Monthly Archive for September 2009
Late Saturday morning, after a jog, some fall cleaning and a baking project (more on that soon), I was famished, all of the sudden. Not a gentle stomach rumble, but a nearly blinding state of hunger. Add to this the fact that it was a gray morning, all low clouds and quiet, and there was only one thing that would satisfy me: soup.
So I got to rummaging around the fridge and pantry and, before long, I had amassed a curious assortment: a head of cauliflower, fringed with it’s green leafy bonnet; a quart of chicken stock; a few sprigs of thyme and a single round of pancetta. This, I realized, could actually work, so I heated the oven and warmed a big soup pot.
Have you heard? It’s autumn. Officially autumn. There may still be a few heirloom tomatoes resting on your counter, in all their shiny glory. They might even be sitting next to a bowlful of downy peaches throwing off their luscious scent. But, listen, the calendar is clear: it’s fall.
The time for produce that bruises to the touch has passed. Instead, it’s time for fruit that crunches and vegetables that grow beneath the surface and knobby specimens that rumble around the crisper drawer.
The other night, while Kevin was out wining-and-dining on the town for work, I indulged. I cooked a pasta studded with brussels sprouts, I watched DVRed episodes of Martha and flipped through old issues of cooking magazines. Okay, so it’s not exactly the stuff of a wild-and-crazy lady, but, let me tell you: it was bliss.
About those cooking magazines—they live under the living room coffee table. They’re piled in stacks and whenever I’m in need of a good read, I run my index finger down their spines and pull a couple, carefully and with all the Jenga-skill I can muster, out of the pile.
The magic of pie is this: one moment your kitchen counter is cluttered with a tin of flour, an empty pie plate, a couple sticks of butter and a pile of fruit. In a couple hours, this rather boring assortment has become a sight to behold (not to mention taste). Into that flour, you cut some very cold, best quality butter. Add a pinch of salt, a stream of water and you have yourself the ragged beginnings of a pie dough. It gets gathered up in a slip of plastic wrap, shaped into a compact disc and stashed in the fridge.
Next, you turn to that fruit. If you’re like me, you only have eyes for apples right now—which is a very good thing when you’ve still got a half-peck of your apple orchard haul waiting to be put to work. If you’re using apples, wield your peeler and wind it along the apples, leaving a curling red ribbon in your wake.
On Saturday morning, a warm, clear fall morning, Kevin and I set out for an apple orchard northwest of the city, up near the Wisconsin border. We were barely beyond the city limits and I started to get the same feeling I get every time we take a drive—all wistful and daydreamy about the open spaces, the rolling fields, the squat silos, the quiet.
Gripped with this feeling, without fail, I lean over to Kevin at some point during the drive, bat my lashes and say, all starry-eyed: let’s live off the fat of the land, what do you say?
I am no great football fan. I lose interest in the days between the weekly games; I waver in my allegiance to my childhood hometown team and my current hometown team (a transition that amounts to treason, depending on who you ask); and a conversation about the various positions usually sounds more like a discussion about pocket change than a starting line-up to me.
There are other things about the game, though, that I do love: the excitement (running errands this morning, I saw no fewer than two dozen Bears jersey-clad Chicagoans, all before the hour of 10 am; kick-off, it should be noted, is 7 pm); sunshiney afternoons on the couch; and, most of all, the food.
If I had to pick a new middle name, it would be efficiency. Don’t laugh. I’m not joking. As far as names go, I think it’s got a nice ring to it. But mostly I’m a big fan of efficiency in practice. If I can get something done in half the time, why not? If I can do two things at once, all the better! Now, this efficiency-ophilia comes with a downside called “impatience” (well-documented on this site). But let’s focus on the positive for now: efficiency!
Which brings me to September. Mid-September to be exact. It’s my favorite time of year: the weather, the attire, the produce, the sports—it’s all perfect. And, so very efficient.
It’s been a heck of a summer. At last count, I’ve spent it in no fewer than six states: Minnesota (thrice), Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and California. Illinois, too, of course, though it seems like that state—my home state—fits squarely at the end of the list. To be honest, all the traveling has left me feeling a little frayed around the edges. The individual little trips have combined to give me a sometimes-overwhelming feeling that’s part jet lag, part homesickness and part exhaustion.
But never, not once, did I go hungry. These travels all came with the happy byproduct of wonderful meals and time spent cooking atop other people’s stoves; sitting around other people’s dining tables; washing, drying and returning the dishes to other people’s cupboards. These things eased the pangs of longing for my own kitchen, my regret at missing week after week of my farmers’ market.
I know I should be digging in my heels, clinging to the last vestiges of summer with all my might. I should be slipping out of the office at even the slightest hint of warm sun. I should be lifting the lid of the grill every single night. I should be roaming around farmers’ markets, arms full of juicy tomatoes and fresh corn. I should be giving all the sundresses I own one last go-round.
But I’m just not.