Technically Summer

[Tomales Bay, August 2010.]

It is, you know. Still summer. At least for a few more days. For a few more days it’s still acceptable to eat soft serve ice cream; still possible to believe the Giants have all the time in the world to make it into the post-season; still hours to dream over Kristen‘s beautiful photos of her trip to Greece and wish I’d been able to tuck in a trip this year myself (it’s been three years since I’ve been to that well-loved country. Three!). For a few more days I can pretend we actually had a summer here, though it didn’t feel much like it. And now fall is knocking at the door; I’m holding fast to the sash and waiting it out as long as possible. Soon enough I’ll invite it in and pour it a glass of wine and settle in before a fire. I’ll make my annual pot of applesauce and bake it a nice cozy gingerbread — but not just yet!

In these last fleeting bits of true summer as determined by the calendar, there has been:

Roasted tomatoes with thyme and basil
Pasta with peas + mushrooms + roasted cauliflower
Pasta with lentils + chard (bridging the gap between the seasons)
Pasta with walnut pesto + green beans + potatoes
Fruit crisps
Multiple batches of oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies
A few glasses of white wine
Quinoa-vegetable salad
Sweet potato fries with tahini-yogurt sauce
Ice cream
Way too much running (22 miles on Sunday morning and yes, my brain did indeed go all mushy and loopy by the end of it)
New books (“Private Life,” by Jane Smiley, the latest)
Rain! (a little bit)
Swimming to and fro across Tomales Bay (no sharks, but no seals either)
Veggie burgers piled with slices of perfectly ripe avocado
Pounds and pounds of delicious heirloom tomatoes (at last!)

[Grapes, Sonoma, September 2010.]

Alas dear summer! I am sad to see you go though I hardly knew you at all — I look at 2010 as The Summer That Wasn’t, at least in San Francisco — and I know we would have been the best of friends had you but given me just a little bit of sun, and warm breezes (yes, fine, there were a few days sprinkled in here and there, and once I even wore a skirt and didn’t freeze but still — but still.).

Yet onward we go, time marching relentlessly on, as it tends to do. I yearn still for Indian Summer though I’ve (mostly) made my peace with the reality it may not exist this year; anyway, there are still peaches and plums to be had at the farmers’ market even if I must wear my down vest when loading up my bag. I will try to appreciate the quickly approaching golden days of October — a birthday looms, with a marathon directly on its heels, and these are both very fine things. I will try to cheer myself along up to winter (!) with thoughts of brussels sprouts and kale and pear-butternut squash soup. I will try to crack open the real-deal cookbooks again and re-find my inspiration.

[What summer felt like, September 2010.]

For I have a confession to make: I have not been feeling particularly inspired lately. This is no small travesty given the usual seasonal bounty — the luscious tomatoes, the tender and sweet summer squash, the ears of corn wanting only to be eaten boiled quickly and lashed with melted butter or roughly skinned and stripped and dropped into salads, the spindly, skinny green beans I wait ’til August for every year … and I have been taking advantage of all this loveliness, and nearly every week. It’s just that lately, technically still summer or no, I am feeling a little wan. Cooking has become slightly rote — and I do not like this at all. It’s disheartening, really.

I could blame the surfeit of baking that marked June-August; I could blame the fog and damp chill; I could blame a lessening of free time; I could blame marathon training and the ensuing exhaustion (and I feel like I can never get enough sleep); I could blame any number of things. But does it matter? The main thing is that I miss the kitchen, though I’m still in there a fair amount … if that makes sense. I want to cook for pleasure again, not just sustenance to be wolfed down after running for three-and-a-half hours at a stretch.

And I will, I know. This, perhaps, shall be my gift to the next season: to get back to it. I have a few days yet to lament and moan about our almost-summer; I have a few days still to eat leftovers and cobbled-together sandwiches and feel a bit woebegone. But then! I will square my shoulders and take a deep breath and look firmly ahead to what comes next, clear-eyed and ready.


What should I cook first?

Join the Conversation

  1. I made ratatouille last week.
    Everything came from the Wednesday market at UN Plaza and it was a really windy, chilly night and as it raged outside the trees were whipping around through the window that was all steamed up with the late summer vegetables sweating all over each other in a big pot of herbs and garlic on the stove. There were some potatoes in the kitchen I smashed up with olive oil and salt and a lot of black pepper. So much sassy, green California olive oil on everything. Red wine and Otis Redding and it made so much sense to make this dish this time of year. Finally.

    This is my second summer here. I adore this place. It is magic. The food is enchanted. It is so damn cold.

    I suggest ratatouille. I like your writing and cooking. Thank you.

  2. Oh gosh, sweet potato fries + tahini yogurt sauce? Suddenly, I’m hungry all over again…

  3. It sounds like you’ve been up to lots of good stuff—wow to the marathon training—but I do hope you get your cooking mojo back! Personally, when I feel uninspired, it’s because I haven’t given myself enough stress-free mental space to miss my favorite activities. So who knows—maybe the answer isn’t pushing yourself to cook, but just to give yourself a mini-break.

  4. cookies! chocolate-chip cookies, maybe??

    look at it this way: if you didn’t have some, we’ll say, *lackluster* days (or weeks) in the kitchen, you wouldn’t really appreciate all the inspired times, right?

    if only baltimore could have shared some of it’s insanely hot days with sf. trust me, we had plenty to spare!

    buck up lil camper! xo!

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