You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

I’m the only one up; it’s frosty and sunny outside. Not one wild creature is visible – just dead grass, tangles of bare crabapple branches, and the naked birch trees starkly white down the meadow. For breakfast this morning, I’m making potato pancakes from the leftover mashed potatoes with poached eggs on top. I think they’ll be good with salt and pepper, a little buckwheat flour, an egg to bind them, and some browned minced onion. And I was recently taught how to poach an egg, after more than 50 years of not knowing how easy it is. The secret is to add kosher salt and a little vinegar to the water.

The turkey’s been stripped to its chassis. The Brussels sprouts and kale salad are gone. The rest of the sausage-sage-bread crumb stuffing went back to Brooklyn with Rosie. I ate the last piece of persimmon pudding for breakfast yesterday. Rosie’s curried butternut bisque with butter-fried sage leaves and crème fraiche is a distant, dreamlike memory, as are Rosie’s and Jami’s voices. We did not stop talking all week except to laugh, eat, or drink. How did we have so much to say to one another?

Yesterday, late morning, after we dropped Jami off at the airport, we took Dingo for a walk on the Eastern Prom and then went to J’s Oyster, a warm, loud little place on the wharf, to meet pals of Rosie’s, fellow eaters and drinkers and appreciators of mollusks and bivalves. The five of us crowded around a little table in the back corner. I had a double rye on the rocks. Rosie and I sat shoulder to shoulder with our little paper cups of melted butter and feasted on steamed clams, after pulling the black condoms off their necks and swirling them in hot water to wash off the grit. We ate big, knobby, clean-tasting raw oysters with cocktail sauce. Then we ate whole lobsters, small and lurid red and just the slightest bit tough but incredibly delicious, dismantling them with nutcrackers, picking every fleck of meat from their body cavities. When I finished, melted butter was running down my chin, and I felt feral. Rosie looked exactly the same way. We grinned at each other. I had poppy seeds in my teeth from the coleslaw, and I didn’t care.

We dropped Rosie off at the airport and drove the hour or so back to the farmhouse. We arrived just after sunset. The silence felt deeper than it usually does. We built a fire and, miraculously somehow hungry again, ate turkey sandwiches on hot toast with cranberries, chutney, and mayonnaise. Brendan mixed a batch of Autumn Bonfires, Rosie’s invention: one part each whiskey, applejack, and apple cider with a dash of bitters, shaken over ice and garnished with an apple slice. We drank these and polished off our sandwiches and reminisced about how much fun it had all been.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the endless day of cooking. We woke up early on Thursday morning to the smell of sausages and onions frying and came downstairs to find Rosie’s stuffing underway and a hot pot of coffee on the stove. We opened a magnum of cava and drank mimosas; we listened to “Blood on the Tracks” while I made buckwheat blini for breakfast. We ate the first batch with creme fraiche and salmon roe and chives, and then the rest with some spectacular cheeses, a soft mild cow cheese and an ash-veined goat.

I steamed persimmon pudding for two hours in a Bundt pan set into a big pot. Rosie stuffed the turkey with all the odds and ends in the pantry, part of an apple and part of an onion, other fruits, some herbs, and put it into the oven with a big knob of butter perched on its top. We savored the term “knob of butter” out loud to each other for a while.

While Rosie cooked, Jami, Brendan, and I walked Dingo down to the lake, through the dense woods to the dock and big rock we jump off to swim in the summertime. As he always does in that spot, for reasons that are wholly mysterious, Dingo went into paroxysms, there’s no other word for it, of joy, leaping about and grinning and panting and behaving like a humpy rabbit, curving his whole body into flying apostrophes of excitement.  He never falls off the dock into the lake, another mystery.

At home, Brendan and I wrestled a béchamel into existence with a lot of vigorous whisking and judiciously careful pouring of gluten-free flour into melted butter, then hot milk into the roux. Brendan added the boiled pearl onions. I steamed a heap of trimmed, halved Brussels sprouts, then set them face down into hot pork fat with a whisper of maple syrup to caramelize, then tossed them with crisp bits of pancetta. Rosie pulled the turkey out and we all admired its crackling, golden-brown doneness. Her stuffing was photographed and pronounced magnificent.

