I made a perfect BLT today. You might think that this is not particularly impressive, especially when you hear that the it was actually a BST — Bacon, Spinach and Tomato. But it was so good that a profferred bite to someone out the door, en route to lunch, resulted in a plea for one.
It’s hard to make a bad BLT (or BST) in August, when local tomatoes are abundant. It helps, too, that I, behind-the-curve-type that I am, became fiercely devoted to the local farmers market this summer, rising at 7 most Sunday mornings to go stock up on tomatoes, spinach, kale and berries. (Super foods all!) Today, I added a fresh loaf of whole grain bread, mushrooms, two eggplants, an onion and some cukes, all for twenty bucks. After returning home, I walked, in the still bearable morning temperatures, to the grocery store for applewood smoked bacon and tahini, having determined that baba ghanoush was the best use of the eggplant. And then I decided to make homemade mayonnaise because I had always heard it was far superior to anything store-bought, and pretty easy. I am no enemy of easy. Luckily, I already had everything I needed — eggs (from last week’s farmer’s market), canola oil, mustard, plus some green onions, purchased at the grocery store with an eye to making my mother’s cucumber soup later this week. I minced those and stirred them into the mayo, as recommended by one of my essential cookbooks, Mark Bittman’s HOW TO COOK EVERYTHIING. I consider mayonnaise decadent, but this was so creamy and tasty that a little went a long way.
See, that’s what’s interesting and challenging about farmer’s market — you can’t go with a fixed list, you have to go with an open mind, see what looks best, then work from that.
The last stages of a book are not unlike that. With a month and perhaps 25,000 words to go in this fourth and sort-of-final draft (there’s still my editor’s pass and a copy edit, and I intend to start rewriting as soon as I send it off to my editor, polishing what I have), I have what I have. Sure, I can make a last-minute trip for a missing spice or season, maybe whip up some mayonnaise from what’s on hand, but I can’t, say, will raspberries into coming back into season; they’ve come and gone. And if I need an avocado, I better have time to let one ripen. That’s why the cucumber soup has to wait until later this week.
Ah, you think, another anecdote about writing, no real memories in this. But I am thinking about the first thing I ever made in the kitchen, from a spiral-bound book of recipes for kids. It was called five-minute fudge,and it was a super easy version that required no candy thermometer, no soft-ball stage, no rolling out on a marble surface. Heck, I wish I still had that recipe. I have a candy thermometer, but I have little luck with any dessert that calls for one.
What’s the first thing you ever cooked? What’s your biggest kitchen disaster to date? (Like a cursed character in some Eastern European fairy tale, my bread no longer rises, although I once made yeast breads all the time, even turning out perfect Parker House rolls for Thanksgiving.) Who taught you to cook? Did you take home ec in school? I did, in seventh and eighth grade, although I confess I have blocked out almost every memory of it, probably my brain’s way of healing/protecting itself. (For close, careful readers — Sunny’s “corny” dress in WHAT THE DEAD KNOW was from a Simplicity pattern that I came to know very well.)