Mining the Ricotta Vein

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The guests were gone and there was a lot of cake left.  The baby shower was lovely, but it was a lot — a lot of food, a lot of people, a lot of set up and clean up, a lot of cute onesies and receiving blankets and stuffed monkeys. 

Once people had left, a few of us stayed and picked up used paper plates and cups half full of wine or juice, broke down tables and did the dishes.  I collected all the big lavender balloons and popped them, before Kate, Adrienne’s good friend who hosted the shower at her house, went to get her dogs and bring them home.  As the tight balloons popped, shreds of lavender stuck to the walls and my dress.  Carrie, Adrienne’s mother-in-law who’d organized the shower, ordered the food, helped develop the guest list and planned the decorations and activities with Kate, finished packaging up all the leftovers, and left.

Finally, it was quiet.  Adrienne, Kate and I looked at the big slab of cake still sitting on the kitchen table. 

“I’m not going to eat that cake,” Kate said.  Adrienne has gotten more gluten intolerant with her pregnancy, and hadn’t even tasted the cake.  I eat very few sweets, generally avoid refined wheat products, and had already had some of the cake, which made me feel sick.  Kate had eaten a piece earlier too, and we agreed the highlight was the cannoli filling  — sweetened ricotta, laced with cinnamon, running through the cake between the top and middle layers.

“Let’s mine the ricotta vein,” I said.  Kate and Adrienne and I looked at each other, grabbed forks, and got to it.  I cut big pieces off the slab with the cake knife, the handle smeared with frosting which then coated my hand.  Adrienne, Kate and I all broke apart the layers of cake and scooped out the ricotta filling.  I sliced off another big piece, and we again ate the ricotta.  And another.  Once again.  We laughed and ate and felt like we were breaking some rule, but all we were doing was not eating cake, piling discarded pastry into a miniature dessert dump. 

We were eating our delight, and forgetting about the rest.

Pie Haiku

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Count pies, count people
We had seven for fourteen
Rate your Thanksgiving.

Country Weekend

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“I’ve been practicing Noel Coward quips all week,” David said as he, Mackenzie, Daisy and I drove west on the Mass Pike.  “I’m going to be a country weekend house guest!”  We were on our way to spend a  weekend at Daisy’s Dad and his girlfriend’s country house, in the Berkshires.  They’re from Manhattan.  We’re from the country.  We spend a lot of weekends in the country, but not in the country house of a New York couple.  We have people come spend country weekends in our house.

As soon as we arrived, Daisy’s Dad came out to greet us.  Dad’s girlfriend came to the door, then out onto the brick walkway, lined with boxwoods and hydrangeas.  There behind them was the house, a country dream.  An antique colonial, the house sat with an aged authority on its patch of meadow.  We went in to examine and admire the original plaster and paint on the walls and woodwork, the artfully hung art, the fireplaces and mantles with age softened colors, and windows with glass so authentically old and rippled none of the windows open in the main part of the house.  The former owners who restored the house didn’t want to risk breaking any of the old glass by making the windows functional.

The “new room” was built from old carriage sheds that formed an ell at the back of the house.  At the end of the room, on either side of the fireplace, were full wall windows.  The seed heads of ornamental grasses flagged in the wind just outside the glass, with a meadow beyond the garden, then trees and then the line of one mountain dipping into the next drawing the horizon.  A living masterpiece. 

Sunday morning we got up to coffee and the NY Times at the thick, wooden kitchen table.  David and I went for a walk, past the dairy farm next door, down the slope of a field to the winding river, the mountains darkening as rain spit in fits.  Then a rainbow arched over the clouds ahead and disappeared into the blue-black clouds to the west.  We talked about children and parents, love and loss, ambition and expectation, and the tangled twist of family we’ve found ourselves in, moving together through a meet the parents weekend without a full set of parents among us.  Yet there is no tangle, just simple threads of love and connection and a weekend built around talking, looking at books of poetry and art, and eating together. 

Daisy has been learning the art of bread baking and brought a cinnamon loaf and the dough for baguettes.  Saturday night, before dinner, Daisy baked the baguettes.  They came out with a perfectly crisp and chewy crust and smooth and light on the inside.  We gathered in the kitchen, artisan cheeses, a rose of roasted figs in a grape leaf and sliced pear on a platter, and broke bread together.  A blessing slipped through me and went out into the country air.


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The cars are sheened white this morning, and there are patches of white still on the grass where the sun hasn’t reached yet.  The delicate ice of frost rims a red leaf, frozen dew, fall finally here.  When we got up Friday morning the temperture was 74 degrees, yesterday it was 37, today the frost fell before we woke. 

Yesterday we picked apples with my parents, and the trees were loaded with fruit.  Trying to eat local as much as we can, apples are the fruit we’re eating right now, and we have a refrigerator bin full.  The old maple tree in front of the house is getting bare, and the leaves that are left are yellow and orange and red.  Today we’ll bring in the plants from the porch, I’ll clean off the garden, and pick whatever basil didn’t get browned by the cold.  We’ll finish taking down screens and washing the windows, clearing the path between inside and out.  We’re turning into the dark and letting in light.


“Honeycrisp?  I’ve heard they’re like crack,” Adrienne said, after asking if there would be apples to pick when she comes home for Yom Kippur in a couple of weeks.  I’d told her there are already good apples ready, there will be plenty in two weeks, and David and I have been eating lots of Honeycrisp apples, new to both of us and delicious.  Addictively delicious, apparently.

“This is crack corn,” I said to David, eating last night’s ears of fresh corn, which have been as consistently sweet and popping fresh as we can ever remember.  We’ve had a lot of company this summer, family and friends, and we’ve served basically the same menu every time — caprese salad with tomatoes and basil from the garden, green beans from the garden, fresh corn, and some kind of protein on the grill.  It’s been our standard menu for ourselves too, for weeks now.  The farm truck parked at the traffic circle we go through on the way home makes keeping well stocked in native corn, peaches and nectarines easy.  We’re happy, because we’re eating real food, as Michael Pollan prescribes, we’re eating local, as slow fooders would prescribe, and much of what we’re eating I grew myself. 

Slow food, delicious food, simple food, crack.