Monthly Archive for May 2010
The thing is, I’ve always been this way. I’ve always loved precision, order, neatness, exactitude. I’m a sucker for a system. As a child, I created elaborate filing systems in the make-shift school house and office I set up in the basement, the settings of all my best play dates. My bookshelves are—and have always been—ordered to ensure that the spines of the books line up from tallest to shortest. At an alarmingly young age, I cheerfully volunteered to balance my mother’s checkbook, draw up her grocery lists and clip her coupons, neatly (of course). To this day, the clothes in my closet are grouped by hue, each garment hung on the same type of hanger.
All of this is to say that, by all measures, I should have detested these brownies.
Not the making them. That part was lovely and goes like this: arrive home from work on Friday evening; proceed directly to the liquor cabinet, from which you will extract a bottle of bourbon; take a good amount of dried cherries and douse them with the bourbon; set the cherries aside and carry on with your Friday night (which may or may not involve said bourbon). On Saturday, melt chocolate, butter and sugar in a double boiler, reveling in the decadence. Into this, once its cooled, you’ll beat in five eggs, one at a time, each giving the chocolate mixture more body than the last. Once you’ve achieved a mixture that looks almost satiny, draw a spoon up through it and watch the chocolate fall back against itself in ribbons. (This step, of course, is optional. But you should know that it’s also highly recommended.) Next, whisk together a small amount of whole wheat pastry flour, along with some other dry ingredients—and then slowly and gently stir the whisked dry mixture into that bowl of satiny chocolate. It may appear a bit stiff, but fear not: sour cream will save the day—fold it in, striping the chocolate with thick white swirls.
I’m afraid this asaragus salad won’t get a fair shake here today. You see, all I really want to talk about is three! day! weekends!, such as the one that lies just ahead of us. Or maybe also holidays that practically require one to fire up the barbecue and drink cold beers in the hot sun. But really, most of all, I just want to shout from the rooftops: I’M GOING TO NAPA THIS WEEKEND!
Because I am and, oh man, am I excited. Honestly, it’s the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the daydreams refuse to abate as my day unfolds. Sun! Wine! Ad Hoc! Those perfect rows of vines! Colorful hot-air balloons floating overhead! A stolen dinner in San Francisco! As you can see, I’m beside myself.
Without warning, a memory flashed through my mind last week—blurred at the edges and carrying the grain of an old home movie. I had a vision of Valley Fair, the local amusement park of my childhood and the annual destination of school field trips during my middle and high school years. That field trip was a spring landmark, a yearly rite of passage. There would be a yellow school bus bumping down the road; there would be cinnamony, sugared mini-donuts; in the earlier years, there would be crossed fingers as we measured ourselves against the height requirements for the most looping, stomach-dropping rides; in the high school years, there would be a stolen kiss on the tilt-a-whirl. The scent of sunscreen and frying oil would hang heavy in the air and the day would be deemed The Best Day Ever (until, of course, next year’s field trip rolled around).
That trip signaled summer, even though it happened in the spring and the weather rarely cooperated. It meant we’d made it; winter was a distant memory, summer was just around the bend—so close we could almost feel its warmth, see the twinkle of its sun dancing on an inky blue lake, taste its s’mores and juicy tomatoes, hear its firecrackers fizzling in the night sky. We were almost there.
Between last weekend in New Orleans [wonderful food (soft shell crabs, shrimp and grits, a beignet, a strawberry shortcake that tasted like childhood); a good amount of sparkling wine; a piping hot cup of chicory coffee; strolls through the French Quarter; and (it being a bachelorette party and all) dueling pianos and karaoke] and this weekend, which will be spent in Boston [my sister-in-law's graduation, which provides a lovely excuse for the whole family to converge in the northeast], May has shifted into overdrive and I’m just (barely) hanging on for the ride—and loving every minute of it.
I should warn you now. If you find yourself in the exclamation-point-averse crowd (it’s a good crowd; in fact, I usually hang out there), I want to let you know that the post that lies ahead of us will be filled with exclamation points. Riddled with them, in fact. So, there. Now you know.
You’re still reading? Why, I’m so glad! (Oh, god, it’s started.) Because this post hinges on that most sought-after of all the types of spring produce that herald spring: ramps. Or, more accurately: ramps! Okay, who am I kidding: RAMPS! (I warned you.) And this is a topic that I couldn’t be more excited to discuss.