Archive for August 2011

This Fragile Life

August 26, 2011

Some of you have been having summer for lo these many months, but chez nous it only arrived a week ago. We’ve been reveling in it, grilling out on the back deck most nights, sitting with a glass of wine on the front deck after a leisurely supper and watching the daily arrival of the Victoria Clipper, returning from, guess where? She’s the noisiest boat on the water, and you can hear her before you see her. We don’t mind. We’re outside with the Anna’s hummingbird applying herself to the cuphea, with the sudden influx of nocturnal flying ants, a solitary and occasional bat, and tonight, Zazou climbing the mast that pierces through our deck and into the twilight sky. “Come quick” Shel calls “Look at Zazou.” And I do.

I didn’t pose that feather there, I happened upon it while watering. My hose accidentally doused it, and still it hung on. It wasn’t among its own kind, had fallen, largely unnoticed, far from home, and yet it seemed to have landed in just the right spot. That’s how we feel about our home in France, even though it doesn’t belong to us, even though we can’t spend as much time there as we wish. We hang on to that dream for dear life.

Today we saw Shel’s wonderful oncologist who asked us if we wanted Shel to get a CT scan before we went back to France in October. He asked “What would you do if it were bad news?” and Shel said “We’re going back no matter what.” So no scan, just plans.

For the moment, we’re enjoying the island to the fullest. The sun shines, the water shimmers blue, abandoning its usual steely green. I gather blueberries and blackberries and salad and chard from my garden.  I despair of having enough warm weather to get even one ripe tomato, but I stake my little plant up and hope.  We sleep with the screen doors open, the night-scented nicotiana outside the bedroom wafting us to sleep. I cook meat over real wood charcoal and it’s the most delicious thing ever. We’re having summer.

But as soon as summer’s over we’ll be turning our thoughts to the east, where we’ll be taking a little cruise, just one week, out of Barcelona, on our way back to France. We’re getting better at the transition back and forth, but here’s the thing that drives us crazy: the baggage limitations. By which I don’t only mean the fact that if we take more than 50 pounds we have to pay, or the fact that winter clothes take up so much luggage space, it’s also that we just can’t drag three suitcases apiece like we used to. It’s hard to admit, but irrefutably true, we are older than we used to be. And thus we must learn to live out of one suitcase each for three months. That’s what we did last Spring, but then it was summer clothes.

We’re trying to make the best of it all, and I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

Run, Pick Corn

August 6, 2011

Put on old clothes. Get out your largest apron. Set yourself up to work outside. Plan to take a shower afterwards. Get ready for the corn pudding to end all corn puddings.

This pudding contains no eggs, no dairy products, no thickeners. This pudding is just corn, with the merest whisper of butter and a hum of cayenne. According to Shel, Tom, Louise, and Barbara, this pudding is The Best.

I found the recipe here, in the New York Times. It’s so delicious that Shel and I just grated up sixteen more ears of the supersweet white corn we’ve got right now and put the frothy raw grated corn in the freezer.  Sometime, after corn season, I’ll be able to pull out a bag of corn fluff and bake it into the essence of summer.  Good trick, that.

Pure Corn Pudding*

8 ears of really fresh corn, husked
1 Tablespoon butter
salt, cayenne pepper
juice of one lime

Follow all precautionary instructions above.  When you are safely ensconced in the most splash-proof environment available to you, commence grating the corn directly into a medium-sized, which in my world is 9″, cast iron pan. Correct, grate the corn right into the unoiled cast iron pan.

Heat your oven to 350°. Place cast iron pan in the oven and bake until the edges and the top are lightly golden.  The original recipe calls for 20-30 minutes, but I found that in my convection oven it took more like 35-40 minutes.  In any case, don’t let it really get brown.

Remove the pudding from the pan into a serving bowl and stir in the butter, salt, and cayenne. Stir to combine and add half the lime juice and taste the pudding. You deserve a taste anyway. How much lime juice you will need depends on how sweet your corn is. My corn needed one whole lime to balance the intense sweetness. You don’t want to really taste the lime, you just want to take the edge off the sweetness and give it a subtle mystery.

And as I said, I see no reason why the raw preparation shouldn’t freeze perfectly, and I can’t imagine that the freezing would harm the pudding in any way. Bon appétit !

*adapted from the recipe at