The Two Most Beautiful Words in the English Language
Henry James got it almost right. Those two words are surely summer morning, not summer afternoon.
A summer morning cool, heavy, washed with dew and birdsong and with the promise of untold delights ready to unfold. Who knows what a day might bring?
First go get the newspaper from the mailbox near the road, then check all the little gardens. They’re all looking a little better, and the soil is gradually coming to a lovely, friable state
The weather is so crisp this morning that I have two thoughts: First move laptop and papers to the deck, then think about possibly, perhaps, just maybe cooking something like a fruit pie or roasted zucchini, yellow squash, and onions with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh herbs from the little herb garden.
Both my mother and grandmother taught me to cook, each in her own way.
My mother taught me the same way she was taught in home economics class. Make sure your counter-top is clean and clutter-free. Lay out your measuring cups and spoons. Start reading the recipe from top to bottom, then take out the ingredients one-by-one and line them up in order of use.
After adding and properly measuring, of course, put each ingredient back in its place and swipe the counter with a sponge between ingredients to wipe up the slightest trace of flour or oil. By the time you’re finished mixing, your kitchen will be as orderly as when you began, and you can start to wash the numerous bowls and spoons in the sink. Pop your creation in the oven. You didn’t forget to preheat the oven to the precise temperature, did you? Now time to turn your attention to the next project.
I doubt my grandmother ever measured anything in her life or followed a recipe. Her method involved a jumble of jars, cans, bottles, bags of sugar, and a dusting of flour everywhere. Those were the days of sifting the flour and distributing it all over the counter-top.
Stir with a big wooden spoon in a wooden bowl to “about this consistency.” Now add a handful or two of flour, about “that much” warm water if the dough is too dry. Wash, dry, and flour your hands and knead “like this”—turning the dough a quarter turn with each forward push of the heels of your hands.
Along with the metal flour sifter, for pie crust, a pastry cutter was essential to reduce pats of butter to lumps “about the size of small peas” coated with flour. Then add ice water, and out comes the wooden rolling pin to roll out pie crust between sheets of waxed paper on a wooden slab. Dot the fruit with little pats of butter, dribs and drabs of flour and sugar. Pull the pie out of the oven when it’s done, “just like this.”
If you’re not sure about the readiness of a cake, the broom straw test will tell you the truth. If the color is not too brown and the broom straw comes out clean, your cake is just right.
Not so much science as art.
I may or may not get to the cooking part today, but I enjoy living simultaneously in the richness of both past and present, and remembering those exciting days of learning something for the first time.