Today I’m having a little luncheon for my friend Ellen’s birthday. When I cook for friends, even if, as in this case, we’ll only be four, it inevitably turns into a two-day (at least) extravangaza. There’s the working out of the menu, the shopping, the cleaning of the house, the gathering of the flowers, and finally, the cooking.
Here’s my menu (one of the guests is vegetarian):
Endive Salad with Meyer Lemon, Fava Beans and Oil-Cured Olives
Beets and Tangerines with Mint and Orange-Flower Water
Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Cavalo Nero, Currants and Pine Nuts (this includes a sub-recipe of Currant and Pine Nut Relish)
Olive Oil Cake with Crème Fraiche and Candied Tangerines
These are all courtesy of the first cookbook I’ve bought in ages: Sunday Suppers at Lucques (Lucques being a fab
restaurant run by chef Suzanne Goin). L.A.
To simply go to one grocery store and be done with it would of course have been too easy, and the shopping in this case involved Saturday trips to Trader Joe’s, Jons, the 99-Cent Only store, the Silver Lake Farmer’s Market and a walk up North Micheltorena where I nabbed a couple of sprigs of wild rosemary from beside a derelict strip of sidewalk. I held my breath for the fresh fava beans, which can be hard to find, but Jons came through.
This left the vanilla bean and the Meyer lemons, the latter which are all over the place when you don’t need them and nowhere to be found when you do. Meyer lemons are to my mind one of
’s finest treasures: thin-skinned, ultra juicy, less sharp than the thick-skinned ones you get in the supermarket, and a luscious deep orange-gold with smooth velvety skin. We had a tree in the back of my old apartment complex and I didn’t buy lemons of any kind for years. They probably don’t travel well which is why you seldom see them in the supermarkets, even out here, nor at the Silver Lake Farmer’s Market (where I did, however, purchase two fine bunches of cavalo nero aka Tuskan kale). California
I was sure they’d have Meyers at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, though, which is twenty times the size of the Silver Lake’s and convenes on Sunday. Another thing I love is combining forays. So I decided to attend the 7:30 Mass at Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood Sunday morning, and to walk over to the farmer's market afterwards, and not only did they have Meyer lemons, they had about five varieties of kale (among a multitude of other things) I'd never even seen before. Vanilla beans were $12.79 for two at Vons so I decided to get Ellen a twenty-buck Starbucks card and use extract for the candied tangerines instead.
All this has been ever so slightly complicated by the fact that over two months ago my roommate decided to start feeding a mother cat and her five kittens who were lurking around the back yard. I foresaw nothing but trouble (though heroically held my tongue) and so it has been, in increasingly and escalating measure. I didn’t mind feeding them for the several weeks she was gone (that's in addition to the two of her own who live indoors), nor comforting her when she got slashed on the barbed wire trying to rescue the one who got impaled out by the gazebo, nor the last couple of days having to bolt and unbolt the kitchen door, and tiptoe around and otherwise not talk while I was in there (she had finally managed to captured a couple of them and taken them inside where they were freaking in the kitchen), nor listen to the sad tales of the two different people who had agreed to adopt and were reporting back that the cats were feral and were sitting in the corner hissing.
Saturday morning, though, when I came back from my shopping to find my pore housemate barricaded in the kitchen, it did start to seem a bit much. “You can’t come in here!” she barked through the crack in the door as I approached laden down with bags. “I'm sorry, but there’s blood all over the place”…I like kittens as much as the next person, and the thought of my own late lamented Blanche still brings a tear to my eye, but I am extremely resistant to showing interest in saving something just because someone else is interested.
So the whole has been an exercise in patience, mind-your-own-businessism and also refusal to cooperate or get caught up in other people’s projects/drama, though I did find the deep concern for the kittens and the complete unconcern for me ever-so-slightly troubling as after all I do pay rent and it is always nice to have access to your food included therein. Nonetheless, I asked if there was anything I could do and repeated (as I had several times before) that I needed to use the kitchen to cook Monday and as almost always happens, so far (Sunday night) all is well. The kittens are upstairs, my housemate seems more at ease than she has in a long time, and I have survived a week that was difficult for a variety of reasons, this being just one of them.
This morning I sat quietly for an hour in the dark, as I do almost every morning, looking forward to the preparations, to my guests, to the laughs and fun I know we'll have, and when I rose I thought, Thank you, Lord, this is just what I needed, to think of someone else, to cook lunch for my friends.
Saturday the Gospel reading was the miracle of the loaves and fishes [Mark 8:1-10]. "Still, he asked them, 'How many loaves to you have?'"...