A great many fine things

Last weekend I took the train into New York City all by my blessed lonesome. I did a great many fine things while I was there, one of which was buying a pound of triple-crème Irish Tipperary brie from East Village Cheese, just two blocks from my old apartment. Tonight I’m eating it alone in my cozy new house while a rabid lion of a wind rattles our eaves, whips through the branches of evergreens whose names I don’t yet know, and keens across the icy fields and marshland all around me. I took the cheese out of the fridge an hour ago and it hasn’t really come all the way up to room temperature yet, but I’m standing at the counter anyway, shaving from either side of it with an old paring knife. I’m eating it with a glorious slop of roasted grapes, scooped straight from the roasting pan with my fingers. I wish I could still drink wine, because it’s the kind of mood I’m in tonight. But I haven’t been able to since before I got pregnant, four years ago; now even a drop brings on a raging headache. So I’m drinking bourbon instead – a maple sour, made with maple from trees tapped five miles away!

(Maple sours changed my life, true story: I have known and loved a great many whiskey drinkers but I never could get on board until this winter. That’s when I started drinking these and now I’m all why-would-anyone-ever-drink-anything-ever-but-bourbon-ever??) 

My son is asleep, coughing and fitful, his tiny body still duking it out with a bullheaded cold that has plagued our whole family for close to a month. For an hour before he finally nodded off he lay curled in my arms on the recliner in the living room, his cheeks flushed and his eyes fluttering wearily as he coughed. I wish he were well. My husband is back at our old farm for the second time in the two scant weeks since our move, doggedly tending to all the outside cleanup that there just wasn’t time for before we left. I wish he were here.

Still, the night is not without its sweetness. I’m eating this cheese and thinking of the hot lunches we had every weekday at my old office in my New York City days (another true story). I was part of a volunteer corps and so none of us had much money at all, but we all chipped in two or three bucks every day and ate beyond our means, if eating beyond your means means warm food filling your belly, a table loud with the laughter and shouts of anywhere from three to twelve people, the reliable warble of the coffee maker as the lunch hour drew to a close every day. There was lots of spaghetti, lots of lentils, lots of roasted potatoes, lots of on-sale cheese, lots of Maxwell House. Sometimes I think I was never so well fed.

Of course I am married to a farmer now, and we eat beyond our meager means too, if eating beyond your means means eating dead ripe seconds Cherokee Purples and Brandywines with homemade (by him) mayo on homemade (by me) bread every lunch for weeks, gilding the lily sometimes with homecured bacon, or a fistful of fresh basil, washing it down with a gulp of fresh Jersey milk.

So this snow won’t melt. And the coughing won’t stop. And the truck won’t start. But I watch wild geese soar over my house every afternoon. And I can hear the creek from our back deck. And you should see my bookshelves. And one of my oldest friends came last night with coffee and porters and music, and stayed until late this afternoon. While the boy napped we slurped potato leek soup and talked of summer music, and new apartments, and work, and the lonely wonder of parenthood. Also I’m sleeping again.

And these grapes! Maybe if you make them your mind too will begin to slow and steady. I think they might be magic like that.

Slow Roasted Grapes

I think this method comes from All About Roasting, by Molly Stevens. It certainly has her stamp of sweet simple genius. I don’t have the book, though; I first ate these at my parents’ table in North Carolina sometime last year as part of a perfect ploughman’s lunch along with cheese, pickles, cold roast chicken, and sesame crackers. Sometimes I think if I could only eat one meal ever, over and over again for the rest of my life, it would be a ploughman’s lunch.

I’d never thought to roast grapes before but now that I know, I won’t ever stop. They are just, gosh, perfect. Jammy and forward and every good thing. Some of them caramelize a bit and you really might moan when you get one of those. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You should really try these with cheese, and they’re excellent with roasted meats. But I imagine they’d also be good on oatmeal, or stirred into yogurt, or on top of ice cream, or maybe with a bit of whipped cream and pound cake, with some strong coffee to cut the sweetness.

1 pound seedless grapes
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 250°F/120°C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the grapes with the olive oil or butter, spread on the baking sheet, and bake for two to two and half hours.

17 thoughts on “A great many fine things

  1. Julia

    Oh, roasted grapes, yes. And standing at the counter with a nice cheese? Double yes. My little guy has that nasty cough that lingers, and it hurts me when he’s sleeping to hear the labored wheezing and rattling cough. Let’s hope the snow melts quickly and the wind dies down. Just being outside in the garden today has bolstered me.

