On synesthesia; or, Green smoothie with orange, banana, and strawberry

A floral find, on the walk to the Tate Britain.

A floral find, on the walk to the Tate Britain.

I was walking down the street just now, when the most incredible scent captured and transported me. It came from a flower shop on 18th street, whose cool depths wafted out the most delicate, green, clear and cool vapors I’d come across in a long time. You know that characteristic smell, right? Of cut flowers and live, greenly things growing, with an undertone of damp and soil? Its freshness is akin to, strangely enough, that smell you get from a good ice cream shop, that combination of scents that somehow mesh harmoniously into a scent so palpable and delectable, you want to either sink into or swim in it. No wonder the flower shop stopped me in my tracks today, especially on a long stretch of sidewalk pavement where you least expect it.

Lilacs in London.

Lilacs in London.

 

It reminded me of one of my favorite passages from Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway when Clarissa swings into a florist, interrupting her internal monologue which had just reached a fevered pitch. The effect is abrupt and immediate: a cooling effect as she takes it all in:

There were flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, bunches of lilac; and carnations, masses of carnations. There were roses; there were irises. Ah yes — so she breathed in the earthy garden sweet smell as she stood talking to Miss Pym who owed her help, and thought her kind, for kind she had been years ago; very kind, but she looked older, this year, turning her head from side to side among the irises and roses and nodding tufts of lilac with her eyes half closed, snuffing in, after the street uproar, the delicious scent, the exquisite coolness. And then, opening her eyes, how fresh like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white, pale — as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day, with its almost blue-black sky, its delphiniums, its carnations, its arum lilies was over; and it was the moment between six and seven when every flower — roses, carnations, irises, lilac — glows; white, violet, red, deep orange; every flower seems to burn by itself, softly, purely in the misty beds; and how she loved the grey-white moths spinning in and out, over the cherry pie, over the evening primroses!

A flower growing on the greenhouse doorframe at Monk's House, home to Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

A flower growing on the greenhouse doorframe at Monk’s House, home to Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

Delicious scent. Writing about taste can be difficult sometimes, and scent, well, even more so. It’s funny, that, as the two are so intimately connected, our taste buds going grayscale whenever we have a cold or stuffed-up nose. Walking past that remarkable flower shop, I felt the strongest urge to translate the floral aroma into a form of taste, to find its edible corollary. After all, how often we forget that fruit was once a flower! A few things came to mind, such as iced hibiscus tea, a fruit tart, or an amazing fruit tea I had at a teahouse in Korea. All good candidates; all not quite right.

And then I thought of the smoothie I made for breakfast.

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Salad, plain and small

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Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing, cuccu! 

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. I don’t know about you, but I always think of Sarah, Plain and Tall when this time rolls around, as a literary reference for “Sumer Is Icumin In”: like Maria in Sound of Music, Sarah seals the love of her new family through teaching them this song.

Summer is a-comin’ in, Loudly sing, cuckoo!

We read the book in elementary school and I’ll always remember it as quietly unsettling compared to other children’s literature. It was something about the style, which was simple yet lyrical; or its setting out West and the routines of farm life; or the character Sarah who, as the title promised, was notably plai  and tall and warm. Running through the book was a small yet live current of tension as the family adjusted to their replacement mother, their second wife: making daily, significance-laden adjustments that were at once unthinkable and yet instinctive for a young reader. It was a book that asked you to notice loneliness, grief, and love in things like missing the sea, smiling at sheep, transplanting one’s losses with echoes and translations. It puzzled me. I liked it.

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David Eyre’s Pancake

Good morning, sunshines! Happy Saturday. Let’s talk about pancakes, and how you need to make this easy, magical dish sometime this weekend, maybe even now. If you’ve been up for a bit and want to get your day started, feel free to scroll down to the recipe below. But if you’ve just rolled out of bed and need a bit of time to adjust, please read on.

This, by the way, is what you have to look forward to:

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But don’t take my word for it!

And now, the bit of introduction.

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Public service announcement; or, On food reading

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing these days, and one of the lessons I keep returning to again and again is the durable link between being a good writer and being a good reader. It’s all too easy to prize output over input, to measure one’s progress based on pages produced rather than pages consumed. (You probably know where I’m going with this.)

Reading rainbow, in paler shades of white.

Reading rainbow, in paler shades of white.

