Category Archives: winter

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.



There’s no denying this weekend had its share of strain. Disappointing news. Frayed nerves about the coming year. Temperatures too low for harvesting Brussels sprouts or cabbage. And two of us a bit poorly while the third was gone all day at market.

But sometimes – when we’re lucky – illness can be its own kind of nurse. Sometimes it’s life arriving with a pot of tea and a pile of blankets and firm orders to Take It Easy.

So we did. Paperwork: ignored. Gallant parenting ambitions: abandoned for Netflix, applesauce, and back rubs. The boy napped early and long. I watched three episodes of Downton Abbey and drank four cups of tea. We were both in bed before 8.

Morning found us much renewed, and Sunday was all waffles, sausage, coffee, pajamas sticky with maple syrup and fresh-squeezed-by-the-boy clementine juice, a warm fire, a slowly diminishing pile of dishes at sink’s edge, and frequent dance breaks with Frankie Valli, Bill Withers, and the Bee Gees. A few hours of work now while the boys run errands and get bagels, and then an afternoon at the bowling alley with a mess o’ friends! A bracing tonic indeed, all of it.

How was your weekend?

(joining Amanda at The Habit of Being)