Someone needs to explain something to me about baking.
Because if this tart is any indication, I just don’t get it. Baking, I mean. I don’t get baking. The tart looks beautiful, doesn’t it? Don’t be deceived. It tasted… well, it tasted good but I definitely didn’t need to run back to the kitchen for another slice. This tart failed to make me giddy, so I’m pretty sure this tart was a failure.
Here’s what happens: you hunker down over a recipe, obsess over measurements, only half your mind on the food– which is, of course, the whole point of this fussy venture–and in the end, you get something to ooh and ahh at, you get something that looks impressive, but no part of you is growling for more. No part of you wants to swim in a sea of tart.
Six months ago I wrote a totally failed piece about fruit and sex, a kind of meditation on the sensuous qualities of oranges, mangoes, pomegranates, etc.
It was fun to write because it gave me permission to use words that weaken the knees: juice, skin, pulp, flesh, pluck, lick, suck. A terrible essay, I realize now–embarassingly bad, written to please only the writer–but it remains a fairly accurate portrait of how I feel about fruit.
Fruit in general and figs particularly. When I was writing the bad fruit essay I decided that figs are the sexiest fruit to eat. It’s in the grotesqueness of their appearance: the bruised purple skin, the pink flesh, the green stems leaking punishing white sap. Then you taste it: the yielding texture, the almost aggressive sweetness, a subtle savor of dirt and earth, reminding you where it comes from, all of it.
I made a wrong turn somewhere.
Somehow in my life I have managed to know only a couple real sensualists, despite being an enthusiastic one myself. There have been moments in the last four years–many of them, and vivid–of walking into rooms full of people, all of them supposedly having fun, while a single sad mantra runs through my head, almost insane in its insistence: Where are my people? Where are they?
There is something more than joyless about this: you walk into a party, and find no one at home. I mean, there are people. Kind of. There are bodies, and some of them smell, and most of them are too drunk. There’s beer pong. The beer is warm and flat and tasteless and has bits of carpet fiber and crumbs of Cheetos floating in it. The music is loud and misguided. The whole thing is thoughtless–supposedly fun, but designed in no way to induce pleasure. For you, for the sensualist, who loves to drink well and eat well and laugh with good companions, it is worse than walking into an empty house. What you do is, you feel alone.
Too tired to cook. Too humid. Too hot.
I’m sorry. It’s been a week–I have been surviving mostly on Frosted Flakes and take out. Went out for a Subway sandwich last night. I brought it home and ate it in my dark bedroom, right now the only livable space in my apartment. I left Chicago in good weather and came back a few days ago to find my place sweltering hot and smelling like ripe, days-old garbage. The air is thick in this city: heavy, wet. When I went to bed it was still too hot and too humid and I dreamt of the dry summer heat of Los Angeles, and of central air.
But last night, patting bits of oxidized lettuce off the floor with a mustardy napkin, I decided I’d had enough of the mopey shit. And like Hemingway after his oysters, I began to feel happy and to make plans.
I don’t really know what strawberry rhubarb jam is supposed to taste like.
The women in my family aren’t jam making types, and… do they even sell this stuff in stores? Either way, I had never tasted it until I made it, and once I did, I couldn’t tell if it was any good. It seemed yummy to me, but I’m sure I possess zero instincts regarding jam. So I kept shoving spoonfuls of it in the faces of the boys I live with. “Good?” I’d say. “Any good?” And for once, I really didn’t know.
I’ve been thinking about this for a little while. Not about jam, exactly, but about my impulse to make things I know almost nothing about, things my mother never made. Jam, pie, cheesecake, jell-o molds, chili dogs, baked beans, green bean casserole. You know, picnic food. American food. Continue reading