I always eat breakfast at home (far less out of virtue and more out of the desire to have coffee in my pyjamas), so I don’t usually skimp on buying decent fruit or healthy homemade bread. Although I recognize that this eating and spending habit is a luxury, the total still couldn’t possibly rival a daily latte at Starbucks. Well, not so fast. Last night, at our fancy local grocer, I knew something was amiss when I paid up for a basket full of food. I was embarrassed at the total, but instead of being responsible and backing out of the purchase, I did a quick tally, amortized out the excess cost over the number of items in the cart, and figured that I should definitely shop more judiciously in the future lest we go broke. I tend to look at price tags on everything (habit picked up from my father!) and find myself returning products to the shelves – although not often enough – if they are too expensive. But I didn’t see an amount on the fruit. I know from experience what the normal price range is, so I blithely added both containers to my array. The tags were scrunched up and hidden, and now I can see why. $11.99 for the strawberries and $7.99 for the blueberries. You read that correctly. The perils of eating fruits and vegetables out of season are legend, but yikes. I am ashamed for so many reasons. The strawberries are a little more than .38¢ a pop and those pretty little blueberries top out at .11¢ each. I had 6 strawberries and 26 blueberries. $5.14 worth of fruit. This doesn’t even begin to take into account the rest of my meal: the piece of toast with almond butter or my coffee with milk. So very very wrong.
With the exception of an occasional watering, I had almost nothing to do with the planting and growing of these potatoes. That credit is bestowed upon my spouse. BUT, on Saturday afternoon, my husband and I dug them up. And can I tell you that it was one of the most enjoyable pursuits, ever! My friend Jason, an excellent gardener in his own right, and the one who gave us the seed potatoes to begin with, has always said (correctly) that it’s like a fabulous treasure hunt trying to find the tubers in the dark soil. Last night, in celebration of our modest bounty, we cooked the smaller ones for dinner. We were duly rewarded for the many weeks of waiting. My gosh, they were delicious. But, before cooking them, I singled out what I consider to be the world’s smallest potato. And, take notice of that gnarled one in the bottom left portion of the first photograph. It reminds me ever so slightly of Rodin’s The Thinker.
Elle Décoration, the 25 year old French design publication, just launched their first issue of a new magazine called Elle Deco Lab. And, to my delight, they decided to include Mrs. Easton in a round up of design blogs that “will get you hooked!” The website packs in a lot of information and highlights many designs and designers that aren’t necessarily part of the familiar roster here in the United States. Well worth a look. I assume that the print publication will be available here in October. Usually arrives a month after it’s released in Europe. Oh, and in France, “je suis une blogueuse.” Merci Elle Deco Lab!
I like stacks of stuff. No matter what or where.
“WHAT, you don’t know about the meringue?!!” screeched my brother and H. “HOW could you have missed it?” “It’s been in H’s freezer since that New Year’s Eve party we had back in 1979!” “Haven’t you ever seen it on the door?” John, my brother’s partner, gives us a sideways look. I sense that he is questioning our mental stability.
“Okay, okay…yes I have a vague memory of it.” I think to myself that they are referring to that teacup-size thing, enshrouded in plastic, sitting alone on the shelf of the freezer door. The thing I’ve often been tempted to throw in the trash. I admit to myself that I never really thought much about it and, in a slightly ashamed tone, confess my obliviousness.
How COULD I have missed its significance? Jeez, it’s been there for a good 33 years and counting. It now officially qualifies as an antique.
I ask if I can borrow it to take photographs, but dodge an immediate round of outrage spit at me from both sides of the dinner table. “Are you crazy?!” “You absolutely cannot remove it, much less unwrap it!” “No way.” They are united in their defense of this frostbitten wad of sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and egg whites. My brother adds that it is PERFECT. He reminds me of that pre-party madness long ago when he made the meringues for a crowd of 25. He conjures up images of a sixteen year old self, hunched over his cookie sheet, pastry bag in hand, piping out the glossy swirled receptacles that will later hold chocolate mousse, orange segments macerated in grand-marnier, all crowned with lightly sweetened whipped cream. He recalls throwing out two thirds of his creations, only keeping those that met his highest standards of perfection. I finally convince them that it’s worth a look. My brother concedes that it’s probably ossified, and that taking the cling wrap off will unlikely compromise its integrity. We rush back to the apartment before dark in order to rig up a quick photo shoot. This is the one meringue that is preserved for posterity. And it is indeed perfect.
Have you ever really looked at this thing? It is UGLY. Really really ugly. At least to my eye. But in a good way…I think. We moved from Philadelphia to Maine when I was 11, and I have distinct memories of going to the original L.L. Bean store in Freeport, in the dead of night — they have always been open 24 hours, 365 days a year — to go shoe shopping. Specifically boot shopping. The Classic Bean Hunting Shoe is almost a wardrobe requirement in that state. Coming from Pennsylvania though, I had never before seen such a hideous piece of footwear. And while I never ever came around to appreciating its aesthetic merits, there was something in its utility that made me a convert. (It’s important to note that Mainers, as they refer to themselves, take great pride in their common sense and practicality.) Yes, your feet froze in winter. And they didn’t do much to save you on the ice. But they were great in the mud (of which there is an abundance) and in the rain, which is near constant at times. If your soles wore out, or the stitching gave way, all you had to do was send in your boots and they would fix them for free. The shoes pictured above are from the catalog itself. And they look a little different from the ones I grew up with. These are a reissue/redesign in honor of the boots’ 100 year anniversary. Oh, and one other thing, these are still made in Maine, one pair at a time.
I’m not sure whose idea it was to send us to hiking camp in the mountainous Haute Savoie region of France, but one August, there we were. Two little American kids among forty or so French-speaking 8 to 12 year olds. For an entire month. The camp was sponsored by SNCF, the French National Railway. We went two years in a row. The first summer was fantastic: Hiking in the high peaks, eating amazing cheese and foraging for hazelnuts and wild blueberries on our endless treks. It was there that I discovered the joys of eating a baguette stuffed with giant hunks of Swiss chocolate. On our longer hikes, and at higher altitudes, we would sometimes stay overnight at a farm. We would all pile into the stalls in the sheep or the goat barn. With the animals. Yep. The second year was decidedly less fun. I had sprained my ankle quite badly right before camp was to start. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how that played out in a place where one was expected to be ambulatory and more. I mostly sat around reading, drawing and — inexplicably — making yarn pom poms that the bratty French girls then promptly pulled apart. The other day I found this picture of my brother (kneeling with his arms around the goat) with some of the other campers and it all came back to me in a rush.