This was my recent library haul, from the Free (public) Library of Philadelphia. They’ve got a surprisingly great selection of cookbooks and food writing, and I find it way more pleasurable to take my time reading them at home than at Barnes and Noble, hunched over a stack of pristine, crisp clean copies trying not to microbend the pages. (Though that has its furtive pleasures too, I suppose.) Today, I checked out Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires (because what a perfect title!), Julia Child’s My Life in France (long overdue), Donroe Inman’s Wintersweet (because nothing’s cooler than reading about winter baking projects in the summer), and Chad Robertson’s Tartine Book No. 3 (confession: for the single pastry section, not the many on bread). Hopefully these, and many more, will prove good companions during this long month of writing, or at least give me a few ideas and recipes to add to my collection.

So this is just to say: get thee to a public library! Reclaim that breathless, expanding, quick-spinning bibliophilia of your childhood, or discover it (and how it changes) in the many phases of adulthood. To me, after logging many hours in a university library following trail after bibliographic trail, all this whimsical choice feels so good.

Quince Paste

Or: “Constant Vigi-quince!”  (For those of you who know the joke, 10 points to the house of your choice.)

Usually posts heralding a triumphant return to the blogosphere include the requisite hemming and hawing, apology, and oaths of renewed fealty to one’s reader.  As my return is something less than triumphant — more of a sidling back, I think, with every sense of promise tempered by an equal dose of doubt — I can only tell you that I hope, truly hope, that it is good to be back.  In any case, perhaps the saying of it will make it so.

I was having a conversation with a fellow food blogger yesterday about how it’s so damned hard, sometimes, to feel in the proper mood to blog, especially about food.  Hence the long absence: there just seemed to be so much more that needing doing, and more pressingly, so much more self-possession needed that I couldn’t even think about writing, especially publicly.  But now, I think, the act — the very thought of — has become increasingly difficult to ignore.  And if I’ve learned one thing from academia (not to mention therapy), it’s that there is no such thing as a proper mood.

BRUTUS (from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, 2.1 ):

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interm is
Like a phantasma, or hideous dream:
The genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council; and the state of men,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

from T.S. ELIOT’S “Hollow Men”:

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

To which I add: between the raw and the cooked quince, between the furry uncanny and the jellied tame, all the interim is gorgeous, sweet-smelling anticipation.  And, as the title of this post suggests, constant vigilance.

Quince, for those of you who haven’t seen or eaten it, is akin to the apple and a pear, and smells as beautiful as a rose.  It is also, oddly enough, furry, and when cut into, may cause slight queasiness as it bears an uncanny resemblance to an apple — both like (texture, peel, core) and unlike (weird, alien seed pod arrangement) enough so that, at least for me, it was a distinctly unpleasant experience.  But they’re an amenable enough fruit, willing to sit in your fruit drawer for weeks until their presence guiltily remembered, their futures decisively resolved.  Like other fruit-stewing adventures, quince paste doesn’t get made until the idea of kitchen alchemy wafts in and grabs hold of you, turning the thought of something this time-consuming (but as I’ll describe, rather simple) into a pleasant, even desirable endeavor.

It also, I should add, turns pink with heat.  Magic.

To cut to the chase, this is your reward:

The Close-Up Quince.

A generous amount of sweet, sliceable, rosy-hued jelly that you can pair with any cheese course or use on your morning toast.  It’s like a luminous, honeyed pear, with warm undertones of vanilla and the brightness of lemon.  Gorgeous.  And to get there is not all that difficult, if you can stomach chopping the raw quince.  Oh all right, it’s quite a process — it won’t make itself — but it takes more time than it does arduous work, more patience than anything else.  It’s oddly sentient, this quince paste, as it quietly bubbles away on your stovetop, its color deepening each time you think to check on it.  Best of all, it breathes a sense of space into your day, drawing on that oddest of temporal mathematics whereby time seems to expand with the more things you do.  Which, I suppose, is an aptly transferable lesson for blogging, and even writing itself.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

 

Quince Paste

from Fine Cooking, Oct/Nov 2011

  • 2 lb quinces (about 4 medium), peeled, cored, and chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
  • 2 strips lemon zest (each 1/2 by 2 inches)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, more or less as needed
  • 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter, softened

Directions:

