Sunday, March 13, 2011


Pink is emerging from the branches and tips of every bare tree on the landscape. Its soft presence is like a balm, a promise, color is coming soon. As we moved along in the freezing March, I kept straining my eyes for buds, then trying to soften my focus to perceive that fist moment when the blush of new life spreads over every surface. And it came. Then, up close on the apple tree, I could touch them. Little leathery buds, inconspicuous with only the tiniest hint of the softness still hidden within.

It got me thinking about pink. Much maligned by the parents tired of the onslaught of gilrie things direct marketed toward their female children, pink has a bad reputation. The pink polyester princess costumes and scratchy ballerina tutus are like a pink on steroids, it is abrassive and synthetic. But before we, feminist moms and tom boy loving dads, try and hide pink in the back of the closet let us revisit this marvelous color.

Pink. Pink champagne. Pink currants. Pink apple blossoms. Pink cheeks after a nap. Holding hands, pink palm to pink palm. These are some pinks that make your heart soften. Pinks that signal the softest most fleeting moments of a life, of a season.

Here’s to a toast to early, early spring and her first pink blush, her slow, modest arrival, before she belts out with her full clear voice, Here I am. Here is to a pink for our girls if they like it, and our boys, that is lovely and imaginative and of their making. Here is to a pink that is far from the mall and closer to an apple blossom. Here is to pink.

The recipe is an idea I have in my pocket and eagerly await: inviting our friends, opening a bottle of Pinot Noir champagne under the flowering apple tree when it blooms, and pausing from our busy lives under the canopy of flowers. I can already hear the bees droning and the children laughing in the pasture, running, grass between their toes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blizzard, then Spring, then Duck

The blizzard on March 6th had neighbors and friends lamenting, “Where is spring?” The day had started out fifty degrees and raining. The snow slowly melted away. The mushy, springy earth was bald mud with patchy bits of green grass. The deers and turkeys were gorging. In a moment, it turned to snow and after fifteen minutes the blanket of white was back, then the temperature started to drop.

Every time I looked out the window another inch had accumulated. Shovel the driveway to go to the store. Shovel the driveway so the babysitter can park. Shovel so she can leave. The snow was steady, wet and heavy. It continued all night. And in the morning, finally the snow stopped falling. The sky was grey and serious, as if glowering, promising it could snow more if it wanted to.

And then spring peeked her head back around the corner: the sky cleared and filled the afternoon with thick black shadows over the eighteen inches of snow. And the light! The light was golden. Gone is the bright, white afternoon light of winter and the long slender shadows of a sun hanging low in the sky.

That is spring in March: a blizzard, and then, when the sky finally clears, a golden light. This too: walking to the back of the land, sinking in deep even with snow shoes on, the creek is a torrent. Between steep banks of snow, the creek has not frozen in the storm, in the night, but has stayed flowing, thawed from the warmth emerging from earth as we angle back toward the sun. The tumbling, churning snow melt, the exuberant gushing creek signal too, the rush of spring has arrived.

A Duck is always an excellent meal, and in this moment of cold, still needing fat, and yearning for warmth and craving more of spring's golden light, a roast duck and golden potatoes is a sumptuously satisfying meal. Craig followed a recipe from the brilliant ladies at Canal House, Canal House Cooking, Volume 2. I won't give away their recipe here, you should get the book, all the books actually. It is basically a good roast duck, good roasted, peeled potatoes, and the magical ingredient: anise seeds.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

I served sour tomato soup to my friends. I was trying to be hospitable, thoughtful to their long day of travel to see us by offering a comfort food. Unfortunately, upon first bite of soup, it became immediately clear that I had added too much, way too much citric acid to the tomatoes when I canned them last summer. It was sour, terribly sour. But technically edible, I suppose, if you closed your eyes and thought about lemonade. I am pretty sure it was their actual hunger that made the soup edible. Being hungry can really make a meal feel gracious, even a sour one!

Gabrielle Hamilton's book Blood, Bones and Butter is about hunger. The hunger of a poor, young traveler. The emotional hunger of a child abandoned by parents. The hunger to reconnect with perfect meals and moments from our past. Is there any other reason we really cook? To achieve a comfort we imagine and hunger for, to recreate a moment that sustained us when we were in need. To soothe a growling stomach is obviously why we cook, but what we choose to cook, how we meet that hunger, if we look closely at that, we will discern a long, emotional path, a labyrinth of physical memories and hopes.

I ate Gabrielle's cooking once. The angels were smiling upon Craig and I and we got a free spot in an event at the Italian Wine Merchant's secret back kitchen where Gabrielle was cooking. I fell in love with her when she held up the raw heart of a young cow (yes that is a nice way of saying Veal) and told the story of her butcher, who she said had a crush on her and always saved her the best hearts. She told the whole story with the heart in her hand, gesturing with it while the fancy ladies and gentlemen in the room stared, slack jawed and wide eyed. I thought she looked like a rock star shredding at her guitar, standing there with her swagger, her knowledge and her comfort with this ingredient: a heart.

She holds hearts in her hands, and with her writing and her cooking, she'll have yours in her hands too.

One of the other things she made that day was a perfect, truly perfect!, omelette, over which she put finely chopped young spring onions, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper. Every spring Craig and I make batches of this when the long young onions are in season and we put it on absolutely everything. Eggs, bread with good crust, steak, soft cheeses.