Nelly chased it, and him. The rest of us wandered between conversation and our own thoughts on the short stretch of beach exposed at high tide. Glenn Miller emanated from a neighbor’s home, loud and festive. I wondered if it was Irma’s cooking music, or if they had a houseful of guests already. Perhaps if I listened harder, I’d hear the clinking of silver on china.
Alexi’s father flew from the Bay of Fundy to join us for the week. The day before Thanksgiving, he helped Abbott work on his Rube Goldberg machine for school - it cuts a baked potato and will (hopefully also) fill it with toppings - while I made pie dough, sliced apples, prepared pumpkin for becoming pie filling. I baked cornbread to go in the stuffing I’d make the next morning and boiled together the ingredients that would become cranberry chutney. Nelly spent the day checking on an apple slice she buried in the yard a couple of days ago.
We decided to abandon our holiday stroll when Nelly started rolling in something putrid behind a piece of driftwood; laughed as she dug in her heels to stay. In the lightness of the moment I realized I’d shed the claustrophobia built up from all the time in the kitchen and the everyday trials of family life. Separately and together, we got what we needed on that walk, at least for that moment in time. Back inside, we sat down to a feast: turkey, cornbread sausage stuffing, blanched green beans lightly tossed in walnut oil, buttery mashed Yukon gold potatoes, cranberry chutney so good I could eat a bowlful of it straight up, Kathleen’s mother’s famous sweet potato soufflé. Despite being so full we couldn't see straight, we followed up the meal with a small slice of each of the pies. For the first time in years, I didn’t make a single thing I hadn’t made before, and everything came together with ease. Alexi was in charge of the turkey; he always is. As we shared the kitchen that morning he also measured out the sweet potato recipe’s ingredients for me, and commented, “This has a LOT of sugar in it!” I gave him a wry smile, thinking to myself, “If THAT bothers you, it’s a good thing you don’t know what’s in all the rest of it.”
Over dinner, the boys told Robert/Grampy about an experience we had a few days before he arrived. They raced up and down the beach playing Frisbee with a neighbor until dark. As we prepared to head inside we noticed a flash of movement in the water; our eyes strained to follow it in the low light. To our amazement, whatever it was swam closer and closer to where we stood, oblivious to our presence. It became evident that a little river otter with a squirming crab in its paws was approaching, the crab clearly the only thing on its mind. It walked right past us and into a cave-like space between several large rocks on the beach. When we began to hear cracking and scraping noises, reluctantly, we went home. It was obvious the otter wouldn’t be out again anytime soon.
The days since the holiday, just as in the days before, we've gone out for one last walk before the light is gone, sometimes listening to eagle songs, always taking in the aching loveliness, the stillness of approaching winter.
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Tomorrow we’ll eat the last of our pie for breakfast. The next time we want apple pie I’ll make this breakfast crisp which is in heavy rotation around here; more virtuous than pie, as it isn’t all that sweet. I’ve made it with apples, pears, peaches, plums, blueberries… we’ve loved it every way we’ve tried it.
1 pound of fruit of your choice
2 tablespoons (65 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Pinch of nutmeg
4 tablespoons (55 grams) butter
½ cup (65 grams) sugar (granulated or natural turbinado)
½ cup (40 grams) rolled oats
½ cup (65 grams) all purpose flour, or a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat)
Good pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sliced or chopped almonds
Yogurt of your choice, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces and place it in a small baking dish, such as a 1-quart gratin dish. Stir in the sugar, flour, and a pinch of nutmeg.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the sugar, then the oats, then the flour, and lastly the salt and almonds. Continue stirring until large clumps form. Sprinkle the mixture over the fruit. Bake for about 30 minutes; up to 40 minutes if using apples or pears. Eat warm or chilled, with a scoop of yogurt of your choice.
Yield: 2-3 cups (about 3 servings)