  1. Put quince, vanilla bean and seeds, and lemon zest in a 4 qt saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the quinces are tender when poked with a knife, about 40 minutes.  (Note: This took me far less time, about 25 min.)
  2. Drain the quince and discard the vanilla bean.  Purée the fruit and zest in a food processor (or if you have an immersion blender, go for it!).  Measure the purée by volume, return it to the pan, and add an equal amount of sugar.  (I had about 2.5 cups purée, so I added about 2.5 cups sugar).
  3. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and reduce heat to low.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the purée becomes a very thick paste, about 1.5 hours.  (Constant vigi-quince!)
  4. When about done, heat oven to 125 degrees F.  If your oven doesn’t go that low, use the lowest temperature and expect a shorter cooking time.  Line a 8×8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish with parchment and grease with the butter.  Pour the paste (don’t scrape the pot) into the dish and smooth the top.  Bake until slightly dried and firm enough to slice, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove from oven.  Let cool to room temp.  Invert onto a cutting board and slice however you’d like.  Wrap with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated — it should last at least a month, if not longer.  (You can also freeze it, I think, well-wrapped.  This is a great gift for friends!)

Birds flying high

Why, hello, you.

You birds, sun & breeze; you fish, rivers, and trees — oh, hello world — you are so good.

It was never that I was really gone, although there were times when I could not bear being here; it was never that I ever said goodbye, although there were times when nothing was illuminated enough to even address — in short, I was in another country where time stood deep and still, dark and folded upon itself as to never let me go.  But now the sun is shining — a peculiar thing, really, remembering its existence — and I find it shining just enough to remember the contours of my body, the matter of my mind, and the luminous quiddity of things.  And it is so good to be here.

(Sleep in peace when day is done, that is what I mean.)

I think there is so much to learn; so much distance between day and done, so much to peace that we sometimes forget how much inhabits the word.  Among other things, I am learning that time is a funny thing:

Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished.  Maybe happen is never once but like ripples maybe on water after the pebble sinks, the ripples moving on, spreading, the pool attached by a narrow umbilical water-cord to the next pool which the first pool feeds, has fed, did feed, let this second pool contain a different temperature of water, a different molecularity of having seen, felt, remembered, reflect in a different tone the infinite unchanging sky, it doesn’t matter: that pebble’s watery echo whose fall it did not even see moves across its surface too at the original ripple-space, to the old ineradicable rhythm … (Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! 210)

Difference and repetition, indeed : although Faulkner reminds us that happening is always a type of haunting (never once) set to an old ineradicable rhythm, so too does his novel depend, even stake its life upon the possibility of a different molecularity. (As in, let this second pool contain a different tone and temperature, as much as we acknowledge its debt — no, kinship — to the other pool.) Time is a funny thing, its very warp and woof flexible and (for)giving enough to be very full, very full indeed.  Which is to say that, at least for me,  the possibility of a new day means constantly reestablishing oneself, a process that fully acknowledges the weight of your matter across time and space (an auto-inheritance, a receiving of yourself), but also allows you to shift your weight ever so slightly as to inhabit a completely different existence.  And so, my friends, I find myself feeling good.

Speaking of different temperatures, molecularities, and tone, I’d like to introduce you to a delicious recipe for lemon curd, one that reminds us of the magic, even alchemical properties of things.  And it couldn’t be easier: whisking eggs, sugar, and lemon juice over a low flame until, by culinary grace, it transforms into a light, gorgeous, soft mass of lemony sweetness.  Add a bit of butter and lemon zest, and you’re — well, if not golden, then the most promising shade of metamorphic yellow you’ll ever have the pleasure of witnessing.

(You’ll know how I feel.)

Lemon Curd

cobbled together from “Joy of Baking,” Epicurious, and Ina Garten. 

Ingredients:

3 Eggs
¾ cup Sugar
⅓ cup Lemon Juice (~3 lemons)
1 tsp Cornstarch
small pinch Salt
4 Tbsp Butter, room temp
1 Tbsp Lemon Zest

Take a medium saucepan.  Add eggs; whisk.  Add sugar; whisk.  Add lemon juice; whisk. Add cornstarch and a pinch of salt; whisk.

Cook and whisk frequently over low heat for 5-10 minutes or until it registers 160℉ and is thickly light yellow, like Hollandaise sauce.

Take off the heat to cool, and then store in the refridgerator.  Put plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming.

