10 February 2010

Fettuccine et le ménage à trois des fromages

Yesterday I was domestic. I put four jars of four-berry jam in the refrigerator, three casseroles in the freezer, two pie crusts aside for later, and a casserole in the oven for dinner. (You can sing that sentence, give or take a few syllables, to the Four Days of Christmas tune.) The recipe is an adaptation of a magazine recipe--possibly from Real Simple, although I need to do better with recipe citations. Anyway, it was magical: three cheeses--Gruyère, Parmesan, and aged Cheddar--all of them sharp and assertive, hidden in a fog of thickest whipping cream. One of my roommates agreed that these are the bites after which you can die content, the bites so rich that they induce comas of pure bliss. Allow me to share the recipe, so that you may be similarly afflicted. (The antidote, by the way, is black coffee. Not with the casserole, of course. You have to wait until you're almost comatose. Then, just before death snatches you, you must take a sip of saving coffee--the beverage my brother once compared to a mental scaffold, the perfect buttress for your almost-collapsed consciousness. No one wants "death by casserole" in her obituary, after all.)

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, prepare 8 ounces of fettuccine or other pasta. Whisk together 1/2 cup
Gruyère, 2 cups whipping cream, 3 tablespoons (or more) Parmesan, and 3 tablespoons (or more) aged Cheddar. Add pasta. Stir until coated. Butter an 11x7-inch glass baking dish to which you then add the pasta mixture. Sprinkle 1 cup (at least) of Gruyère over the top. Bake until the cheese on the top melts and the inner cheeses set. This will take about 20 minutes.

I know you're probably scared. Fear is a part of life. But I can assure you that the path to nirvana lies in an 11x7-inch baking dish filled with cheeses and cream. Now that's a philosophy you can sink your teeth into!
Bon appétit

01 February 2010

Stationery and The Art of Correspondence

They can have the intimacy of a journal entry, but with a particular audience in mind--vocabulary, quotes, anecdotes, all chosen to tickle a particular ear. They can send an "I love you," and all the reasons why, to be opened again and again--words which don't need an occasion to be heard, but which can be secreted away in backpacks to be read on the train, or pulled out in some other lonely moment. They can reach across the universe to extract the truth between two people, in that cathedral where there is only our voices--yours and mine, writing--a cathedral between side-by-side note-passers in class, or between friends across continents. It is a private, precious language, as intimate as a whisper. We pass a metaphor back-and-forth. We work on our masterpiece models of the universe and of the human heart. And no one is embarrassed by extravagant endearments. If we are, contrary to Steinbeck's suggestion, each his or her own island, each with an inner life never entirely communicable, then writing letters is, I believe, the closest we ever come to filling the space between us.

Listen to your deepest voice.  That is the voice which must speak, unrestrained, on paper. Describe the lady at the post-office. Describe the ways in which you feel masculine and the ways in which you feel feminine. What are you afraid of and why? What would you do if you could do anything and why? Think of a person that you love, think of the details of that person, and then express your love for that person in terms of their details.

To get you started, I recommend Nick Bantock's Griffin & Sabine books. It is the fictional correspondence of two lovers across time and space. Not only is their correspondence interesting and intimate, but it features original postcard paintings by the author, and envelope flaps with pull-out letters. (Please note that these books are not meant for children.)

As far as stationery is concerned, I like nothing so well as Kartos Florentia stationery, which I initially discovered at Papyrus (one of the best national stationers around), and which I have more recently found at Barnes & Noble. I certainly get caught up in the romance of material and method. I occasionally use a quill pen and ink pot, which is fun, although messy. And sometimes I seal my envelopes with a plop of wax and an ornate "A" too.

But these accoutrements, although fun, are not essential. The important thing is that you write. Most likely, you will be famous someday and someone will want to publish your correspondence. But even if there is no enterprising and favorable editor, there is probably a backpack somewhere which would be much improved by the addition of your letter. And there are many cathedrals which await your unique embellishment.