The first week of the farm share box was met with great anticipation. I was new to staying at home and unpacking a corrugated surprise package of local produce was downright riveting. When the second share arrived, I folded back the flaps with a little less enthusiasm. The box revealed a bounty of curly leaf lettuce, an assertive bunch of scallions, and enough parsley to last nearly a lifetime. There were plenty of spunky radishes and fistfuls of Popeye-approved spinach. Toward the bottom, some roly-poly onions collided head-on with a sizable purple cabbage and one stray carrot. Feeling curmudgeonly grateful, I was disappointed. Conspicuous in its absence, I had hoped to find a handful of early rhubarb, just itching to find the nearest pie plate.
As April unfurls, I’m hearing a universal sentiment voiced amongst my pie pals. Now that the novelty of sheltering in place has become curiously ordinary, we’ve hit a stay-at-home wall. We struggle to play nice with housemates who are perfectly agreeable folks under other circumstances. We are challenged by what is (and isn’t) in the refrigerator. Unidentified freezer burn Ziploc bags provide a common source of irritation. Personally, I’m growing weary of getting clunked on the head from free-falling cans of tuna fish. Those near-miss concussions are probably there to knock some sense into me, reminding me things could be far worse.
My parents and grandparents had a fondness for reminding me all too often, “When you have your health, you have everything.” I don’t recall paying much attention to their mantra, preferring to coast through childhood and adolescence in a bubble of smarty-pants ignorance. Plagues were a thing of the past, depicted in biblical films starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. Spanish influenza took its toll on characters stuck in serial costume dramas, aired on our local PBS channel. Face masks and gloves were reserved for John Wayne movies and the Wild, Wild, West; not for leaving the house.
Attempting to choreograph a farm share’s worth of produce into the confines of a refrigerator takes time and patience. I have plenty of the former and not enough of the latter. It also brings me up close and personal with the ‘use by’ dates flaunted across perishables. This provides a not-so-subtle reminder that I am standing smack dab in the week that was supposed to be different. My calendar earmarks this week as one slated for travel and featuring far more cake than pie. It was a week dedicated to special birthdays and happily-ever-afters. My baking mise en place called for enough butter, sugar, flour, and eggs to yield a multi-tiered, multi-flavored confection. One cake was all about chocolate and one cake was for lovers of almond. And still another cake was slated for drifts of coconut, room for candles and the accompaniment of off-key singers. Although I dedicated a great deal of attention to the mathematics of large scale baking, I forgot to factor something into the equation. I forgot to consult with Life.
Life is the thing that sometimes gives you lemons that can easily, albeit begrudgingly, be squeezed into lemonade. Clearly, Life wasn’t listening when I casually asked for a few dozen lemons, just enough to yield a generous recipe of lemon curd. Life had other plans, gathering far too much citrus for a tall glass, or a wide-mouthed pitcher of lemonade. Instead, Life provided a tidal wave of lemons, more than enough to derail all plans.
With nothing but white space and a few Zoom cocktail hours on my calendar, I have plenty of time to circle the kitchen. The occasional crunch underfoot requires a casual sweep or a little vacuuming, or both. This feeble attempt at tidying is less about housekeeping and all about distraction. The stand mixer and paddle attachment offer a constant source of diversion, but today I’m fixated on the ruckus in the fridge. The warped crisper drawer is over-filled, refusing to close. My patience with one particular vegetable is wearing thin. “Someone oughta make a slaw outta you!” I scold the bulbous head of cabbage. The cabbage is nonplussed. Not feeling the slaw love at the moment, the multi-layered vegetable seems better suited to a vibrant soup. Tightening my grip on the cabbage, I do more damage to the off-kilter drawer. Setting the cabbage on the counter and eyeing him critically, I put the soup on hold. Crafty feels more appropriate right now as I strive to regain my footing. Having the rug pulled out from under your yet-to-be-worn-sensibly-heeled dance shoes alters your perspective. It certainly gives you a new and cautious appreciation for lemons.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm