I am happy taking slow walks around the neighborhood with Piper, always the same route lately. In the morning, we often see neighbors watering plants in their front yards, or cracking their front doors demurely, still in pajamas, to let their dogs out for a quick break. We pass the same house for sale each day – an inviting home made of brick and wood. Eventually, we meet up with Daisy, the neighborhood cat who comes running to meet us as soon as she catches our scent. We scratch behind her ears and stroke her back, and are on our way again. I round my favorite bend, where potted plants filled with flowers that seem forever in bloom line the sidewalk. Vines creep down an iron gate to hide a pool that lies on the other side. The windows glint and shimmer as the sun hits the deep antique-blue glasses that line their ledges. A statue of St. Francis stands peacefully in a shaded corner, while a sign a bit further off reads: “The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth, one is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.”
Sometimes Piper likes me to tip the stroller backwards so that she can look into the trees for birds and nests. Today we saw such a large hawk that I quickened my pace home, remembering the night a neighborhood owl attacked Will for getting too close. We return feeling as though we had been on some journey – indeed most days Piper will tell me as she senses the last few minutes of our walk approaching, “No mommy, I don’t want to go home yet!” The fresh air works some magic on us, and it is good to enjoy it together.
More and more lately we eat our dinners outside, around our little round folding table. Yesterday I spent a good bit of the afternoon in the kitchen, juggling pots and pans to put a meal together that felt memorable and worthwhile the minute we started plating the food. For about a week or so I had an urge to cook the Yorkshire puddings featured in Anna Jones’s A Modern Way to Eat. This was a funny sort of urge, seeing as how I have never eaten a Yorkshire pudding in my life, but then I guess I cannot resist foods with a sense of history and place—I’ve been known to spend a day making Persian Barbari bread for the same reason. The toasted poppy and sesame seed speckled batter sat alluringly in a jug on the countertop, awaiting the moment where I would pour it into smoking hot muffin cups and slide it into the oven where it would go through what only Nigella Lawson could so eloquently call a sort of “kitchen alchemy” and become the tall, puffed pudding towers so commonly eaten abroad. We ate them with lots of horseradish spiked olive oil, rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes, and broccoli and green beans in tahini sauce with crumbled seed brittle on top. All of the recipes can be found in A Modern Way to Eat. Other memorable meals lately have been a tangled bowl of fettuccine in a grounding, earthy mushroom sauce (Anna Del Conte’s Tagliatelle col Sugo di Funghi) and for lunch one day, a Turkish inspired white bean salad and slices of grilled eggplant. I also mustn’t forget to mention the amazing chocolate chip blondies I baked last week (thanks again to Anna Jones). I brought them around to a couple of our friends, two older women who I like to visit especially when my mom or mother-in-law seem extra far away. They enjoyed them so much, and I know them as a bit hard to impress. Nonna Cathy told me that I had outdone myself this time, and when I had stepped away for a moment I heard her voice trailing, “Her loss is our gain!” and when I returned, found the two were happily eating another couple of sweets. It feels so good to feed people, though I do very little of it outside of my immediate family. I’d like to be brave, and cook without inhibitions, and share genuinely, too.