It is good on muffins and toast, marvelous if spooned into a sweet tart shell (already baked: no need to bake a lemon curd tart!), and to my mind, quite adequate on its own.

Rage for Order, or, Substantial Salads

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh!  Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

(from Wallace Stevens' "The Idea of Order at Key West")

I love origin stories.  This poem, along with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Sharon Creech’s Love that Dog, is part of mine.  The former introduced me to The Experience of Literature, and moreover, that experience is worth writing down; the latter taught me that sharing is caring; and the Wallace Stevens — well, the Stevens taught me to love both the sounds of words and ideas of order.  All of this was in high school, where I had a fiercely ambivalent relationship to formal English classes; it took me quite a bit longer to decide that the study of literature was worth a lifetime’s work, and more specifically, mine.  But we love what we love, we are that we are, and whether the fixing (arranging, deepening, enchanting) was or was not of my own making, I ended up going to the things I loved, anyway — that which I am, will be, and in some sense, always already was.  A blessed and troubling rage for order, indeed, one that might make us long for the counterfactual with all its ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

I was thinking a few days ago about the origin of “A Kitchen of One’s Own,” the food life I began to inhabit a few years ago and that continues to structure my day-to-day.  And I realized that despite my curious and almost pathological love for narrative, I had never really thought about my culinary trajectory, never saw a plot to it beyond the cyclical influence of seasonality.  Indeed, that’s partly why I love food life — it’s so whimsical and contingent, growing rhizomatically as it refuses emplotment and my tyrannous rage for order (despite my penchant for baking.)  But now, looking back across time, I realize there were and are local patterns and lines of order to what I (perhaps over-enthusiastically) previously imagined was delightful culinary anarchy.  I started wildly, passionately, baking cake after cake, puddings and pots de crème; roasted chickens; attacked parsnips; refused to shy away from butter and insisted upon fresh herbs, spent most to all of my paycheck on foodstuff.  That first winter I made thick, rich stews and sauces and roasted pan after pan of vegetables, while the summer brought three glorious months of grilling and charcoalated giddiness (a summer, too, of the heirloom tomato).  Then another academic year, another turn of the seasons, and I found myself a little more frugal, a little less decadent, and above all, soup-hungry.  So there was soup every weekend, supplemented by a strange and bewildering obsession with braised cabbage and admirable (read: tenacious) foray into bread-making.  Indeed, I never stopped baking: the first year of grad school brought many a therapeutic cake into the world, though they were often simpler, unfrosted, full of spices and fruit.   Then I was single (i.e., culinary idiosyncracy); and then I was in Korea (i.e., kimchi, begrudgingly); and then I was back, and “then” became “now.”

And now?  Now I’m rather obsessed with substantial salads, ones that start with a hearty base of beans, rice, or grains like wheatberries and a colorful vegetable (often roasted), mixed with fresh herbs and oftentimes flavorful cheese, and then finished with a sparkling vinaigrette (with aromatics like shallots, onions, garlic) that binds it all together, making each part positively jewel-like.  Case in point:

Here we have a roasted beet salad with wheat berries and feta, tossed in an oregano vinaigrette.  These salads are often very nice served atop greens, whether that’s lettuce, arugula, or even heartier greens like chard or kale.  They are good warm or cold, keep forever, and make lovely brainfood lunches on the go.  Today I’m going to share with you two of my absolute favorites, this one with the beets (from Lottie + Doof) and one with carrots, dill, and white beans found on 101 Cookbooks, where you can find many substantial salads along the lines presented here.  I’d encourage you to experiment with what you have on hand and what you have in mind, as the formula is quite intuitive, easy, and effective.

Grain + vegetable + herb + cheese + dressing.  Sometimes a rage for order isn’t so bad after all.

Roasted Beet Salad with Wheat Berries and Feta, from Lottie + Doof

Oregano Vinaigrette:
1 Shallot, finely minced (while you can use onion, shallots are particularly nice here)
3 tbsp. White Wine Vinegar (you can also use sherry or rice wine vinegar, but the acidity of the white wine vinegar is a good match for the sweet wheat berries)
½ tsp. Honey
1 tbsp. Finely Chopped Fresh Oregano
½ tsp. Dried Oregano
Kosher Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper
¼ cup Good Quality Olive Oil (or a bit less)

Salad
Arugula, preferably baby or wild arugula (optional)
2-3 medium Beets, roasted, peeled and chopped*** (you can also use Trader Joe’s wrapped precooked beets, but I find they seem rather anemic in comparison)
2 cups Cooked Wheat Berries***
½ lb. Feta
Fresh Oregano

Make vinaigrette: In a small bowl combine the shallot, vinegar, oregano, honey, salt and pepper. Let sit for 15 minutes. slowly add olive oil, whisking to combine.

