I was looking at images I had saved for blog posts and found this one from the height of summer. A folder that got lost in the madness of the joys of summer. What is startling today is the difference in the light. How different everything looks as seasons change. How different we feel. How things taste different, not always because of ingredients, but also because of perception colored by our mood, altered by the seasons.
This summer I enjoyed Blueberry Lemonade (made from berries from Black Lab Farm) for the first time. At least Charlie and my first time. It seems as if our neighbors and guests had not tasted it before. It was as easy to make as it seems it takes for seasons to pass. Charlie and I can tons of jam and preserves during the summer. Sometimes or most times not even waiting till summer ends to put them to use. We can do it. We are greedy and we prepare for that. We made 40 pounds of blueberries into jam. That is good to last till next summer. Or so we hope. Jars of homemade jam go as gifts to those friends and guests that we know value them and enjoy them for what they are. It is easy to make these jams. But there is no denying the labor of love and time that goes into the production. It is not the cost, not the technique and not the list if ingredients that keeps people from making great jams at home. It is TIME. That commodity we have begun to believe we never have enough. Sometimes one has to take out time. Especially in the summer, it seems worthwhile to make time to prepare jam. One knows that the seasons ahead will rely on inspriation from the seasons past. The beauty of time, the essence of life.
The summer brings so much to our lives around North Country. Yet, it is often with very little that the best magic happens. Ingredients as simple as flour (we mostly use King Arthur Flour, but I have been known to make them with Self Rising Flour from Gold Medal and they are equally great) and butter (I LOVE the color of Kerry Gold and am partial to it for most baking where the extra butterfat is of no concern. I LOVE this butter and use it for most everything I make following my own desires and recipes.) can create magic in the kitchen. The biscuits that the oven sets forth all through the year seem to please one and all. The best compliment they could have gotten came from Rose Levy Beranbaum who could not stop asking me questions, wanting the recipe and commenting on their texture and taste and how she too felt they were the best she had eaten. I await her transformation of an already best-ever recipe into something yet better. Rose has the ability to do such magic. I know our friend Bret and his family will be grateful to Rose for perpetuating their grandmother's recipe through her work with it. Most often in life less is more, and in this instance, it could not ring any truer.
The summer is full of natural colors and our home has been enriched by colors Charlie has chosen with wild abandon. The rich figue/aubergine colored walls of the kitchen warm my heart the minute I step into the kitchen. The seasons hardly matter when one is playing around within such an environment. Of course the seasons are visible clearly from our kitchen, since three sides of the kitchen are blessed with windows looking as far as possible to the naked eye. Old mismatched stacks of ironstone plates remind me about the joy of cooking to share with loved ones. The Emile Henry oil cruets in three colors remind me of the different oils we have close to the stove and others in our pantry. The yellow holds Canola, the green Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the pink Peanut Oil, a close approximation of the red of peanut skins. The Simplex tea kettle (rumor has it that Simplex is going out of business. Buy this tea kettle. We have at least one new one in storage, maybe a couple. We LOVE them. Sadly if you forget about the stove being on under them, or leave the flame too high, you can burn them and ruin them.) is always on the stove top to offer any and all a warm welcoming cup of tea or as a vessel for me to add warm water during cooking. This particular summer morning I was using the Lucini Parmigiano Reggiano for cooking eggs. The parmigiano acts as a wonderful flavor enhancer for the eggs and also gives a saltiness that is beyond satisfying.
The yellow of the dining room changes its colors as the day progresses and the seasons change. As I write this in end of November, I look into the dining room and the yellow has a much deeper golden tone. It tells me without even looking out that the sun is hidden by clouds. Gone are the long sunlit days of summer. Winter is taking grip of the land and our hearts and minds. The tchatckis (nicknacks) around the house become the joy of our lives. Hence it pays to collect and collect with care. Sometimes one looks outside the home for inspiration and at other times, it is what is inside that can come to our rescue.
The chickens are laying eggs crazily through the summer and into fall. With some limited organic EVOO from Lucini, some parmigiano reggiano from them as well and our own home made jams and jellies, breakfast is the easiest thing I can put together. Each time we eat the biscuits made in the cast iron skillet (Lodge Logic from Lodge Cast Iron, as American as Apple Pie) in our own oven, I am indebted to our friend Bret Bannon (and his partner Jon Templeton and Bret's mother Lillian and their family) for having shared the recipe from his grandmother. It will be in my next book that comes out in Fall of 2011. These are biscuits that are as easy to make as the ease with which summer changes to fall and fall into winter. It seems you hardly do anything at all and the resulting biscuits give you the most amazing results. How I wish more of lifes adventures had this quality around them. Sadly way too much cooking and sharing has become too invloved and fussy. The goodness of beautiful magical indulgences that come forth from little if any fuss seems like the reality of another lifetime. As I look at the photos shared in this blog post, I also celebrate the simplicty of the ingredients and brands mentioned. Each one gives us something that is worthy to brag about and worthy to list and link. I am not much to champion brands. Never wanting to wear clothing with labels, even though I love good labels. I feel no brand is paying me enough to be their mobile PR machine. These are brands and products that have been tested by us over a long duration and I am happy to promote them in any way possible.
Everytime I cook eggs and share our home made strawberry jam and black raspberry or blueberry jams with family and friends, I think of the peak of summer and the rich abundance of natural goodies. It is also my time to honor the seasons, reflect on their individual glories and be grateful for every minute we have, and all that we savor in those moments. Life is beautiful. It is beautiful for the very reason that it has many ups and down, many changes and variances. Like a mix of spices, life too is about the unexpected flavors, the contrast between sweet and bitter, the spicy and the mild - all of which together alone bring joy and interest to the whole.
The seasons have certainly changed. Look at the first photograph of this post and then the one above. The inside of the house seems almost static. The outside, a new landscape altogether. What a marvelous adventure life is. How wonderful it is to live with it and be part of its cycles. Now on to winter.... and the seasons that follow.