Sunday, August 23, 2009

Warming the Houses

Dear Mouse,

A wise woman said to me recently, "Friends are the family you choose for yourself."

Not that there's anything wrong with family. Sisters in particular! Sisters who are also Friends. (Whew.) This was just on my mind this weekend as a theme of sorts emerged: House Warming.

As nuts as that may sound in mid-August - why, WHY would anyone want to even suggest making their home warmer? - it just so transpired that both I and my friend (who I'll call Helena, after her role in our Maine Midsummer) moved into new homes this past week. They were sort of Big Moves for both - her first into NYC and my first out of Manhattan since coming here. Although I will certainly miss living below you & the Boyfriend! I am over the moon about my new lovely neighborhood and hobbit hole apartment nestled in Sunnyside (could there be a happier name??), Queens, just off the Bliss Street (yep, there it is) stop.

There's a sort of beautiful paradox around the housewarming idea. Your home is something that is for YOU - it's personal, possessive, boundaried: my room, my door, my kitchen, my plumbing issues. But there's a real human need to acknowledge that space by inviting others into it who don't live there... as if a home is not a home without the blessing of community.

Now before you protest, no, I have not yet had an official housewarming, and when I do, you will be there. Making treats for me. But on Sunday afternoon A-Mac stepped up as inadvertent housewarmer (by way of coming over with some stuff I left at her house). She showed up with the traditional bread and salt (in a grinder! i love that) and some plum jam (nontraditional but delicious). It made me think (again, always) about food as the language of connection, about what an integral part it plays in every ritual I can think of.

I baked a blueberry coffeecake (in August, yes) which made the wee kitchen smell divine and homey, and we ate slices of it in the back garden while the afternoon turned golden and a breeze ruffled the tomato plants. (Did I mention the back garden?) I had to laugh that the only thing I needed were the blueberries, since the day before the move I had arrived with a preliminary suitcase full of spices and flour. Priorities.

(By the way, shopping in local grocery got me really excited for future meals: arepas, several kinds of chorizo, all the goya products you & the boyfriend could want. Should I pick up a carton of sazon?)

The night before had found me in Brooklyn for what turned out to be the impromptu housewarming dinner at Helena's new place. Since our friendship basically began around a roast chicken, it was a given that we would cook. However, a concession was made to the sultry weather when we decided to commit to a cold menu. For the second time this month I put together Chase's "Shrimp in a Bath of Raspberry Vinegar and Mint" from the Open House Cookbook. Which is described (because I know you're waiting for it) as "the perfect way to infuse irresistible jumbo shrimp with the sparkle of summer"(yes that was from memory. Happy?) Seriously though, I can't recommend this highly enough for an easy summer showstopper. A bag of frozen shrimp, two kinds of vinegar, some mint leaves, and you're the hit of the season. Start early, though, because it really is all about how long it sits in its dressing (should be 3 hours min.)

On the table also were H's salad of cucumber, tomato, and "goat feta" (all from the Park Slope Farmer's Market) (wow) and a peruvian roast chicken ordered at the last minute (ok, we caved) to round out the meal. Dessert: cherries, strawberries, ice cream and a dessert trick I learned from you, Mouse: a plate of sliced fresh figs w/ricotta cheese, drizzled with honey.

(Yes, there were other people there eating, in case you were wondering.)

I did eventually leave my house on Sunday to meet a friend and go to the The-Ay-Tah. The Fringe show we saw: Meh. Dessert: Meh-morable.

strawberry-rhubarb tart @Balthazar, where I'd never been before - how is that possible?

You could say that had nothing to do with house warming (it didn't), but afterwards it was sure nice to come home.

The Boo

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