Assemble salad: Place arugula leaves in a medium bowl and toss with a couple of tablespoons of vinaigrette. Divide dressed arugula among 4 plates. Top with ¼ of wheat berries and ¼ of the beets and ¼ of the feta. Drizzle remaining dressing on top. Sprinkle with some additional oregano, salt and pepper. Serve.

*** To roast beets: Preheat oven to 400° F. Wash beets and wrap individually in aluminum foil. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a small knife easily glides into beet. Let cool a bit before peeling and chopping.

*** To cook wheat berries: Combine 1 ½ cups wheat berries, 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, until tender. This will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Add additional boiling water as needed to keep grain covered.

Carrot, Dill, and White Bean Salad, from 101 Cookbooks

Dressing:
¼ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
¼ tsp. Fine Grain Salt
½ cup Thinly Sliced Shallots

Salad:More Olive Oil (Or Ghee) For Cooking
2 cups Sliced Carrots, cut ¼-inch thick on deep bias
3 cups Cooked White Beans
Scant ¼ Cup Chopped Fresh Dill
2 tbsp. Brown Sugar (Or Honey)
⅓ cup Sliced Almonds, toasted (I skip this; and lo, the world does not end)

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and shallots in a small bowl. Stir and set aside.

In your largest skillet over medium high heat, toss the carrots with a splash of olive oil or a spoonful of ghee (I love ghee with carrots). Let them cook in a single layer – they’ll give off a bit of water at first. Keep cooking, tossing gently every three or four minutes until the carrots are deeply browned. All told, about twelve minutes.

Add the beans and dill to the skillet and cook for another five minutes, or until the beans as well heated through. If you are using beans that weren’t canned you can allow them to brown a bit as well (just cook a bit longer, and stir less frequently) – they can handle this in a way that most canned beans can’t. If you need to add a bit more olive oil to the pan – do so.

Place the contents of the skillet in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with the brown sugar and pour the ¾ of the lemon-olive oil mixture over the top. Toss gently. Let sit for ten minutes. Toss gently once again, taste and adjust with more salt or sugar or lemon juice if needed to balance the flavors. Serve warm or at room temperature and finish by sprinkling with the almonds just before serving.

Plum Crumble, or A Moment of Being, Five Ways

I am trying, rather unsuccessfully, to take hold of this moment of being.  Give me at least five tries:

1) (Descriptive.) It’s 10 pm; the house is filled with a yellow glow; it smells jammy and warm, full of a ripe plum scent that fades in and out of recognition, intensifying as I move about.  The week is done, the work is good, there is life yet to come.  I sit on the couch, curled around Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, and dream of other worlds as the rain falls insistently in this one.

2) (Directive.) Here’s what you have to do. Don’t worry; it’s rather simple, a one bowl process, really.  Take those lovely plums you got from the market a week ago, the small and fragrant ones in the brown bag.  Whisk together a bit of flour and brown sugar, spice it with ginger and cinnamon, and toss the plums–which you have now washed, halved, and pitted–until they’re nice and coated.  Put them in the bottom of a pie pan or small casserole dish (ooh yes, that blue one is perfect) skin side down–perfect.  Yes.  A rather satisfying act of order, don’t you think?

Now make your topping, mixing together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and a dash more of that cinnamon right in that same bowl you used the plums for.  Yes.  Add a beaten egg, and then mix it all together with your hands, tossing and squeezing together until pebbly and sandy, sort of like those beaches with the damp brown sand you used to go to as a kid.  Scatter it evenly over your cobblestoned plums–perfect–and then spoon melted butter over the top, letting it sink in like velvet.  Ah.  Yes.  That’s just right.

Slide it into your oven and take a seat; the rest of the work will be done for you.  Await the overpowering soft scent of plums.

3) (Photographic.)

