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Archive for June 11th, 2009

Last night we attended our last “green drinks” in Auburn.  (We move out on Tuesday.)  The table was full of draft ales and seafood: it was still in the upper-80s at six o’clock, we were thirsty and craving the light salty crunch of fried squid and sizzled scallops.  Jack proved his readiness to eat like a real Italian when he went back for thirds and fourths of calamari dipped in aioli.  Matt: “are you going to tell him what he’s eating?” “Not yet.”  Actually, he’d probably think it was cool to eat squid, like the penguins. (We’ve been watching lots of Planet Earth, the main themes and action of which are procreation and predation, i.e. sex and violence.  Jack watches with intent, nervous fascination, and we nervously watch him watching.)

Over the past few months, I’ve had a bunch of new friendships sprout up, and saying goodbye for this year-long hiatus feels a little unreal.  We’ll keep in touch online, of course, but the real medium of friendships for me is meals—not emails.  We’ve had relaxed-raucus cookouts, with burgers and brownies and our loudest-talking friends; platters of finger-friendly pita with hummus, tabouli, dolmas and Steele’s blue drinks; pesto-tossed pasta with Gulf shrimp, followed by Bonny Doon ice-wine and the short-bread I’d overcooked just long enough to get some nibs of chewy-crunchy crumble-resistance.  At Amsterdam Café, we said hello and goodbye at once to Scott and Charlie (they had water and salmon salads—restrained—and we had martinis and braised local lamb: a night out without Jack is splurge-worthy).

We’re happy that that friendship will overlap in space. Next spring, when they come with the architecture students to the foreign city which will have become home to us by then, we’ll share another meal or two.  It’s both impossible and easy to imagine this future, our next year in Rome.  Google Earth gives the thrilling illusion of presence, knowledge. Turn away from the screen, though, and we’re still in Alabama. It’s not unlike absorption in a novel, the world of which begins to feel like your world.  The real version becomes, for the time of reading, fixed, mute, invisible. But then it’s time to pack more boxes or clean the oven.  When I think about this future, though, it feels solid, because where Scott’s mind would fix on images of buildings, my mind anchors on images of food: huge fresh bunches of greens on the imagined counter in our little apartment kitchen-to-be; warm bowls of pasta lunch at Jack’s Italian pre-school; dishes of olives; butcher shops; espresso; crusty, chewy, flour-dusty bread; meals with new flavors, new friends.

And by the way, maybe these images are so palpable to me because the Rome Sustainable Food Project’s Facebook page makes it incredibly easy to imagine sinking my teeth into something exquisitely delicious!

oh, wow!

yum!

mmmm….

Crumbly Crunchy Shortbread
(The perfect, last-minute dessert that still impresses and requires no runs to the market.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1 ½ sticks butter (bakers usually recommend unsalted, but sometimes I use salted and/or cultured; in any case, use your absolute best butter)
2 c. all-purpose flour
½ c. sugar (organic, unrefined makes a warm and toasty cookie)
½ tsp. salt

Cut butter into little nubs. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, and work with a pastry fork until the butter is petite-pea-sized. (Use a food processor in a pinch.) Dump mixture into a 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan (for thick cookies) and with a metal spatula press evenly onto bottom. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until just beginning to brown, 20+ minutes.

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