Friday, August 28, 2009


I sometimes wonder (sometimes—like right now) whether the most pleasing thing in the world is the sensation of cool breeze blowing in the window past the computer while the wind rustles through the leaves outside and the crickets (or cicadas, or whatever) make their incessant trill in the dark.

Robins are flocking, and that’s a sure sign that fall is coming on.

In an effort to seize the vanishing glory of summer, as it were, we’ve been down to the Minneapolis Farmers Market a few times (ten minutes from the house) and it’s a glorious scene. Vegetables, cut flowers, smoked trout, Hmong handicrafts and tapestries, locally produced soap and honey, French bread, smoked sausages. And the market—thank God—has never been gentrified, never lost that wonderfully urban, seedy quality. You park under the freeway bridge or along the roadside not far from Soul’s Harbor or the Litin party-favor warehouse showroom.

On a recent visit I was enchanted by the leeks. One dollar for a nice bunch. But we tried out a new recipe from an old cookbook. I can’t call it a mistake, because trying something new is never a mistake, but we should have known better than to match that very fine vegetable with a “sweet” crust, evaporated milk and cream cheese. The leeks themselves were good, and their appeal was not to be entirely obliterated, but as for the rest of the ensemble….

It rained this morning, and it was Friday, and we were able to park easily right among the stalls at the farmer’s market. The eggplant looked good—and you’ve got the buy the eggplant, if only in honor of Provence.

Eggplant is surely one of God’s strangest vegetables—it isn’t even good for you. But somehow, you love the challenge, and the way eggplant absorbs the flavors of the capers and tomatoes. Once again, a new recipe from an old cookbook. All the while we were making the dish, I was thinking of a tried-and-true caponata recipe that had cocoa among the ingredients. But new is good—except I should have recognized that when the recipe calls for red wine vinegar and sugar, you might as well use balsamic vinegar.

The caponata we made was fine. And the bread from Rustica bakery really saved the day. We listened to Vicente Amigo and El Pele on the phonograph—perhaps because I’d run into the flamenco dancer Susana de Palma at the liquor store earlier in the afternoon. And then, while we were sitting on the floor in the kitchen, Hilary fell asleep as I was reading out loud an essay by the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce called, “Why We Cannot Help Calling Ourselves Christians.” Lots of Kant and Hegel in that one, as usual. Yet the nod to the man from Nazareth was heartfelt just the same.

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