Time seems to spin by more quickly in these shortened days of winter. I always feel like I need a lot more sleep to balance the increased darkness. More time in the light, too, though that is hard to come by just now. The weather has changed. We had what felt like (and may well have been) weeks of cold clear days, when frost lay heavy until almost noon and goldenrose light painted the sides of buildings and even the sidewalks. Mornings were cold and clear and crystalline in that winter way, all streaks and puffs of pink clouds and golden light spilling over everything from far away. Now the weather has softened into rain, clouded pthalo and lilac sky lit up by the city at night. These dark winter evenings are perhaps best spent close to the stove, stirring, chopping, filling the baseboard cool of the house with warm fragrance. Last night the wind roared and threw itself at our small house. From the darkness of our bed in the morning hours I could still hear it howling in from the ocean and I knew then that it had blown all night, tossing and turning through my dreams.
This is a post that was almost lost to the havoc a rabbit's fuzzy feet can wreak on a keyboard. My cavorting Zephyr, I love you very much, and you will teach me to save my work. We happened to mention scalloped potatoes, one of us to the other, and they immediately claimed a space in our weekend, our supper (two nights in a row, now), and our bellies. It was decided that Julia Child should be the voice of authority on the matter, and a very good decision that was. I will say this, however: the butter! I know she has a reputation for her love of butter, and so do I, truly, at least among family and friends. But the quantities! I get a little anxious when our butter supply runs low, and though generally generous with the good stuff, even I voiced concerns of it being excessive and threw in a few "Oh Julia!"'s for good measure. What follows is a rough rendition of what we ate.
As I'm writing this, the fire is burning slow and bright in our fireplace; this first fire of the season. It emits a warm glow that stretches faintly toward our single-paned windows. Jer has been industriously plastic-sealing them for the winter, and though not attractive, it is a little less drafty in here.
Two Sunday nights ago (ages, I know, but I meant to exclaim about it): the moon! I hope you all saw it if you had the chance. It was steeped in an autumnal blush from all the reflected sunrises and sunsets of the world. We watched the light crawl back up into it from below and sensed that we really were seeing something. Somehow all the preceding eclipses (ever) skipped us by, either due to
late inconvenient timing or cloudy skies, so this one seemed especially striking.
Scalloped Potatoes adapted lightly but interpretatively from Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle's Mastering the Art of French Cooking
- an ovenproof dish about 10" across and 2" deep (we used a 9x13 pyrex dish, but we did have extra potatoes). - 1 clove of garlic, cut in half. Rub the baking dish with the cut garlic. (we sliced up the garlic after and put it in with the potatoes) - 4 tbsp butter (it seemed like so much more when Jer had a great hunk of it looming on the counter and being dispersed freely in great lumps- he may also have measured rather generously) - 2 lbs "boiling" potatoes (we used 3lbs Yukon Gold but that may have been too much as it cooked slower than expected. We did end up with a pleasing amount of leftovers. I didn't peel the potatoes and they turned out delicious, but I suppose you could if you felt you had to.) Slice the potatoes fairly thinly (no thicker than 1/8") and place in cold water for now. - 1 cup milk, heated until it boils - 1 cup or so grated cheese (we probably used more like two cups, mostly Parmesan and some mozzarella because that was what the fridge contained) - salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425°. Drain the potatoes and dry them in a towel (or skip the whole water step above if you work quickly). Spread half of them in the bottom of the dish and cover with half of the cheese, butter and salt and pepper. Arrange the remaining potatoes on top and cover with the second half of the cheese and butter and seasoning. Pour on the boiling milk. Place baking dish over heat and when simmering, set in upper third of preheated oven (we completely missed the stovetop step but I imagine it is helpful for cooking the potatoes quicker). Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, milk has been absorbed, and the top is nicely browned.
Over the past couple days, I have done almost nothing. In a way, that's a huge relief. I've just been lazing around the house, mostly in bed or at the kitchen table with my feet tucked up on the heater. I've been reading this, and looking for DIY wedding ideas here. My cold/flu is waning and I am gradually feeling stronger. I braved the mild spring air for a brief walk to our local bakery for milk (being home sick without milk for coffee was too dreadful a prospect), and somehow while I was lying with my eyes closed in the grey half-light of a room with curtains closed in the afternoon, with the cries of gulls punctuating the quiet passage of time, the next stages of spring were unfurling outside. I walked outside into a street full of cherry blossoms. At the bakery, it seemed silly to just buy milk so I bought sourdough spelt sandwich bread too, which is delicious. The excellence of our neighborhood's wood-fired, sourdough, local-grain-using bakery has resulted in my own little sourdough culture languishing in the fridge. I feel guilty thinking about when I last fed it, or longer ago still, baked with it.
While I've been writing this from my customary blanket on the floor with the rabbits roaming around, one set of headphones were the sad casualty of one rabbit (Zephyr, of course) being left with our computers while we intervened with and separated a catnip-ed out cat (Michette - who had until this point been on her best behavior) and a naive and curious rabbit (Seven, naturally). Now, J and I are going to practice dancing- a kind and patient friend is teaching us and we are hoping to show improvement at our next dinner and lesson together.
Today is a stat holiday in BC and I've been looking forward to it all month. I spent most of the day in bed, which was not the original plan, but was about all I felt capable of while chasing this gross flu-ish cold out of me.
The highlight of the day was looking at seed catalogs with J and when he brought me, all bundled up, to sit on the beach for a few minutes of fresh air.
Now, back to bed, to hopefully feel better tomorrow.
Something wonderful happened this morning. It was so unusual that I stopped to take it in. You see, the sun came up on my way to work. The light came into the bakery in wide shafts.
The cold that everyone else at work has passed around seems to have found me. I have mustered grated ginger and lemon tea with honey, oil of oregano and propolis to help it on its way.