I think I’ve turned a corner on my academic work. It’s taken me nine months of struggle to finish up loose ends left dangling from my dissertation exile, publish a couple of articles, invent a few new classes for the job I started immediately after finishing the Ph.D., start new work for conferences and grant proposals, make travel plans, plus a host of other teaching and administrative stuff that’s par for the course. But I’ve done it.
I don’t want to say I’m out of the woods, but I feel that for the first time in a few years, my schedule is manageable and not subject to change at the drop of a hat, and I’m very, very much looking forward to having a little breathing room to do my research and well, you know, live.
Witness: I dusted a lamp yesterday and felt infused with pleasure. Because I actually had 2 minutes to dust a lamp and nothing but the immediacy of lamp-dusting on my mind. The zen of dusting lamps. Lame, huh?
Spring and summer are going to be quite busy here at Raccoon Tree Acres, but I only have a few deadlines. The work I did this winter on proposals, conferences, and teaching my research subject makes them easier to meet, too. I’ll be going to Maryland to visit the archive of a cantankerous modernist, London to read the papers of a sexologist, Prague to talk about dirty James Joyce, and Zurich to expound upon the literary fruits we know and love. (Do I dare to eat a peach? Why yes, I do.) And we’ll have time to visit family and friends, too, in between. We haven’t seen most of our family in years, so these are much-anticipated events.
I’m planning to blog the delights of food in all these places, of course. But for now, I’m quite pleased at my lamp-dusting-local self and the drunken glee of Eugene on the sunny days in spring. Our farmer’s market is glorious right now. Our organic farms make the most of the plants they grow and sell the thinnings of their rows. For the spring vegetable supper below, I bought new potatoes, big fat bunches of the sprouting tips of crucifers (kale, brussells sprouts, broccoli), tiny carrots and French radishes, turnips the size of a quarter, and the biggest bag of deep red rhubarb ever.
I’ll fess up to erring on the side of too much butter, cheese, and cream for the gratin and butter-braised vegetables. No one complained, though. The gratin was assembled by blanching the brussells sprout greens and boiling the potatoes, then layering both in a Pyrex dish with nutmeg, pepper, and a handful of chopped sprouting onions, leeks, and garlic that I had culled from my allium bed that afternoon. Cream in which thyme and savory had been soaking was poured over the top, then a fontina-like Italian cheese whose name I can’t recall was grated over the whole shebang.
For the chimichurri marinade for a gorgeous piece of chinook salmon, I used the tender fronds of my caraway plant, fennel fronds, thyme, savory, lovage, celery, onion, lemon, and olive oil. We grilled the fish on alder planks, so it was a lovely combination of fresh green and live smoke.
And the rhubarb? Well, that was a no brainer. I used some of my homemade granola to fancy up a crumble topping, and tossed the fat pieces with a bit of vanilla sugar and Clear gel food starch to control the juice.
I’m still full.
Spring Vegetable Supper
Fresh from the Market
Mt. Chanterelle Fern’s Edge Dairy goat cheese
Dolores’ Pickled Prunes
Green salad with nasturtium blossoms, French breakfast radishes, and young carrots with homemade lemon chive vinaigrette
Spring herb chimichurri salmon, grilled on alder planks
From the Kitchen
New potato, Brussells sprouting greens, and culled spring onion gratin
Butter-braised baby turnips and carrots with arugula flowers
From the Vine
Sweet Cheeks Rosy Cheeks
Pfeiffer Pinot Gris
Clos du Bois Pinot Noir
Sweets of Spring
Rhubarb homemade granola crumble
Noris Dairy whipped cream