Good morning. You miss me? I’ve been two weeks off the grid in Carhartts and XtraTufs, stained fishing shirts and a ragged ball cap, cutting firewood in the forest for the cookstove, collecting water, fishing hard for striped bass off the rocks. These were plentiful, thick-shouldered, ocean-run fish that struck my lures with vicious force, but I didn’t take one of them because there aren’t enough to do that anymore.
I sure didn’t need them for protein, not with the pork my friend Nick harvested off the two animals he raised beside his cabin, feeding them milk and beer slurry, not with the mutton sausage my brother brought me from a small farm near his home, along with eggs and our family’s favorite bread. We ate steaks and chicken from the gigantamart, tinned Italian tuna in olive oil, mushrooms my sister-in-law brought one night in a kayak for supper. There were potato bakes, and vats of black beans, and mountains of nutty basmati rice.
And every day my wife and children collected blackberries near a bog. They turned these into desserts of towering great taste: crumbles and slab pies and zonkers and one concoction of ginger-scented fruit covered in cornmeal-flecked batter that was, as summer rushed to its end, among the season’s best freestyle desserts. Macerate some blackberries with minced fresh ginger. And do with that whatever you like. Make it into kombucha and you could find yourself in business.
But you came here for actual recipes, and it’s my job to provide them! Maybe you’re gearing up for Rosh Hashana? We’ve got you covered. Or perhaps you want to make Marian Burros’s famous plum torte (above)?
Me, I’d like to suggest this soba noodle and steak salad for eating this weekend, with ginger-lime dressing. Also, this tea-soaked drunken chicken, with cilantro-scallion oil. Or velvet fish with mushrooms?
I, myself, could go for some ricotta gnocchi for Sunday supper. And Clare de Boer’s insane and beautiful pistachio and cherry bombe for dessert.
But before that project, some other projects. It’s the weekend, after all. I’d like to make yogurt, for instance, so there’s some in the fridge for after-school snacks. Likewise, a bunch of soy-pickled eggs, to plop on rice I’ll make in the cooker one morning and leave on the warm setting for the rest of the day. Finally, a big tub of ice cream for the freezer, so we can have sweets after a midweek dinner of the chapli burgers Samin Nosrat taught us to make.
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Now, it wasn’t just kitchen high jinks and the hunting of fish, on my vacation. I also read prodigiously and took plenty of naps. And here’s what I liked reading best:
“The Truth Behind the Lie,” a marvelous strange Swedish mystery novel by Sara Lovestam; “Stone Cold Heart,” Caz Frear’s second novel about the London detective constable Cat Kinsella; “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet,” a debut space opera by Becky Chambers; “Stronghold,” by Tucker Malarkey, about Guido Rahr’s amazing quest to save the wild Pacific salmon; “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” by John Irving, which maybe you read a long time ago and ought to again; “Six of Crows,” by Leigh Bardugo, fantasy fiction that someone ought to make into a film; the novel “Sourdough,” by Robin Sloan, which should never be a film because it wouldn’t ever be as beautiful as Sloan’s words; and the internet memoir “Uncanny Valley,” by Anna Wiener, which is funny and dark and sad, and among other things introduced me to an online game about long-haul trucking.
Finally, I read two books aloud with the family — “The Perfect Storm,” by Sebastian Junger and “Martin Marten,” by Brian Doyle — everyone sprawled on couches under kerosene light. The experience was extraordinary and moving, thanks mostly to Junger and Doyle. I urge you to give that a try yourself, if and when you can. See you on Sunday!
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