I am so grateful 

for so many things now. I am finally living up to the expectations of the Jehovah Witnesses who came to the door on a Saturday morning when I was a kid and after I said hello, and they said I was damned for all eternity, they asked me what I was grateful for. I thought about it and said,  “Cartoons.”

It wasn’t enough. They wanted more. I really wanted to get back to the cartoons. Saturdays were my only chance, so I said, “I can’t think of anything.” That really set them off. “I have to close the door now,” I said, and even though they were still in the thick of it, I closed the door. I was dammed anyway.

So now, I am making up the difference. I am grateful for air, for tiny cherry tomatoes, for dogs, for coffee with milk, for rose petals shaped like hearts that fall from their stems..everything. And love. Of course. How am I not going to say that. I am most grateful, for love.

And chicken. We slapped a brick on top of split chickens and roasted them at 400 degrees over a pile of garlic and rosemary. Made a risotto with soffritto and tiny cubed potatoes, and a salad of arugula, toasted almonds, currants and shallot. For dessert: crostata of cherry jam.

Queen of the pork chop

I like to make a fire with twigs and old leaves 

to start it, and then a bunch of skinny logs to make the coals. I put the pork chops on the fire with only salt. No oil until they are done. I like the coals to be hot, but no flames. And with olive oil to finish, a good squeeze of lemon. We rolled out a table full of gnocchi to have first and tossed them with browned butter and fried sage. I should have added a little more salt to the cooking water and I would have known that, if I had tasted one. I get distracted when I am cooking inside and outside at the same time. I don’t get worked up the way I used to though, so I am not bothered by it. The pork chops were so darn good, I could hardly stand it. I think the table went a little quiet. On the side we had whole braised carrots with peperoncino and halved, caramelized, tiny red onions. Then a plate of sautéed lettuce with garlic and more peperoncino. And the tiramisu for dessert. I need a better whisk. I can’t whisk properly with a cheap crap whisk. The tines need to be skinny and there needs to plenty of them. We sit outside to eat, because it cools just down enough.  

Last night, on the border of Umbria and Tuscany

I made almost what I thought I would, but not exactly, so I will write it again. it was good, so it is not a bad thing to sing the same lyrics. penne with pancetta, fresh peas and caranna onions, finished with cooking water from the pasta, grana padano, and mounted butter. I made a second, of hand rolled fettuccine with wild and domestic mushrooms, slivered garlic and parsley. Because, why not have two pastas on the first night. Then slivered zucchini, the very pale, slender ones with even paler ridges, sautéed with basil leaves, garlic, lemon peel and peperoncino. Slivers of prosciutto over that. String beans braised with cherry tomatoes and garlic. Braised asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper and shavings of Umbrian pecorino. A plate of cantaloupe (also good with prosciutto, but I just wanted it as it was.) greens with shallot, fresh mint and basil leaves. Cannellini simmered with just enough water, olive oil, cloves of garlic and peperoncino, finished with lemon. Fresh fave, raw with a wedge of pecorino. And for dessert, cantucci with a side car of vin santo.

I might have to make tiramisu tonight, to use up the rest of the bottle. 

In the quiet

  • It is quiet now; the wind has died down like embers do. It sounds like it does in the wake of a storm that has passed. Everything has been left where it lies. I am still cooking. 
  • I found peas in their pods. I will make pasta with peas and pancetta and a special yellow onion, I don’t know the name of. Then prosciutto sliced thin, but not too thin, dropped over zucchini trifolati. Cannellini simmered with a whole peperoncino, a bay leaf, cloves of garlic and plenty of olive oil, and string beans simmered with grape tomatoes (i dateri), garlic and fresh basil. And for dessert, cantucci, dunked in vin santo. I rubbed the inside of a vanilla bean into the sugar and added a spill of white wine to the batter, to make the crunch more delicate.
    There is communal wine from Cortona, which just means everybody threw their grapes in together, and let be whatever came of it. I buy it pumped from the tank and use it for everything.
  • there are so many babies around my kitchen. three kittens that a mother cat brought yesterday, from some other hiding place, two puppies, and two tiny sparrows that just took their first flight from the nest and don’t look like they were given any other instructions. I will let them be. Every half hour I go back to where they are hopping, and tell them that I love them.

comfort

The grave has begun to sink

from the weight of the air above it. and the rain 

I suppose.

and my body lying on top of him

I know for sure.

I stay for hours

soaking up the warmth.

He holds me 

still 

I cook from the minute I get up, until the minute I sleep. roasting, braising, baking, stirring, chopping, and shopping so that I can start again.

with my whole heart

Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,

That looks on tempest, and is never shaken;

It is the start to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his 

height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips

and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and

Weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error, and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

-Shakespeare

how long will you wait

I am in a purgatory of my mind beginning a path of questions that have haunted me for months. As if it thinks by asking again, the answers will be different. Or could be different. They are not.

So I make soup. Soups. I finish one and I start another. I have one in the fridge that I made yesterday, and two on the stove. Basic, common, known forever, soups. Pea soup with leeks, thyme and bay leaf. I will go out and find some fresh mint for it. Chicken soup, because Ferdinand wasn’t feeling right yesterday. Stock from the bones of the chicken I roasted the day before, soffritto of onion, carrot and celery with rosemary and bay leaf and in the bowl, chicken pulled from the same bones, and buttered rice that I almost always have on a covered plate in my refrigerator, because it gives me peace to see it there. I heat the chicken and rice up with the hot stock and veg and give the whole thing a drizzle of olive oil and a grind of black pepper. Then there is Ashe. Its secrets are in the unpredictability of whatever I have to put in it. It always starts with onion, ginger and garlic, sautéed with crushed coriander, fennel seed and mustard seed, toasted for a minute, and then a peeled and diced potato and enough water to cover. I cover the pot and simmer until the potato is tender. On top of that I add a bunch of each, if I have it, spinach, cilantro, green onion, parsley, dill, mint, mustard greens..today I had spinach, parsley, cilantro and scallions. Enough. It is best with another swirl of olive oil on top of the greens, to enrich the flavor, before the lid goes back on for another 4-5 minutes. The greens should be tender, but still green. If you have a dried Persian lime, you can stab that a few times and let it rest in the soup, after the soup has cooked. The lime is buoyant. Rest a heavy spoon on top of it, to keep it below the surface.

The truth is, it is not a purgatory I would ever want to be released from. It is the most beautiful purgatory I know. That is the answer, I suppose.