Outside slow rain falls quietly from a blue-gray sky. Inside our baby sleeps warmly and I, too, curl up in bed with a worn book. For several months now, I have savored Frances Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun. Some nights I will fall asleep with the book left open at my side, and others, as those more recently, will see the book in the same place–untouched on the bedside table. This afternoon as the rain falls, I could no longer resist the temptation of the Italian countryside, of olive picking and of freshly baked bread dipped in oil, of warm dinners eaten fireside. After a few chapters I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and inspired. I think of our garden. Just as Mayes’ runs her fingers along the surfaces of the same tables and chairs, feeling them anew on her return to Cortona, I too see our plot with new appreciation and clarity after a few days away. Life continues, grows, and prospers. I love how everything seems to thrive even as we near January. In our backyard my husband becomes part of the wild earth; he crouches and digs with his Japanese gardening knife. His beard has grown long. Often I watch him work from the kitchen window, and then, when I am unable to resist any longer, I join him outside. Today, though, is one in which I am content to stay inside and let things unfold from the comfort of a seat by the window and the warmth of a blanket wrapped snugly.
Last night we went grocery shopping and returned home with things like berries, a beautiful red pear, an assortment of mushrooms, matzo, frozen peas and fruit, a large white onion, flax and sesame crackers, noodles, bread, and the like. Upon returning home, I stood over the cutting board mincing onions, celery, and carrots ceremoniously. My parents gave me a beautiful enameled cast-iron Dutch oven for Christmas, which I was very excited to use right away. The thing is, I felt so in awe of the piece that I knew I had to use it soon or I would end up admiring it from afar, too afraid to use it (much like the tagine my husband and I received as a wedding present, which sits majestically atop our cabinets). We enjoyed a dark, hearty vegetable stew loaded with mushrooms and chunks of carrot and potato. We shared some of the leftovers for lunch a bit earlier. The flavor lingers with me, though mild and sweet now.
I’ve been using cookie cutters to make gingerbread men sandwiches for my daughter, though she sees them more as teddy bears. Tomorrow I will try making lentil & rice cakes for her. I’ve taken some toddler cookbooks out from the library for inspiration and new ideas, and they have already proven themselves! I will let you all know how things turn out.
Have a restful and happy afternoon.