to summer!

fresh tomato

It’s been a hot summer. H-O-T hot. It’s been hot here in Chicago, on sweaty bike rides and walks; hot in Raleigh, North Carolina, by the pool and at farmers markets; hot in Ohio; hot in Nashville; hot in St. Louis; hot everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve sweated through clothes and on furniture, felt skin stick to leather seats in my car, walked into buildings for the sole purpose of feeling their air-conditioning, started keeping deodorant in my purse so I can apply it multiple times a day.

You could say I’m experiencing summer this year, really experiencing it, and listen: it’s not always comfortable.

And yet.

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Meet Me in St. Louis!

hello, saint louis arch!

Don’t you think that with just a month or so left of summer, now’s a great time for weekend getaways? I do. And for those of you from Chicago, did you know Saint Louis is only a little over four hours away?

In the just over 24 hours I spent there last weekend, I learned Saint Louis has some pretty cool things to offer—things like:

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here’s the way to like them

pickles

You know those people who are notoriously slow to latch onto certain foods? They say it’s the texture or the flavor? They never liked it, never will? We all know those people. We all are those people. So let me start off this post by addressing them—addressing us—and saying this: the following story is one you can read and take heart. I like pickles.

Yes, I wrote that right. I LIKE PICKLES. Expect all manner of impossibilities from here on out: Up can be down. Left can be right. You can take something you always thought you wouldn’t like and make it in your own kitchen and boom: it’s a world where anything is possible.

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two new things but no new recipes or, time

the first tomato

There are two things on my mind this morning, seemingly unrelated, and I am sorry to say that while they will involve food, they won’t come with a new recipe, just one that’s been posted here before. You could say they’re two culminations, the kind that build for months and months, the kind that reached fruition this week, like recipes that rumble around in your head until you make them or tastes that stay with you until one day, you’re at a party and someone hands you a cracker with an interesting spread, and you say, aha! this is what I been wanting! That’s what they’re like.

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and here we are, with babka

kite blowing in the breeze

I’m not going to ask where the time went. That’s what everyone says, halfway through summer, after the fireworks and before back-to-school, when we’re finally settled into the heat and humidity, when our arms are bronzed and our long-daylight days have begun to seem commonplace, when we’re looking at the calendar and saying, July 20? July 20! More than halfway through 2010? I am just getting used to it not being 2009! and we think of all the things we still want to do and we think of all the people we want to do them with, and our hearts start to race a little bit. OK, hang on.

How about instead of rushing ahead we just stop, right here and now, and take a look at this day, this July 20, this Tuesday we have and will never get again, and appreciate what’s brought us here?

I’ll start. With chocolate babka.

braided chocolate babka

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finally getting it now

fresh strawberries

I don’t remember the first time I ate a strawberry. Do you?

I wonder if I liked it right away or if it took some time. I wonder if it was like tomatoes, where at first I hated the texture, and then I had some sliced on pizza and didn’t hate them, and soon started to want them (on pizza, on sandwiches, growing more plants every year). I kind of feel like I always liked strawberries, but who knows? I mean, some things take time to warm up to.

soaked spelt berry muffins

For example, I do remember the first time I soaked flour, and it was no strawberry. Remember that bittersweet soaked whole grain bread experience, the one where I was never quite sure if I’d done it right and the yeast plus my inexperience added up to ho-hum? I could have given up right then. I could have said no more soaking! It’s not easy to like! But then again, where would that attitude get me? I’ll tell you where: to a world without tomatoes, cherries, cheese, kefir, eggs, exercise and, heck, even some of my favorite people.

So I persevered. And go figure! I think I’m finally getting it.

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spelt ravioli

homemade spelt ravioli

If you’re like me, the thought of making homemade pasta is right up there with the thought of knitting your own clothes or building your own car: Sure, theoretically, it’s good. Other people might try it, and when they do, you might think it’s a little cool. But let’s be honest, it’s unnecessary, over-involved, time-consuming and, mostly, way out of your league. Besides, that’s why there are shopping malls! And car dealerships! And hello? Grocery stores with ready-made pasta you only need to boil. Listen, I know.

At first glance, making homemade pasta seems daunting. The very mention of it sends some of us out to buy the latest pasta maker or KitchenAid attachment or, in an even more likely scenario, reaching way back in the cupboards, where our existing pasta maker or attachment has been hiding. We know making pasta takes time, and it might be messy. I know that. Last weekend, I did it anyway.

And when I did, I learned something: when you make it from scratch, the results will be worth it.

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