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.
The moments become crystalline, permanent. I treasure them like my literal crystals. I line them up a neat row and stare at them. Thin, dying light refracts through them, these moments I can remember. They allow me to hop through time & shatter all that is linear about my being. I can’t decide when one will happen. They just do. And the thing is I can re-inhabit them at will, can feel them and experience them with all their initial immediacy. But only those moments. Sometimes I think they are the only moments in which I have been truly awake. To have one usually requires that I be abroad, that I be far from the familiar. That’s usually enough to rouse me from the stupor that is routine, that is roughness of the eye.
I’m not far away now. Now I’m home in Tennessee, only just. Home & baking those simple things you throw together in a bowl because your sister-in-law and baby niece are coming around and having something freshly baked just seems so civilized. Something like this apple & rosemary buttermilk quickbread, which is a celebration of a return to home. Because it’s simple & mundane. Because it’s comforting & good. It’s a useful recipe, an easy one.
Though home now, I spent the past few weeks between Venice, Madrid, and London. At no point was I homesick. It’s an affliction that’s been foreign to me my whole life. I miss people, I’m capable of that, but I do not get homesick nor does my heart get heavy. Rather the opposite, as I’ve said—I’m incapable of being melancholy (for long) on foreign streets. And if I am melancholy it’s some sort of delicious novelistic sort that I don’t mind even though I’m, by all accounts, an adult and should know better.
In a month and a half I leave for three months straight, which is a minute. I’m travelling to Japan, Australia, Portugal, Italy, and France to teach and host retreats—and I couldn’t be more excited. (You can find more information about those happenings here.) But these longs stints from home have been par for the course my entire life. I remember my first flight alone as a little girl, going to Alaska to visit my aunt, and how I had to wait on the plane for the stewardess that gave me Biscoff cookies before I could disembark. I loved it even then.
I remember what it was like to not be jaded. To be in awe of travel. It’s all a little more rote now, but while I don’t have the glittering, mercurial eyes of a child, I’d like to think I still possess a sense of awe when I’m away, be it a city I’ve been to over and over again or a place unfolding altogether new. I’m still not jaded. The routine colliding with the novel is my favorite, and I create daily rituals in each place. This is how I nest abroad. To remember that each day is always and forever both extraordinary and normal, this is what allows us to find the exotic in our home bases and to find comfort in the unknown.
For me, ultimately, home is not a locale but is rather something I carry with me. Be it three months, a year, a day, wherever I am, there I am home. I’ve wandered foreign streets my entire life. And in those streets I’ve always found my peace. Nesting abroad is an art, as is being local wherever you go. I’m not ashamed to say that I usually skip the museums and churches. I don’t see sites.
I make a home with food. Be it cioccolata calda and apricot jam filled brioche in a far-flung corner of Venice or jamon Iberico & boquerones in vinegar with fat green olives in the maze of scaffolding that is Madrid or bone marrow & eccles cake with friends in London. It’s the food that grounds me. And the people, the companions I happen upon along the way. They become fast family. I busy myself with finding that sustenance—bread to break & people to break it with—wherever I am. Because ultimately that’s what this space & my life is about—nourishing your body and spirit where you are when you’re there. Sometimes that’s apple bread made with local, creamy buttermilk shared at the dining table with blood relatives. But sometimes that’s sitting on stone steps before the bends of unknown waters and breaking a baguette with someone new. A world without both, for me, just wouldn’t do.
A little note about the gorgeous, handmade recipe cards seen in the photos below. The paper is made by hand by Katie Decker Hyatt of Signoramare, a custom paper, lettering, & design company. She made these cards especially for our Venice workshop attendees, and I’m in love with their texture.
apple & rosemary buttermilk quickbread
If you want something warm, sweet, and made from scratch to go with an impromptu guest for tea or just an impromptu craving, this is the recipe. The classic combination of apple & rosemary marries in a buttermilk and olive oil batter lightly flavored with a hint of warm spices. And you throw it all together in one bowl. Even better? Don't want a loaf? You can bake it in muffin tins for muffins or, my personal favorite, dollop it in a hot pan coated with oil and make pancakes. This batter will work for all three. I highly suggest trying it as pancakes. Highly.
- 125 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 125 g (1/2 cup) buttermilk (highest quality you can find)
- 1 large egg
- 63 g (1/4 cup) olive oil
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 115 g 1/4" diced apple (1 small honey crisp, peeled & cored)
- Heat oven to 350°F.
- In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the first seven ingredients to thoroughly and evenly combine.
- In a pourable two cup measure combine the buttermilk, egg, olive oil, and vanilla. Lightly whisk with a fork to combine. It needn't be homogenous.
- Add this to the dry ingredients. Stir gently to just combine so that there is no dry left. Don't worry about lumps, and be careful to not overmix. Gently fold in the apples.
- Lightly grease your loaf pan or muffin tins, pour the batter in, and bake it on the center rack for about 35-45 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean and the top is golden brown.
- Best served warm with a pat of good, lightly salted butter.
This recipe was made for a small loaf pan, for a regular sized loaf pan simply double the recipe.