But you should have nothing to do anywhere near a kitchen, because you're just not in the mood, and poison is as likely to drip from your spoon as manna. You're already in the midst of two enormous life-crises and one slightly smaller although still rather daunting one, and then you get an ominous phone message, leading you to believe that crisis number four is well on the way. And still, it's Memorial Day weekend and they're expecting you at the barbecue. With dessert.
I think about that passage from Bill Buford's book Heat, where he describes the critiquing that goes on the kitchen of Babbo. "Was it cooked with love?" Mario asks the other chefs about a dish that he deems somewhat doubtful. And this is one of the central criteria for whether or not the dish can pass through to the dining room. This passage alone makes me want to RUN book a table at Babbo (where we still have not yet managed a meal), but it certainly does not make me want to run to the kitchen when I just ain't feelin' the love.
So, for those moments, you must simply give in and give thanks for people like Dorie Greenspan, whose unbelievably chocolatey cookies and fabulous sweet tart crust will not fail you. I give you these two things, one much-blogged about, one slightly less so, either of which will make life delicious no matter what state you're in. Trust me, I made them yesterday and barely paid any attention to what I was doing, since I was very busy having angry, bitter conversations in my head while mixing dough. Not usually a formula for culinary success, but these things turned out just swell.
Above are the often-blogged World Peace Cookies, invented by the brilliant Pierre Hermé and popularized by the no-less-brilliant Dorie Greenspan. These cookies are so transcendently wonderful and yet so incredibly simple that you could probably make them with one hand while annihilating everyone who's conspiring to screw up your life with the other. And they lend themselves to multiplication, in a good way. I tripled the batch and stuck several nice slice 'n' bake logs in the freezer, just in case things don't get any better around here and I still need to bring dessert somewhere later in the summer. Or in case I just need chocolate, which I'm sure I will if my appetite ever recovers. My appetite, that is, for anything other than fantasizing about the ritual executions of a whole cast of characters who shall go nameless, at least for the moment.
Ahem. Yes. As much fun as those little tangents about serial slaughter are, I know you just want me to go back in the kitchen. Dorie's recipe for sweet tart crust truly delivers (you need to scroll down to the end of the article). This was true even yesterday, when I got very angry at it because it didn't seem to want to form a dough. It just wanted to stay in a mass of crumbs. So I pressed it furiously into a couple of tart pans, fridged it and baked it this morning, when it became a perfect sweet sandy crumbly shortbready shell, ready to be filled with pastry cream and strawberries (see first picture above. And yes, those are actually local strawberries, from Jersey and the Union Square Greenmarket, to be exact). Examine the photo of the naked yet fully baked crust. Perfectly browned, no nasty shrinking, no creepy cracking, no unseemly puffing. And since I've made and eaten it before, and I know it's just like a yummy butter cookie, I didn't even need to break off a tiny edge to test its texture. But I did anyway, of course, and it's as perfect as always, despite the fact that it was laced with my ire in the making.
I won't bore you with the actual recipes, since they are easily found at the links above. But I'll link to them again, here and here. If you can, make them with joy and happiness in your heart, knowing that your loved ones will be very grateful at dessert time. But also know that if you can't quite accomplish the joy and happiness part, you'll probably still do fine, and no-one will be the wiser.
So we're off to the barbecue, my sweet ever-patient G and I. And all this will pass, and it will be better, I know. And I'll cook more things just for the joy of cooking them and enjoying real food and spring produce. I've actually taken some ramps and asparagus and spring greens and rhubarb out for a few turns. This has made a very welcome respite from the endless bags and containers and cartons of less-than-stellar take-out, which are the hallmark of weary evenings after extreme days. More about all of that, later.