The meal was not mishap-free. Brendan was unhappy with his pumpkin pie with walnut crust. We turned the oven too high after the turkey came out, so my yam chunks burned, and so did Rosie’s japonica-liver-pomegranate stuffing. I put too many raisins in the kale salad and there was possibly a bit too much lemon vinaigrette. The turkey, a free-range Vermonter, was not as epically delicious this year as it was last year; the meat was a bit diffuse, or something.

But still, we had nothing at all to complain about. This year was one of intensely hard work for all four of us, and it seems to be paying off, all around. We sat around the table and toasted one another and gave thanks one by one and then feasted, our plates heaped and mounded and brimming to their edges, the kerosene lamp lit. Then, with plates of cakelike, moist persimmon pudding with whipped cream, we lounged on the couches and chairs in front of the fire with after-dinner wine, still talking. We talked and talked into the night, as if our words somehow repaid to the world the pleasure we’d just had in eating.

The next day, of course, we awoke to find leftovers to eat and so much more to say.  And that night, too, we sat by the fire all together, talking.

And now, back to real life, potato pancakes, and turkey soup.

Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad

A while ago, I woke up, bleary-eyed and generally unrested because my sleep patterns are irregular at best, to a golden fall morning, crisp and sweet as an apple. Dingo was, as usual, instantly wide-awake and raring to go out. While he pranced and downward-dogged and panted around me, licking my feet to hurry me along, I pulled a sweater and some jeans over whatever I wore to sleep in, plus my socks from yesterday, and shoved my feet into clogs. Hair unbrushed, glasses on, I put his leash and collar on him and a coat and scarf on me and took him out through the mudroom to the back alleyway and off we went.

I let Dingo trundle me around our block, jerking my arm as he suddenly stopped to pee, making me wait while he sniffed a drooping plant with full concentration. I scooped up his neat turds with a long-practiced swipe of the bag and carried it in the hand that didn’t have the leash. Never do I feel more clear about the power dynamic of our relationship than on the morning walk.

Back at home, I fed him his breakfast – grain-free salmon super-expensive kibble with homemade stew that contains more nutrients in one serving than the average human adolescent consumes in a month. Then for dessert I cut up part of an apple and threw each little tidbit at his head. He caught each piece in midair with a snap of his jaws like a piranha and chewed joyfully. In Dingo’s world, everything is always just fantastic, unless I’m packing a backpack to go somewhere and leave him behind, or there are scary noises outside, or he doesn’t get to come in the car with us, or he has to go to the vet. In Dingo’s world, that’s as bad as it gets.

A huge mug of coffee in hand, I came upstairs and subsided into my desk chair and checked the news. It’s Election Day. It’s a “razor close race.” How can it be that Romney has a single supporter, let alone half this country? How can that be? The gulf between us feels unbridgeable. I don’t even want to talk to them to try to understand them, although, like a five-year-old, I do wish they’d all be struck by lightning and suddenly agree wholly with my own views.

I would characterize my political stance as Pollyanna socialist libertarianism. Why the hell, my stuck-phonograph-needle political thinking-track goes, can’t we all marry whoever the hell we want as a matter of course, be treated and paid and respected equally no matter what our sex, color, or belief system, and get, among other things, a good free education, free medical care, decent jobs with excellent benefits, especially for parents, and GMO labels on food? Why the hell not? It makes no sense to me that we can’t. I am clearly naïve. I should move to Norway.

Anyway, tonight, as the election returns come in, booze and food will be my refuge and comfort and distraction from agonizing stress, as always.  We’re going to drink strong Dark and Stormys, and Brendan is making fettucine Bolognese, which is one of the best things I know of in the world. If Romney wins, I’ll have seconds, then thirds, and then I’ll move to Norway.

Brendan’s Election Night Bolognese

Make a soffrito: 1 large onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks diced finely and sautéed in olive oil on low heat for about 15 minutes, until very soft. Turn up the heat and add a pound of ground beef or veal and sauté, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Add 1/3 cup red wine and cook for another minute or two until it cooks off. Then add a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Let cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Toss with 1 pound hot, freshly cooked gluten-free fettucine (Le Veneziane is the best brand we know of) and serve with grated parmesan and a crisp, lightly dressed salad.

Eat as slowly as you can, allowing this comforting, savory, luscious food to coat your esophagus. Works to alleviate biliousness and anxiety, at least temporarily.

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