Late August already - and turning the corner towards the start of the new academic year, and the fresh season of autumn. This time of year is always really difficult for me. On the one hand, I am looking forward to the feeling of renewal and purpose that the beginning of the semester instills, along with the new rhythms of the academic schedule. There is a heady feeling to it - almost as if anything is possible and every day can being new accomplishment and fulfillment.
But then there is the letting go of summer. And that is what is hard.
Leaving Southern Maine is leaving home. There is no mistaking that. Taking up life (for most of the week, anyway) in the city is exhilarating, but my soul resides in Kennebunk, off Mill Street.
The last couple of weeks of August must therefore be celebrated.
And that's exactly what happened, at the end of the week! Paul and I went off to Cummington, Massachusetts to visit family, to renew acquaintance with his family farm, and (most of all) to enjoy the Cummington Fair!
The Fair is almost 150 years old, and still going strong. It's at once a celebration of agricultural life and an end-of-summer revel, complete with corny entertainment, a cheesy midway, and tons of junk food. Fresh french fries with malt vinegar are a must, as is soft-serve ice cream and greasy sandwiches. The oxen and horse draws are prime attractions. The soft bleats of the sheep and moos of the cows in the barns during the daytime give way to the crashes and screams of the crowd at the nightly demolition derbies. The antique tractor and car parade draws the largest crowds of all, it seems. What fun!!
The first day of classes is still days and days away. There's still time to enjoy the green hills and blue cloud-filled skies, or the pop of a campfire as the stars appear overhead. Time to wish on a shooting star and listen for the hoot of an owl. Time to eat and laugh and relax in the shelter of family.
|Some of the color of the Cummington Fair|
|Looking east from the farm. The glow of the sunset on the opposite side of the sky is reflected in the clouds.|
This week's best flowers
|These aren't from my garden, but they are certainly lovely. This is a border of bright zinnias at the observation building on Mt. Sugarloaf, in South Deerfield, Massachusetts.|
|The phlox in bloom.|
|Lovely roses, in my favorite color, in their second bloom.|
|Not a lot going on in the garden at the moment, so here is a shot of my pet orchid, a phalaenopsis, which has recently come into bloom again. These blooms will last weeks if I'm careful not to overwater the plant. |
|Blue lobelia continues to bloom in a Nantucket basket on the porch.|
|It's clear fall is coming! Small pansies are beginning to bloom again in the midst of the salad greens in this blue bowl.|
An arrangement of backyard flowers:
Recipes for the Week
Gourmet: A Love Story
The demise of the venerable, splendid, food and lifestyle magazine Gourmet in November of 2009, has been widely mourned, but allow me to add a belated tear or two more to the general lamentation. I loved that magazine. I first encountered it when I lived in what amounted to a rooming house for young women in Boston's Back Bay, when I attended medical/grad school. I was cat-sitting for a neighbor whilst she vacationed in France one spring, and I soon was spending all my free time on her couch (far more comfy than mine) reading her collection of back issues of Gourmet. The magazine changed my entire approach to cooking. Cooking was, until that time, a necessity - something I did two or three times a day to feed my Dad and two brothers, when I still lived at home. But Gourmet slyly suggested that cooking could be more: luxurious, sensuous, an activity that offered the possibility of creativity and accomplishment. Okay, I'm in.
After my first marriage, I subscribed to Gourmet as a gift to myself and my new husband. My subscription never ended, but my December 2009 issue just - well - never came. It was as if a trusted friend had passed away.
I have saved many of my favorite issues. Not all - that would be foolish - but many. And every month, I look forward once again to the Gourmet invitation to the culinary life, well-lived. Here's a menu from this summer's back issues. All three recipes are easy and - yes - luxurious and sensuous. Enjoy.
Basil Caesar Salad: Cut several pieces of leftover bread (ciabatta works well) into chunks. Toss the bread chunks with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and salt, and bake in a 375 degree oven until crusty. Stir the croutons once or twice while they are baking. Meanwhile, process one garlic clove in a food processor until it's chopped. Add one egg, 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. anchovy paste, 1 cup chopped basil, and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Process, and with the motor running, drizzle 6 Tbsp. olive oil into the bowl. Process basil dressing until emulsified. Chop heads of romaine lettuce, and toss lettuce with croutons, dressing, and 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
Salmon with Citrus-Yogurt Sauce: For sauce, mix 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. water, 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, 1 tsp. fresh orange juice, 1 tsp. grated lime zest, 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest, 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. honey. This sauce is superb with any grilled or baked fish! Grill or slow-roast one large salmon filet or four salmon steaks, and serve with the sauce. For slow-roasting (a superior way of cooking salmon, in my opinion), rub the fish with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Cover the fish tightly with foil, and roast in a pre-heated 300 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the filets. The fish should be opaque, but should not be dry.
Raspberry (or Blueberry) Buttermilk Cake: Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and buter and flour one 9-inch round cake pan. Whisk together 1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, and 1/4 tsp. fine salt. Cream 1 stick softened butter and 2/3 cup granulated sugar until fluffy and pale-colored. A stand mixer will do this best. Beat in 1/2 tsp. vanilla, and then 1 large egg. Add flour mixture alternately with 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined. Scrape into prepared pan, and scatter 1 cup fresh raspberries (or blueberries) over the top. Sprinkle fruit with 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 25 to 30 mintes. Cool slightly, and (if possible) serve while still warm.
|Late August Repose|