4)  (Informative.) Plum Crumble (barely adapted from Orangette, who barely adapted it from Marion Burros and Luisa Weiss)

(new!) Note: The only thing I might substantially change about this recipe is the ratio of plums to actual crumble: it ends up being about 1:1.5.  For those of you who like more fruit in each bite, I might suggest (almost) doubling the plums or halving the topping.

For The Plums:
2 Tbsp. Lightly Packed Brown Sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
¼ tsp Ground Cinnamon
¼ tsp Ground Ginger
2 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Crystallized Ginger (I omitted this)
12 – 14 Italian Prune Plums, halved and pitted (I put in 16; as many as will fit in the bottom of your pan)

For The Topping:
Scant ¾ Cup Granulated Sugar (About 4 To 4 ½ Ounces)
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
1 Egg, beaten well
7 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted (I used 6)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the seasoning for the plums: the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, and crystallized ginger. Add the plums, and gently stir to coat. Arrange the plums skin side up in an ungreased deep 9-inch pie plate (or small casserole dish).

In another medium bowl (eh, just use the same bowl) combine the dry ingredients for the topping: the granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend well. Add the egg. Using your hands, mix thoroughly, squeezing and tossing and pinching handfuls of the mixture, to produce moist little particles. Sprinkle evenly over the plums.

Spoon the butter evenly over the topping, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is browned and the plums yield easily when pricked with toothpick. Cool.

Serve crumble warm or at room temperature, with crème fraîche, thick yogurt, or unsweetened whipped cream.

5) (Poetic.) This is just to say (adapted from William Carlos Williams‘ poem of the same name, but in a future, non-confessional, invitational mode)

I am waiting
for the plums
that are in
the oven

and which
I will definitely
eat
for breakfast 

Come join me
they'll be delicious
so sweet
and so warm

And here’s where it all happens

It’s the weekend before the Great Exam, and I’m sitting in Green Line Cafe, drinking coffee, eating a cookie, composing the story of my summer (which also happens to be the story of my life), and hoping for a little magic. Here’s where it begins; here’s where it ends; here’s where it all happens.

Yes, I’m hoping for a little magic–some dizzying and luscious alchemy that will transform a summer of reading into something like a gemstone, to be held up and appraised from all angles, noting where exactly it catches and reflects light like a prism, where it is scratched or damaged, where it is particularly opaque.  I want to turn this timespace into something I can hold in my hands, a dynamic and plastic thing with physical and chemical properties that I can turn and shape in my hands. Color: The green of sunlit leaves, shadowy and sunlit at turns.  Momentum: variant. Ductility: High, especially around affect and justice. Melting point: close. Electric potential: infinite.

I should be writing my introduction right now, but there’s something telling me to take pause, to reflect, to give myself time to express to you, dear reader, what it is that the summer meant to me.  And in proper 50-Book paranoia, it meant everything. The time, I realized, is now–it’s here–it has announced itself.  There is good work to be done; there are books in this world that by their sheer fact of existence call me, or something like me, into being.  It is enough.  It is now. I, with both extreme hesitation and yet none at all, am ready.

This summer, despite itself, was a gift.  After all, ’tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. And while the study of literature is anything but simple, there is still a true simplicity to it that I want, above all, to carry with me into this great and sometimes terrifying world.  If I can keep this in mind — the fact that I love what I do, or at least am capable of it; the fact that the work is exciting, generative, and self-renewing, no matter how many times I have to prove it to myself once more; the fact that life is difficult, the world complex, and literature strangely moving — if I can keep these things in mind, whatever bowing and bending is involved with this exam and this profession, not only will I not be ashamed, but I think I may even be delighted.  Or grateful.  Or a feeling I would closely equate to that of love.

Here’s where it ends, yes.  Here’s where it begins, of course; one is always stumbling into beginnings.  But it’s the feeling of it all happening that I’d like to dwell on, a spirit and physical property of thought that hopefully will surface as I open a new document and begin my introduction.

Break my heart, Roland Barthes

It is said that mourning, by its gradual labor, slowly erases pain; I could not, I cannot believe this; because for me, Time eliminates the emotion of loss (I do not weep), that is all.  For the rest, everything has remained motionless.  For what I have lost is not a Figure (the Mother), but a being; and not a being, but a quality (a soul): not the indispensable, but the irreplaceable.  I could live without the Mother (as we all do, sooner or later); but what life remained would be absolutely and entirely unqualifiable (without quality.)

(Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida)