A humid, overcast morning following another night of storms. We’re settling in to the usual few days on-few days off routine of late summer, all the while hoping the “ons” remain as only shows of thunder and lightning. And that they don’t too much hamper any weekend plans.
Somewhere along one of several cross-country moves, between the excessive heat, bumptious conditions, and random acts of God, the antique cast-iron comal I scored for my husband shattered. Its sister tortilla press fared better and is well-loved to this day.
Almost a year ago now (has it really been?) I rhapsodized about those south TX tortillas and introduced plantain tortillas to the blog. Those are no less stellar now, but these, these, are the real deal corn tortillas, hand-pressed with love, and I’m here to encourage you to try making them in your own home!
Albert Schweitzer once mused that “[t]here are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.” A complicated, decidedly controversial man, he was a mostly positive influence in his time, striving toward goodness through philanthropy and grace. And music and cats.
As I sit typing this morning, our “boys” are sprawled on the cushions next to me, the hauntingly beautiful music of Hildegard Von Bingen lulling them into the first of many naps today. Yes, I like medieval chanting, the pipe organ, and the composers of the Baroque and Renaissance. I love silence, too, but this kind of music helps focus and calm, and provides an otherwise peaceful backdrop. Then again, there are times when only Jimmy Eat World, Guster, The Beatles, Katy Perry, Edith Piaf or good ‘ol Satchmo will do. I’m sure my anthology of Pandora stations would make an interesting case study for some psych student.
This is all neither here nor there; I let Dr. Schweitzer run away with me…
Back in the summer between my junior and senior year I visited a handful of countries in Europe with our high school German Club. We spent a whirlwind week and a half in and out of two coach buses exploring cities, touring castles and cathedrals, admiring artistic masterpieces, and literally shouting from the mountaintops. The second half of our visit was an immersion of sorts, each student living with a different family in a village south of Frankfurt in southern Hesse, Germany.
On instruction from our teacher, talk with our host families and at school was to be a learning experience, and therefore strictly in German. Shy and not at all conversationally confident in this second language, my host father and older brother were gracious enough to bend the rules and intersperse a good bit of English into our interactions. My host mother, on the other hand, was either as timid as me, valued her silence, or couldn’t speak much English, as we seldom spoke more than a few sentences at a time. Still, she headlines my fondest memories under their roof.
Every morning I would help her prepare the lunches she sent my “brother” Ralf and me off to school with. Always the same: 1 or 2 small ripe nectarines, and a simple sandwich on toasted wheat bread with thin slices of a pale gold cheese, giant homegrown basil leaves, no condiments. I couldn’t have tore into the identical contents of those brown paper bags any more excitedly. No doubt it had a lot to do with that I’m in Germany thing, but there was something special about this combination, the tastes and aromas heightened from being kept in my warm backpack until break.
To this day the pairing of basil with nectarine, any stone fruit, is totally my jam, and one I riff on frequently during the summer. Living where we do, we have an easier time finding quality peaches (same went for former locales on the Gulf in FL and TX for whatever reason), so it’s the one I turn to most. Besides that, peaches are a little sweeter and more intensely flavored than their fuzz-free cousins, which makes them perfect for creating recipes with less sugar.
The arrival of August brought wetter weather, and though it didn’t seem possible, higher humidity. I’m delighted that Mother Nature has my back on watering, but with the daily downpours or thunderstorms she reminds me this isn’t summer in Wisconsin — this is coastal North Carolina and it’s hurricane season with three full months to go.
It’s during those first, historically drier, months that you can easily become complacent to the fact that living on the ocean can come at a cost. Just this morning I read that the most Atlantic hurricanes on record occurred in September (395) and August (239). Now that I’ve unnecessarily worked myself up… moving on.