooking, here's an idea for dessert, so fine that I thought it warranted more than one photo.
This was shared with just a few of our dearest friends yesterday evening, as we gathered to begin planning an upcoming family event. I've often spoken here about the gift of the friendship of women as one of the central blessings of my life, and I wrapped myself in its richness yesterday for some long, sweet hours. When small groupings of our circle form we miss the whole, feeling the gaps left by each unique pair of hands. But we're always happy to savor the presence of those of who have gathered; this was one of those afternoons. For those of my sisters whose presence I missed: fear not. There are a million favors to be asked in months to come, and millions of blessings, large and small, to rain down on us. For you who shared the afternoon with us, I have no eloquent words, only ones that have served us since the beginning of time, offered with a full heart: Thank you. I love you.

Just as plain words are sometimes the only ones perfectly suited to the moment, despite how rounded down and smoothed they've become with use, so is plain food often most perfect. So here's what we had for dessert.

It started with a pound cake I made a couple of days ago. You can use any pound cake you like, or come to that, any cake at all. This one is an old-fashioned cake, in which the eggs are separated, the whites whipped with sugar to soft peaks, then folded into the batter. It makes a taller, lighter cake with an especially delicious crust. But whatever cake you prefer or have on hand will serve nicely. Berries are abundant and cheap right now, so we had were strawberries and raspberries. A cup of cream, whipped quickly with a touch of confectioners sugar makes magic. Top with sliced almonds, toasted to bring out their flavor and add a golden touch. It's the simplest thing in the world, isn't it? It will make palates sing with the simple goodness of the flavors, and the memories sing whenever they're brought to mind. These are the rituals by which we are bound together, my dears. Bring on the fireworks. Happy Independence Day. And vive la France!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Figs on a new moon harvest

Here I am, standing on the beach this afternoon. New moon, new beginning. Time for planting things, time for seeking new joys. And time for putting behind us that which is well and truly past, not unlike these past few weeks. It was a long, dark collision of hardware and software issues with the deepening complexities of the large corporate entities that exercise control over our access to precious virtual circles. But it seems to be over now, for the most part, and there is that new moon, and boy, did I miss The BlogLand.

But life has gone on apace, of course, out beyond the borders of the BlogLand. While I've seemed silent, I've had an abundant harvest of many things, including tomatoes. I shared this with you quite generously as regards How I Eat Them and How Good They Are, but have actually eaten most of them myself, sharing only rarely and with a perceptibly surly note when I do. There are just a few left, just as those of you in northern climes are beginning to get fresh beautiful tomatoes. And it's just as well that I can't reach them. You'd have to stab my hand with a fork at the table to make me leave some for everyone else. I had one sliced tonight on 5-grain bread with baby Swiss cheese and just touched with salt and pepper. That tomato tasted like it had been sprinkled with sugar. It did, really. The complex and dazzling chemistry of fresh tomatoes inebriates me and makes me greedy.

Not so the figs; our fig trees bore a small but positively toothsome first crop and have now busied themselves with - yes, really! - a second crop. I've never seen this before, but this second crop looks to be enormous and the fruits have begun to ripen. I promised to put the bulk of the crop in the freezer for Jayne, who promised in turn to make them into Fig Preserves. (Those two words used in conjuntion are quite sacred to my Dear Old Person, so I've been as good as my word, mostly. Mostly.) We are gathering them as they ripen and dropping them into a freezer bag, saving them from birds and other backyard thieves by virtue of the rather horrifying array of rubber snakes with which each tree has been adorned by my Dear Person. These are quite realistic and yet so commonplace to us that a few weeks ago EatHere's Editor drove in, parked, and said, "I just saw a snake by the gate. I pushed it out of the way with my toes, cause I thought it was one of the ones from the fig tree...and then it moved. Wanna see?" We did, naturally. Of course it was NOT a fake, but turned out to be a King snake. Which, by the way, looked uncomfortably like its deadly poisonous cousin, the coral snake. It gave me quite a turn, I must tell you. Thank goodness for the Field Guide to Reptiles, which reassured us. And thank goodness the birds do not have access to the Field Guide, and continue in their reluctance to swoop in for the ripening figs.

So plant something, make a wish, dream a dream, and charge it all to the new moon. Do not let the birds read the Reptile book, say your prayers, and take good care of each other. It is more lovely than I can say to tell you a small story and hum a bit of melody for you, a lullaby in the form of an ode to figs and tomatoes, under the pale light of the freshening moon.