    (I’m so curious: whereabouts in the HV did you re-locate to? I ask because I’m in Ulster county.)

    1. Lisa

      I don’t want to hate on winter, and although it may not be obvious here, I think I’m actually doing BETTER with the snow since coming here. But I’m also feeling the effects of too much solo parenting time inside. What I’d give even for mud!!

  2. Patsy Watson

    I am so gonna try the Roasted grapes. the night in question sounds very sweet and I can so picture you curled up in your new home. Please know that we miss you down here in the south and wish you the best of everything.

  3. Arliss

    Enjoyed reading this … fine things, indeed. And I’m so there with you regarding the ploughman’s lunch as perfect meal. And roasted grapes sound delicious. Must try!

    1. Lisa

      Thanks, Arliss! What is it about the ploughman’s lunch? Is it the balance of taste? Or maybe just all the salty stuff? Mmm…

  4. Carrie @ Rhubarb Sky

    Oh, Lisa. . . have I told you how happy I am that you’ve started to blog? I don’t know you, but I can FEEL your voice here. . . and it’s lovely. There’s something so beautiful about the longing of the old (meager means or not) days while at the same time embracing the new days. I feel that push-pull, ebb-flow, a lot these days. I love hearing you. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Lisa

      My gosh. Thanks, Carrie. The feeling is completely and deeply mutual. Hoping very much that as we continue to settle in here, I’ll be able to get into more of a writing rhythm.

  5. abbie {tractormOM}

    Sweet friend. I too understand the lowing sound of the wind at your eaves, the impossibility of winter and yet, the infinite of it that lays beneath the surface…and the colds! I find myself sneezing again. Eli is sniffling. Dave’s exhausted. Mid march to mid April is tough stuff is this arctic land to which you’ve relocated. But the joy of what comes beyond it has a depth here, because of all you endure before that first bloom pushes it’s deep green head from underneath leaf detritus. Focusing on food and the blessing a farmer’s privilege is in that regard is what gets me through now. I try new recipes and flirt with the asparagus and leeks and fresh made ricotta…all those beautiful spring pieces. And I don’t worry about the fact that the asparagus came from other than my grandmother’s patch. Savoring the possibility of spring amidst heaping snow banks feels luxurious. Much like the grapes, I would imagine, which sound amazing.

    1. Lisa

      Oh, kind friend. Thank you. I hadn’t thought yet about the potential depth of spring joy – you might have to remind me of that NEXT spring, when I’ve lived through a full northern winter!

      The continued cooking helps enormously. I’m doing even more of it here, since Ali is working full time with a short lunch and I am more fully on home and mama duty. It’s not onerous – it feels sweet, slow, helpful.

  6. Tamika

    I do so admire how you find the beauty, peace and centering of many moments. With so much transition it’s good to hold on tight to those small but meaningful times. Warm weather will be here and bring with it a new mood for us all (I love that about Spring!).

    Meet you at the milk farm one day, in warm sunny weather!


  7. Lisa

    Thanks, Tamika! Looking forward to an HV spring ever so much – although, oddly, I find myself less resistant to the snow here than I was in recent years in VA. But I’m also tired, and we need to get out of the house!! A milk meeting sounds wonderful – or another planned one! I didn’t write back on IG yet but I’d be SO into some kind of trade – food is always wonderful, although sewing is probably even more helpful.

  8. Alisha

    So glad I finally found some time to stop by here! Lovely, just lovely! Thanks for sharing. We had very good friends that were farm managers at a local farm but also had to relocate to a new farm a couple states away and I miss them very much. Your words filled that space for me to today.

  9. erin

    oh you, i am hearing of the longing for spring and rightness with your little one and all the while being in it alone. i hope by now, the calendar page has turned and you are shifting, in all of those ways to more ease. so wonderful to “hear you”, after seeing so much of you on flickr. sending much xoxo to you in your new sweet home.

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  11. Nik

    They way you sling words around transition with such poise is nothing short of gorgeous. I’m finally catching up on your blog and I’m so happy to have so many posts to catch up on. It helps make sense of all your pictures elsewhere. Lovely, all of it. Just like you, mama.

    Also, I noticed that you linked to YOUR maple sour and I just blogged about my sour referencing YOU in my post. I’m gonna link to this post now. Hope that’s okay. If not let me know, and I’ll take the link off 🙂

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