A recent post on Cup of Jo talked about simple pleasures: small things that light you up, make you feel comfortable, bring you joy. Her list included kettle chips, getting into clean sheets after shaving your legs, and the grassy waves at Storm King.
The comment section on the post (which numbers over 500!) is beautiful and exceptional and so joy-inducing in and of itself that I’ve promised myself to return to read every single one, bit by bit, whenever I’m in need of a pick-me-up (or just a reminder that life is just brimming with the possibility of beauty at every turn, around every corner).
This time of year is a favorite of mine. The weather is changing, but only slightly. The air is turning from the warm humidity of summer—the sort that feels swollen and supple and tangible almost—to the crispness of autumn. But it’s still warm enough to wear shorts and sit outside in the sun. Just yesterday I bought two pears and an apple at the farmers’ market, crunching on one as I walked the ten blocks to pick up my car from getting serviced.
Have you heard about the famous Marian Burros plum torte recipe? For 6 years starting in 1983, the New York Times ran the cake recipe before deciding it was enough exposure and putting a stop to the nonsense…or so they thought, until people rioted (kidding, but actually it sounds like they sort of did) and demanded its return. I’m with that crowd, because the cake is really and truly a keeper. Not only is it fantastic as is but it can handle just about any tweaking you can come up with. No plums? Use berries! Don’t feel like cinnamon? Try pear and cardamom. Want a sandier texture? Add a little cornmeal.
Why vanilla is considered a neutral or negative descriptor is beyond me. It's treated as a non-flavor, as if its an absence of flavor. Perhaps it pales (PUN INTENDED) to richer, darker chocolate in some people's esteem, but I think vanilla is hard to surpass. Creamy and sweet, it can be exceptionally flavorful if you use the real stuff...and once you taste very good vanilla, you won't want to bake with anything else.
Eclairs always looked so darn fancy to me when I was little. Honestly, they seemed almost too fussy for a five-year-old with an extreme sweet tooth. Give me frosting! Give me an ice cream cone! Give me an entire g-d sleeve of Oreos and leave me alone for 20 minutes! But I like to think I've become far more mature and sophisticated in my ripe old age, and my appreciation for eclairs has deepened.
On the subject of comfort food, my mother is really an expert. Sure, I'm biased, but I think anyone who took a bite of her creamy broccoli pasta or had a slice of her potato bread, warm from the oven with a pat of fresh raw milk butter melting on top, would agree. But beyond the broad strokes genre, the real definition of comfort food is unique to each of us—specific and tied to our own particular memories and experiences and places.
It's been a little quiet around here. I'll be remedying that soon! I have so many excellent recipes to share with you guys. Sometimes the heat of the summer sends me running from the oven (and there have been plenty of those days), but I've had some great successes lately with new recipes and also tried-and-true favorites.
Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. You set out to make a classic banana bread, methodically measuring your flour and sugar. You thoughtfully soften your butter ahead of time (oh wait, it's summertime in New York and nearly 110% humidity outside, so you actually just take it out of the fridge and minutes later it's soft but listen, you give yourself credit anyway). You triumphantly dig out the last of the frozen bananas from the freezer, thinking it's high time they got used for something, and you've been extra-creative with your smoothies lately so the frozen bananas have been relegated to a corner underneath the peas and chocolate chips.
You don’t need me to remind you that being stuck in an airport for over 6 hours is not a desirable way to spend a day, but I’m here to tell you anyway. I’ve been in Portland, Maine for the past two days; instead of flying out as planned, thunderstorms kept us from leaving. I waited patiently as they cancelled flights, one by one, to nearby destinations. The blinking notice board at my gate kept refreshing: 30 minutes late, one hour late, two, two and a half, back to one, back to two, and so on. At each update, I clutched my crumpled boarding pass, debating whether to cut my losses and at least make something of the day. The flight attendants swore our flight would leave, and promising signs kept happening (bags loading, an order for jet fuel placed, pilots entering the cockpit). Finally—nearly 7 hours after I got to the airport—we started boarding, only to see the sign at the gate suddenly flash with red CANCELLED letters halfway through zone 1 boarding.
When we were little, we used to go to Nantucket to stay with my grandparents in the summer. I remember some details so vividly: the smell of the salt water, the tangle of low blueberry bushes edging the sandy driveway, the sticky feeling on my fingers after eating bags of penny candy from the fudge shop.
On bright Nantucket mornings, we'd pack up for a day of swimming. That, too, I remember in flashes: the beach was hot, the sand baked under the midday sun. My bare feet would burn as we'd walk to stake out a spot and settle down, beach chairs and towels and plastic buckets and all. Then my sisters (and cousins and parents and aunts and uncles and whatever family friends were there that week, too) and I would energetically and enthusiastically throw ourselves into the business of beach-going: swimming and building sand castles and boogie-boarding.