Some context. I’m writing this from a 12th story room in Tokyo, about to hop a train to the Kiso Valley, to Tsumago. I’ve spent the past two days wandering the technicolor streets in a daze. I don’t think I’ve ever been this alone. The language barrier coupled with traveling alone has forced solitude on me in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. Home is far from me, and even if I were to return tomorrow, it will never be the same because things change. I don’t know what day of the week it is; I woke up not knowing what country I was in. So. This recipe. Let’s talk about it for a second. Banana bread. I know. It’s like really? No but really. This recipe is by Claire Ptak, the owner of Violet bakery in London, from her book The Violet Bakery Cookbook, and it’s remarkable. I highly recommend it for a baker’s library. It’s full of those solid recipes. I can make anything in it and know it will come out fantastic. Like this banana bread. It completely changed the way I look at that simple staple of any home cook’s baking repertoire—namely now it’s something I would go out of my way to make as opposed to a way to use dangerously dark bananas.
This has been a long time coming, the first batch of photographs of the Slow Living Workshop at the historic farmhouse, Glenmore House, that I taught with Luisa Brimble and Rebekka Seale this past September. An especially huge thank you to Claire Dickson-Smith, Hetty of Arthur Street Kitchen, and The Floury Baker for providing us with amazing meals—you worked so hard & everything was just beyond all expectations. Food is the heart of these gatherings, and you ladies made it unforgettable. And a big thanks to Stacey Clark for her helping hands.
Rebekka & I arrived at a beautiful flat near the sea on our first day. And that’s where we finally met Luisa. When you know someone’s work, it’s easy to forget that you don’t actually know the person. That you can only know a person by meeting them. Luisa in person is earth and effervescence and unmitigated and a confirmation that being a human being is pretty alright. She’s a wonderful person, and a dear friend, and never in my wildest dreams could I imagine how much I’d love her in real life. Lucked out. And that’s pretty much how we felt the entire time we were in Australia.
For Valentines day, stark white rose meringues. They sound hollow, crisp on the outside, soft in the middle, toothsome. And a passage from my favorite romance, Histoire d’O. It was published in 1954, and this Fifty Shades of Grey nonsense has nothing on it. Here is the novel’s articulation of one of the many faces of that signifier, that word “love”: the face of happy torture. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Morning, noon, and night. Recipes. For love potion, for disaster. Or for, well, cupcakes fit for the food intolerant that are fit for everyone as well. I’ve done my fair share of gluten free & dairy free baking due to an affection for a few of those afflicted by allergies, celiac, or a tender conscience. It’s not common place, but I do it. Gladly, really. In the end it’s all just science, this chemical reacting with that and heat, heat, heat. And then you lick your fingers, leave crumbs. It’s all cake in the end. You’ll like these. They aren’t “good for gluten free vegan”. They’re just good.
I collect odd moments. I’ve mentioned it before. I call them “moments that stare back”. They’re the definition of forever. If I’m the universe staring back at itself, then those moments are the ad infinitum. The universe become, I regard myself and the universe (myself, ourselves, you see) looks right back, actively. The reflection of the reflection is alive. These moments are more I than I am. I could probably find a Laconian rabbit hole to fall down at this point. Which is to say I may be able to turn myself into an object to stare at, but at some point object-I starts staring back and I realize I am the reflection, not it.
My esoterica aside (forgive it), suffice to say these moments, they are wordless. They’ve involved laying naked across a bed and making prolonged eye contact with a cat; the reflection of bath water rippling on the ceiling in a hotel room while Lullaby & Doina played; and blood sauce, freshly poured, spreading on a plate of duck hearts. In those moments all that mundane consciousness assumes is inanimate reveals itself to be quite animate and the dead walls (not dead at all) bristle, and I realize I’m surrounded by being and that time doesn’t exist and that I can never leave that moment and that I was never really there and that the story is never over. The horizon never comes. We are forever becoming.