I am a keeper of flocks.
The flocks are my thoughts
and all my thoughts are sensations.
I think with my eyes and my ears,
with my hands with and with my feet
and with my nose and my mouth.
For to consider a flower is both to see it and smell it
and to eat of fruit is to understand its meaning. –Alberto Caeiro (“I am a keeper of flocks”)
When we were on our honeymoon in Portugal, I picked up a small collection of Portuguese poetry translated into English: Lisbon Poets. It was a surprising purchase for me–what could I, an avowed hater of verse (besides Shakespeare) want with a book of poetry?–but one that I often turned to when we had a few extra minutes on our hands, either waiting for a bus somewhere or relaxing on the beach. The poetry was strange in a way that felt familiar to me (modernism is modernism, regardless of where it took place), yet also unlike anything I had read before. It was like a language I could recognize, from the outrage of scorned lovers to the ravings of madmen believing that women with watermelon heads could be walking down a busy city street, but didn’t quite understand.
Given this disconnect, I found myself somewhat inexplicably thinking about these poems tonight as I was preparing to write this post; I suppose I couldn’t help but be drawn towards a symbol of my summer, especially now that it is well and truly fading away, and towards all the sensory pleasures that the season has to offer: the hot and lazy sun that fools you into thinking time is infinite, the plentiful peaches that rightly make their way into many a pie, an abundance of color both at the market and on the table…Even if you adore fall and are more than ready to say goodbye to humidity and mosquitoes (no love lost here), it’s hard to resign yourself to the loss of freedom and time that the end of each summer represents.
But we must make do, eat our squash, shiver through the winter and, eventually, the days will lengthen again. Clearly, I’m letting “my flock” get too far ahead of itself. One step at a time, one minute lost, but eventually regained.
As it’s been a long time, too long, since I wrote one of these posts, feel free to consider this both the “end of” and “best of” the summer edition:
The photo at the beginning of this post displays the prettiest pie I made this summer, peach and blackberry. My grandparents were visiting and my grandmother, for the umpteenth time, gave me yet another pie tutorial; this one, however, may have finally stuck. People may get weird about ingredients like shortening, but the recipe for her pie dough, which I first posted back in 2010, can be rolled like a dream. I had made a Georgia peach pie from Food & Wine a few weeks before my grandparents came to visit and, while I am sure the fault could be pinned on both my own dough-rolling skills and the fact that the weather was incredibly hot that day, the all-butter crust nearly drove me to despair.
I would also add that my grandma and I made this pie with no recipe; we blanched and peeled the peaches, then we added sugar; because when we tasted them and it didn’t seem like enough, we added more sugar. We filled the shell with the peaches, added blackberries and then covered it with the top layer, brushing it with cream and sprinkling Turbinado sugar on top. We then popped it in the oven and waited for 45-50 minutes until we had bubbling filling and a golden brown crust. This is why, despite the recent claim of Amanda Hesser that Food52 had some kind of ownership over the concept “not recipes,” I just don’t buy it. You can brand something, market it and profit from it, but that doesn’t mean the idea belongs to you. And you also have to ask yourself that, if this is the kind of argument professionals are having, then are the stakes not ridiculously low? Of course, nobody ever said food media was without its problems.
A few years ago, I read an article in Lucky Peach about a feast whose main course consisted of the hump of a baby camel; this article alone nearly drove me to vegetarianism. Considering my reaction to this piece, I’m not sure why I clicked on the article about where the meat goes after a bull fight, but I did. I’m happy to say it wasn’t nearly as harrowing a tale as the baby camel’s slaughter and I don’t know if this is because the quality of the magazine’s/blog’s journalism has gone down or if it’s because bull fights already invite an expectation of violence.
My disappointment in this piece aside, I was really excited about Lucky Peach‘s recipe for Elote Pierogis. And about the recipe from their Chinese cookbook that Luisa Weiss (The Wednesday Chef) recently posted; it had been too long–several years!–since I had made dinner in my rice cooker…that is, only if steaming dumplings doesn’t count.
Speaking of Chinese food, I was delighted to discover that Fuchsia Dunlop, the first food writer I ever read, has a new cookbook coming out on Jiangnan (the eastern coastal provinces, including Shanghai) cuisine. If the actual book is half as good as the preview in The Guardian would lead us to believe, it’s going to be yet another must-have keeper…especially since we’ll at least be in Delaware for another year, possibly even two.
Recently, I have been obsessed with the Samarkand cookbook, which, in terms of both recipes and perfectly styled food photos, is not so different from Olia Hercules’ Mamushka. If all goes as planned, I should be posting something–a celebratory drink–from Samarkand this week.
Food media aside, one of the highlights of my summer was the new Harry Potter book. Although a play and not a long and rambling novel, it still was exhilarating to be reunited with the characters for one last adventure.
The eternal question and one that, while no longer relevant to me, I still think about a lot: to get a PhD or not to get a PhD?
It seems all too easy to move from an article about PhDs to the benefits of loneliness.
The strangeness of Daniel Deronda. (Unfortunately, this is just a preview as I no longer have academic library privileges.)
Yet another frightening Zika-related discovery: how it manages to slip by the placenta undetected.
Because I always find myself interested in the supernatural and strange: an article on how Germans try to overcome the ghosts of World War II and the relationship between fasting and faith.
To celebrate the new season that is upon us, a recipe for a Portuguese pumpkin jam that I will be making not once, but hopefully many times this fall.