In the past 24 hours I've made protein and omega 3 packed nut power bars, dehydrated 10 pounds of ripe peaches, prepped cannelini beans for a spread with rosemary, made 2 quarts of green smoothie, repurposed leftover grilled zucchini in a rice paper wrap with a homemade spicy peanut sauce garnished with basil, radishes and carrots from the garden, and made 12 pints of one of my favorite "pickles", curried yellow squash and zucchini. Last week a friend and I canned 60 pounds of tart yellow plums into one of my favorite honey sweetened jams and compotes. But I don't want to talk about any of that. We're trying to eat healthier here at the homestead, so the sourdough baking has been put on pause and mornings are filled with the whir of the Vitamix pureeing its way through a bushel of beet greens, spinach, kale, or carrot tops. I feel great but just can't get all that excited about green smoothies, despite having all the ingredients fresh from the garden. But I can get excited about bon bons. Specifically, mint ice cream bon bons, dipped in a homemade dark chocolate 'magic shell'. No kale, no vitamix involved. A little bit of sugar, cream, mint, a chocolate shell, and a lot of guilt.
We've had an incredible Spring rise from the dirt here on Minnow Creek Lane -- the wisteria is in full bloom, arching over our stone patio. The jewel pink roses I inherited have begun to blossom, and the blushing peonies have opened their pom pom eyes. We've been eating gorgeous greens for over a month now - Bordeaux Spinach, with its red-wine stems, sautéed over toast and topped with a poached egg; Roquette Arugula pureed with walnuts, garlic, and parmesan for a refreshing pesto; French Sorrel gratineed with potatoes, cream and gruyere; baby Valmaine Romaine tossed in a mustard vinaigrette and topped with blackened Coho Salmon; Lacinato Kale stewed with shallots and finished with apple cider butter; baby Rainbow Chards with sesame soy glaze over soba noodles; and countless mixed green salads with garden radishes and a simple vinaigrette. I'm thankful this season for the distraction of an armful of greens and thinnings. Greens are good for the body, but lately, they've been feeding my soul.
Sugar. You and I have a long history. I was delivered in the hallway to the delivery room, screaming for dessert. It wasn't yet six in the morning. My mom offered her breast and I suckled and tasted sweet. It could have been the candy drawer she keeps to this day. I didn't 'lick it off the ground,' as my husband often says. Sugar is my fuel and my nemesis. Surrounded by a bunch of hippies, it doesn't get me far. But oozing Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies on a Friday night, pulled from the oven just as my dear overworked roommate in New York walked in the door, made me instant friends. I believe it also secured a few boyfriends, perhaps a husband ! Those boys in New York aren't used to a chick who can hold her own on a trading floor AND bake a pie, crust included, from scratch. "Would you like that a la mode with this Bourbon Raisin Ice Cream I just threw together?
Cinderella is not going to the ball. But she's daydreaming about one. Fall, 2002, Manhattan. My shared apartment on East 20th Street was in a corner building, sheltered from taxi packed 1st Avenue by a basketball court and a playground. It was close enough to work, that on the rare occasions exhaustion could pass for illness, I would walk home and observe the schoolchildren at play, untamed beneath my bedroom window. I was far from the wilds of nature, but the shrill sounds of laughing children felt organic enough, and I looked forward to them.
I'm not sure all this cooking is good for me. I'm not talking about my liberal attitude towards butter, sugar, oil, anything fatty or high calorie. I could care less if it adds to my love handles. Love me more then. But spending an entire afternoon perfecting old fashioned sea foam candy, listening to Nicaraguan folklore music, that suggests neurosis. I'm not sure if all the years slaving to the man is the culprit, or if it's simply in my genes to act this way. But sometimes, I can't stop. I have all the time in the world and yet not enough of it. I've taken to practicing yoga for twenty (if I can manage it that long) minutes, several mornings of the week. The calm that prevails after these sessions lasts for about the amount of time I spent doing it (extra if I hold the headstand longer). If I don't feel exhausted, something is amiss. Must stand longer over the stove, bake more, preserve more, grow more, pick more. It's type A liberal hipster hell here on Minnow Creek Lane. It shouldn't happen; and yet it does. Perhaps, in a more positive spin, I simply need to create. As a childless 30-something year old, spare me your psychological interpretations. You just wait and see; a baby isn't going to change much here except for diapers and homemade baby food.
Thank God I married an Irishman with an affinity for Kerrygold buttered toast slathered with preserves. If you know much about me, you know I fantasize about trips to the candy store. Just thinking about a visit to Dylan's Candy Bar in NYC could easily bring me to a state of delirium. I love sugar. But enough is enough. I've had fruit coming out my ears all summer. I inherited two frost peach trees, a yellow plum tree, a purple Italian plum tree, five pear trees, oodles of strawberry plants, and several blueberry bushes. I just planted three apple varietals, a mulberry, and a fig tree. I am a glutton for sugar induced punishment. Learning to 'can', has not made this situation better. Don't get me wrong: there is pleasure in biting into a juicy peach just a moment after picking it from the tree. But come on, let's be honest, a few sticky fingers later, and that gets old. Why eat the fruit raw when you can cook it down with sugar and lemon zest - and spoon it over butter cookies... in January? Canning has made me a very happy girl...for sweet better, or for sticky worse.