Monday, August 24, 2015

as good as it gets

Saturday, August 22, 2015

August 22

The first of the leaves have started to appear on the deck. Not many, but enough to sweep up. I've begun lighting the candles some evenings. It's dark when I get up, and when I go to bed. September is coming soon enough, but it can take its time.

Cal's birthday was a few days ago, and he and a few friends were in and out of the water until dark. While they played, I watched a couple of immature eagles circling, gliding; searching, perhaps, for one last meal, or maybe just out for the joy of flight.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July 29

What happened to July?

I’ve sat down half a dozen times, here, and everything has felt both too big and too little to say.

When the breeze is just right, I can smell the blackberries that grow at the side of the house while I'm working at my desk.

In a few days Abbott will become a teenager. I took a picture of him getting a haircut yesterday, like I used to do when he was a toddler. He had his glasses off, and I don’t think he could tell what I was doing. (He didn't tell me to stop.) I’m always moved by the sight of his face without his glasses.

Over the remaining six weeks of summer, we’ll do the things we do every year, the same hiking and biking and swimming, just as if we had all the time in the world, but with surreptitious urgency. We might even make jam with our blackberries, and bake biscuits to go with it, and invite friends over for breakfast.

Last night the boys and I shared a festively social meal of carnitas, corn on the cob, and watermelon with a friend and her daughter, and then we walked down to the beach and sat on driftwood logs and talked, watching the light fade, until we got tired. I want another evening like it before we’re through.

Diana Kennedy’s Carnitas
from Genius Recipes

I served this last night with shredded cabbage, chopped cilantro, and guacamole, on corn tortillas I warmed under the broiler. Carnitas are also nice with avocado slices and a squeeze of lime, as Kennedy suggests, in lieu of the guacamole.

3 pounds fatty pork shoulder or pork butt, skin and bone removed
Cold water to barely cover
2 teaspoons salt

Cut the meat, with the fat, into strips about 2 x ¾ inches. (If you cut the pieces much smaller than that, they will end up falling apart in the cooking process.) Place the meat in a large, shallow, flameproof dish, and barely cover it with water. (If you add too much water, the meat will fall apart at the frying stage.) Add the salt, and bring everything to a boil, uncovered.

Lower the heat to a slow simmer, and let the meat continue barely simmering until all the liquid has evaporated. This will take about an hour and a half. The meat should be cooked through, but not falling apart. (If the meat is still fairly hard when the water has evaporated, add a little more water, and continue cooking.)

Lower the flame a little more and continue cooking the meat until all the fat has rendered out of it. Keep turning the meat until it is lightly browned all over, another hour and 15 minutes or so.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

July 4

On the fourth of July, we packed up and headed out of town to spend the holiday with our friends Wendy and Andy on their farm. We knew it was going to be a great day. We arrived an hour or so later, after about thirty combined miles of interstate and state highway and country roads, passing grazing horses in pastures and fields of waist-high corn.

We arrived just after lunch. Their new golden retriever puppy, Mabel, greeted us, and as we peeled out of our now-dusty minivan loaded down with bikes, squirt guns, frisbees, and potato salad, Nelly was over the moon to realize she had a playmate.

The barn was already set up for festivities later in the day; there were deep buckets filled with ice and an array of beverages chilling. The kitchen was brimming with food ready to be set out.

The farm abuts a river. We put on our bathing suits, drove a mile down a dirt road, and then navigated the hot sand to the water’s edge. The kids immediately plunged into the chilly water, most of it not quite waist high on anybody, though they warned us about the danger where the current picks up at the bend. Nelly waded out to her neck. She doesn’t swim, no matter how hot it gets. I don't know if she can. Eventually, we all joined the kids in the water. The heat was blistering.

Over the afternoon, a haze developed, then cleared. The heat dulled our senses. After the swimming subsided they asked if we wanted to pick blueberries, but we were tired and sun weary, and wanted shade. So we headed back to the barn and drank cold wine, and waited for the air to get cooler.

As the sun began to lower, others began arriving in a steady procession. Wendy made a salad with red leaf lettuce and cucumber she’d picked on the way back from the river; Andy started a paella. Then we set out the side dishes everyone brought to share, and filled our plates. We toasted our country, and the bounty we’re surrounded with. As the light faded, the kids set off small firecrackers, their sizzling and popping breaking the vast silence of the countryside. Abbott and Cal each lit sparklers, a first for them, and I was glad to notice a brief flicker of trepidation pass across their faces. Then we all got back a safe distance to watch the big show they’d set up, and the blue-black sky over the fields became saturated with bursts of color. The valley was filled with echoing booms.

After the show, there was a piƱata, and then people headed for home. We spent the night at the farm, lulled to sleep by the howling of coyotes in the distance. It was one of the most restful nights of sleep I’ve had in a long time.