This week I have been craving the food of another season.
Spaghetti with yolk and cheese. Spicy, buttery Indian. Braised short rib stew. Oxtail. Rice and beans. Warm food. Stewy food. Gut-satisfying brown food. Food that fills in the empty spaces and puts us to sleep.
It is hot again for everybody. Dewy skin, wet sheets, happy basil, watermelon. Huge insects attach themselves to my window screen and chirp the deafening song of the season. But oh. Come August, summer starts to lose its wonder for me. This is how it ends: at the close of the season, we find ourselves pining for the next one. That is, unless our luck has run out. Then we pine for one that’s already passed.
Yesterday I took the camera around my apartment to try to capture what’s left. The place is slowly shedding its furnishings. Only space gets left behind. With everyone leaving or already gone, the dusty planes of hard wood, the rooms drowned in colorless light, seem to me like a studio where ghosts might practice dancing.
But there is something beautiful about an empty room. A few days ago I found myself a place in the sky in Rogers Park. I’d been prepared to move there. I admired the aggressively white walls, the delicate moldings, the theoretical fireplace and the way the leaves of a tall tree bristled against big grimy windows. Green, white, hardwood brown. The sun, the domed ceiling. That was all. The great empty apartment had possibilities, and I loved it for that.
Which is how I must love my life now, if I am to love it. Because now it looks like I may never have that vintage apartment on Paulina, and I mourn it more than a little. But as a friend told me last night, you can be king again. You can go home again. You can have your place in Rogers Park, and the fruit market, and the taquerias, and the big seeded watermelons, and come winter, you can have the snow. This is the great lie they tell the young, which I lift my glass to: that after all, you can have it all.
But not now. Now, California. Home. It’s the right thing but I regret what I have to leave behind. I mean the perfection I found here. The love, the difficulty, the heartbreak, the beauty and clarity and awe of youth.
I’ve been spending my afternoons quietly. I make spaghetti and eat peaches and sprinkle salt on watermelon. I dust the moldings and read Lolita. I water the basil. I grew it from a cutting and now it is tall and thriving and its furry stalks bend to the sun. The plant has a hunger for life that moves me. There is some happy clumsy symbolism in that, reader.
I am seduced by the simplicity of this dish, which sings the virtues of salt and fat and a good egg.
Ingredients (for one):
– 1/8 lb spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
– 1 egg yolk
– 3 loose Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
– Lots of fresh ground pepper
Cook spaghetti in heavily salted water until al dente. Meanwhile, put egg yolk, cheese and fresh ground black pepper into a medium bowl. Add cooked pasta to bowl, along with several tablespoons of cooking liquid. Toss to combine. Pile on a plate and top with more grated cheese and pepper.