Thursday, August 30, 2012

i painted a watermelon

I would say, extra points for identifying my 'cultural' reference point of the post title, but it's mildly embarrassing to admit. Still, what other chance would I have to riff off the phrase. My other option was 'nice melons'.
This is a detail from a painting I'm almost finished with, full size is 11"x14", oil. What can I say? I was proud of the melons, and it seems like an appropriate subject in the last weeks of summer.

On the topic of fruit (I know I've used that segue before), I just baked my favorite plum cake. Upon searching online to confirm my memory of the (very simple) measurements- since my own smudged handwritten recipe is somewhere else- I learned that the recipe was printed for many consecutive years in the NY Times, dating back to 1981. In '89, the food writer pleaded for cooks to 'clip and laminate' the recipe instead of repeatedly demanding its reprinting, as if that in itself was part of the tradition.
I thought about my mother's recipe binder filled with yellowed clippings and typewritten index cards, a scrapbook of dishes, some frequently made, some rarely or never, but saved just in case. The pages are more of a personal cooking history than you can find in even the most well-thumbed published cookbooks. Although these too can be annotated with adjustments and additions, the favorite recipes clearly more spattered than the rest. I do like sifting through the wealth of recipes online, being able to learn how to cook/bake ANYthing, with any ingredient, but it's a very different experience. No need to clip or beg for reprints. You just have some idea of what you're searching for, then determine if it's worth making based on its accompanying article, blog post, or review. Two hours later, the butter melted, I stagger into the kitchen with my mind full of variations.
I remember, when I was little, sitting on the counter eating chocolate chips and watching my sister whirl efficiently around our tiny kitchen assembling flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla for our cookie-making sessions, the recipe stored in her head. I was so impressed. Years later she pointed out it was printed on the bag. "Yeah, but you never even had to look at it," I persisted, ever the adoring kid sister. Sometimes it's about the challenge and fun of digging into a new unknown recipe, poring over the method, but sometimes I just like moving around, grabbing basic ingredients and watching the familiar treat come together under my hands... and I realize I have a lot of recipes in my head too, after all.

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