Broiled grapefruit for breakfast. Eating a grapefruit is like inviting a tango into your mouth. The sweetness and the bitterness play with each other in a perfect, taut harmony. Broiling just tightens the rope, concentrating all the elements, making the sweet sweeter and the bitter more pronounced. It's quite an exciting, sexy way to start your day. Especially when it's a rainy Sunday morning and you don't have to hustle out the door. (Pun intended.)
Making birthday cakes. There is so much joy in birthday cake that it's hard not to get happy just creaming the butter with the sugar and adding an overflowing teaspoon of vanilla. The happiest cakes, in my experience, are the layer cakes of almost any flavor but Tunnel of Fudge and Marbled Sheet Cake will do, too. Included in the joy is writing Happy Birthday in an awkward scrawl and covering up mistakes with frosting and fresh flowers. Best of all is thinking of the recipients face as they bend close to the candle-spiked cake, their face still as they concentrate on their wish, the golden candle-glow flickering in their eyes until with a deep breath and puckered-lips ... whoosh!
Queueing for Eggs. Each week I get to the farmer's market early to stand on line for a carton or two of eggs that have an indescribable deliciousness and yolks that outshine the sun. These eggs taste better than eggs. They just do. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. There's a handful of regulars that apparently feel the same way I do and so we stand on line together, trading stories and recipes as we wait for the market to open. I don't know what they feed those chickens but it's probably illegal because clearly we are addicted.
Winter/Spring. Winter Spring Summer and Fall are too broad to capture what really happens seasonally. Each of these four seasons has a beginning, middle, and end so actually there are twelve seasons, not four. And then there's the place where they touch, where late winter becomes early spring and it's clearly not winter any more but spring is too young and fragile to stand up by herself. The time for this is now (or soon, depending on where you live), an especially magical and fleeting moment, so pay close attention to the clues: the sudden flood of asparagus and peas in the markets, certain flowers and shoots popping out of the ground. There is a shade of green particular to this time of year, too, a certain vividness that only can be found now. So sniff the wind and stay alert! Is it still Winter/almost Spring?
Figuring it Out. The other day I tried to make home-made ricotta for the first time and it didn't turn out. I checked a few recipes and tried again. It was better but not quite what I wanted. So yesterday afternoon when I went back to the kitchen to give it another shot, it occurred to me that I was really enjoying this process of figuring it out. It's so easy to focus on the end achievement that we forget to enjoy the process along the way, and all the tiny lessons and learnings that come from that. I've said it before but it bears repeating: Be cautious about mastering something immediately and learn to enjoy the mind of the beginner who is always curious and observing closely. A beginner delights in every new bit of information and therefore has a lot more to be happy about than the person whose eye is fixed rather firmly on the prize.
What are a few of your favorite things?
(Images: Dana Velden)