Friday, January 14, 2022

What was, may be?

In freezing January it is helpful to look back at scenes of another life lived, just a few months ago. I am still sorting photos dating back to the middle of last year, and here are some good - and occasionally perplexing - moments.

The aperitif - honeysuckle cordial and basil - sipped on the warm July terrace, with the book I just bought, written by a new friend, Serena Bass. We met through social media, before feeding each other at our respective Brooklyn homes. She is a chef and formidable cook (the two don't always go together, curiously), and a truly delightful human. One of the rare ones who makes you feel special, and consequently a lesson in How to be a Better Person.

This was really perplexing. Looking at the photo I wondered...what is it? Sour cream? With garam masala? What's the golden stuff? Was it a marinade for a grilled supper? I checked the date on the digital file, checked my diary, and found a forage walk. Phew. Checked my emails, discovered the menu for the walk and... Lilac honey, cream cheese, full cream yogurt and ground spicebush (Lindera benzoin fruit). So that took eight minutes. It's slow going.

For the picnic we spread it on persimmon focaccia. Under mighty tulip trees, in an old cemetery. A good memory today, with howling wind, and grey-and-white light.

Also in July last year the Frenchman and I returned to the Hudson Valley woodland paths where we had stumbled upon a trove of chanterelles, in 2019. This beautiful green place was unreachable for the whole of 2020, while a massive COVID-testing site mushroomed (sorry) nearby and all access was shut down. We felt very lucky to find them again, and we stocked up!

One of the meals I made with the chanterelles was this one, where meatballs studded with pine nuts cooked with the apricot-smelling mushrooms in a pan sauce of vermouth and cream, gooseberries and summer squash.

Summer means lilies. The Silk Road is statuesque, and I hope the bulbs will weather the very low temperatures we have just seen, and will experience again in a few days' time. They are very cold-hardy, but it's the frozen pots that pose the problem: the base freezes and prevents drainage. The bulbs can rot. Fingers crossed. They have grown in each of my four New York gardens.

The windowboxes undergo seasonal makeovers, which gives me an excuse to shop for plants. These pretty yellow hyssops (Agastache) came from the Gowanus Nursery, and replaced the hard-working Nemesias (which are a South African wildflower; it always makes me very happy to see them).

Nemesias out (the cut flowers saved and on the table), Agastache in. On the left the flourishing bay tree (now indoors until April). 


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  1. January can be a good time to look back at warmer days. The cream cheese and lilac honey looks delicious, and I always have some lilies in pots. They are easy grows and striking in appearance.

  2. Glad you're back in this hemisphere, and hope things are "better" in SA. Girding our loins for the next round of snow and freezing rain - tomorrow - and already hoping spring will be early. Best to you and Smoothman.

  3. OK, I give. I have now killed my 3rd bay laurel start. I'm in Seattle(USDA Zone8)so they should be hardy here. Granted we had an unprecedented (108) heatwave for here, but I give...its just not meant to be.

  4. I remember a 2019 chanterelle soup from your New Year's walk. Delicious after a cold day!


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