Maybe it’s the equinox. Maybe it’s because Mike was away for a few days. Maybe I’m getting my groove back. But the day before yesterday, I baked a crisp.
A few weeks ago, I met up with my friend and former neighbor (who makes numerous appearances in Get Your Pitchfork On!), Sue, for coffee-dessert-catch up. Sue had a very successful garden this year, and she sent me home with three grocery bags full of food!
The last of this bounty was a bowl of pears. I’ve been watching them get riper and riper, and worried that one morning I would find a pile of green fuzz instead of beautiful yellow fruit. The problem was, I have been unable to bake anything, or garden, since we moved.
When the Recession forced Mike and me to sell our beloved country property in 2009, we retreated to the city to regroup. The owner of the house we rented invited us to have a garden. But, I didn’t want one.
I was heartbroken. We had worked so hard to create our garden in the country: planting fruit trees, double-digging beds, putting up a fence with four gates, building a gazebo from trees cut from our land. The tiny strips of ground available around the edge of this urban backyard seemed insulting. To reference various cinema dramas featuring emotionally devastated children, I don’t want this crummy new garden; I want my old garden!
So, for the last three seasons, I’ve boycotted the soil. I cancelled my seed catalogue subscriptions, ignored the overgrown irises, and turned my back on the compost.
Ditto the kitchen. While I’ve never been the daily cook in the family (thank you, Mike) I had certainly put in my time behind the scenes: canning jams and fruits; painstakingly plucking and chopping every leaf off a half-dozen basil plants, crushing a pound of pine nuts, and pulverizing Parmesan for pesto; and cooking big batches of soup to freeze. I was getting fairly good at baking pies, especially pumpkin pies.
But no more. A year after we moved out, I half-heartedly made a pumpkin pie only to realize too late (at Thanksgiving dinner with my family) that I’d used evaporated milk instead of sweetened condensed milk, so there was essentially no sugar in it. I went back into retirement, still heartbroken.
Last week, Mike was out of town for work. Each morning, I looked at the bowl of pears and thought, I need to do something with those. On Tuesday, I moved them from the bowl onto a plate. I moved the plate closer to the coffee press. I moved the plate closer to the sink.
There has to be a statute of limitations on heartbreak, I told myself. Are you going to pout forever?
Finally, on Friday, I faced the pears.
These were not grocery store blockbusters but modest Bartletts that fit in the palm of my hand. The skins were so tender they peeled off without a knife. I added a couple of apples for tartness, and cardamom, ginger and a bit of cinnamon. (And sugar, of course.) After 45 minutes, I could tell it was done because of the wonderful aroma swirling around the house. I’d forgotten how good that smells.
Mike returned from his trip shortly after the crisp came out of the oven. He raised his nose and sniffed.
“Have you been … baking?”
Yesterday morning, the crisp was part of a hearty Autumnal Equinox brunch. The pear flavor was intense, the perfect thing to welcome fall.
It feels good to reclaim my connection to harvest. Come spring, I might even plant some tomatoes.