I decided not to go out thrifting this morning, because we were supposed to have been in the grip of a terrible Nor’easter. (Now it looks as if the Cape and Islands are going to be quite hard hit, which is nothing to be relieved about, but we aren’t seeing much action in Cambridge, though we’re hardly inland.) Anyway, I was home when the postman came, and look what he brought, all the way from New Zealand!
A beautiful pair of baby booties from Melissa of Tiny Happy, made with embroidery thrifted right here in Cambridge, MA. They are darling, aren’t they? And I think they will fit the baby girl (due in December), in the summertime, as befits their motif.
As you may know, it is hard to live the simple, uncluttered life if you are deeply attached to the actitivity of thrifting, or treasure-hunting, as some regard it. Nevertheless, I have the occasional spasm of distaste when looking at my foofaraw-laden surroundings, and spring into a frenzy of decluttering. When I have such an impulse, I just have to let is seize me. A few hours later, I wish to report: 65% of cookbooks, gone!
That feels really good, because although there are a few cookbooks I’m really attached to (Tartine, The Feast of Santa Fe, The Savory Way) I don’t really cook from them all that much. One of the El Mariachi trilogy videos has a little featurette about Robert Rodriguez in his kitchen, whose advice about cooking is this: Learn how to make half a dozen really good things by heart, and always have their ingredients in the pantry. Then you’ll never be stuck. At his kitchen table, Robert even has a little printed menu, so when guests come, they just can make a choice.
I was really taken with this idea, and though I have never printed up menus, and sometimes my pantry runs low, there are several things I can make in my sleep: garlic soup, lentil soup, very good guacamole, enchiladas, Frito pie, mac-and-cheese, a wonderful recipe from the poet Ronald Johnson called “Thing,” and currant scones. All homey, simple, quick-to-assemble fare.
Johnson’s cookbook, The American Table, has been a favorite for years. My father-in-law bought it on impulse for me one day at Buck-A-Book (this was way back in the day; Buck-A-Book still existed, and even beyond that, the books actually cost a buck). It’s a collection of outmoded, very regional American recipes, probably chosen with personal preference uppermost in mind. Among the most personal recipes is this one, which Johnson (no longer with us) wrote was the meal he was “most likely to sit down to when alone.”
ThingI hope everyone is warm and cosy today. The wind is really whistling here now, and I’m back to the Moth. I should have something impressive to show this month!
adapted from Ronald Johnson, The American Table
Salt and pepper
Cottage cheese (I like Friendship California-style 4% - it’s creamy and not at all liquidy)
Scallions, sliced (whites if you like the whites, greens if you like the greens)
Using two medium potatoes per person, dice into .5" cubes and fry in hot oil over high heat until crispy. Drain on paper, then divide into bowls. Salt and pepper, then top with a generous dollop of cottage cheese and sprinkle with the sliced scallions. Eat immediately, while the potatoes are still hot and the cheese is still cold. This is an inspired dish, and must be eaten to be believed.