I feel like I’ve been stood up by summer and I’m not sure what I did to offend him. He’s my favorite season, I greet him with open arms every year and yet these last few months have been...meh. This week’s weather is such a rude awakening for those of us who refuse to let Labor Day signal THE END OF SUMMER. I was planning on squeezing every drop of warmth out of September but so far it’s been cold, rainy and grey. Fittingly, I just lost my sunglasses.
What happened? Memorial Day started off with a bang—beautiful weekend, good friends and food. But then things never really got off the ground. Maybe I didn’t honor the season properly and so Mother Nature is punishing me. I didn’t run outside enough. I only had a handful of al fresco meals, I didn’t walk the High Line at sunset or go to a concert in the park. And the worst offense? I never made it to the beach. What a slap in summer’s face! For that reason alone I feel responsible for Irene.
I’ve always billed myself as someone who hates change but I am rethinking that statement and changing it to “I hate transition.” That’s the really painful part for me, the feelings of letting go of something you aren’t ready to let go of, the anticipation of the unknown and the journey to that unknown. Yuck. But once I get to the other side I am fine. Does that make sense?
Like when I went away to college. The weeks leading up to my departure were totally fraught. I had to find the courage to admit to my parents that I’d mishandled my summer job earnings and would need to borrow money for my mauve Marimekko comforter and electric Olympia typewriter. There were dramatic farewell dinners with friends I would see again in a month. There was the packing up of my grandmother’s apartment for her permanent move to Florida. I was such an anxious wreck the night before my own departure my mother gave me two Valium. The second because I threw up the first.
But the point is that once I got to school I was completely at ease in two days. My response to transition is historically always the same, yet I forget it every time I am confronted with change. There was one summer that ended with me in the back seat of the station wagon for the drive back to the city, the cage of gerbils I’d been assigned to watch before the start of 2nd grade balanced on my lap and my feet resting on the portable TV wedged behind the driver’s seat. When my father came to my side of the car to shut the door he saw the most forlorn look on my face. To this day he brings it up whenever we talk about Labor Day. So my end of summer blues is nothing new and you’d think that I’d be able to comfort myself by saying, “Here you go again. Stay the course. You’ll be fine when you get to the other side.” But I don’t. Or I can’t.
And still I am not willing to give up on summer completely. I’m not starting school so I don’t have to draw such a thick line on the calendar after Labor Day. It won’t be grey and gloomy forever, there will be sunny morning runs left to take, meals to enjoy outside, sunsets to marvel over. Right? Wrong. It won’t be the same. The light is different in September from what it is in June, the leaves are more of a green-brown than a green-green and the evenings take on an eerie chill.
In June I was bemoaning not having a strawberry-rhubarb pie for my birthday dinner but eased my pain with the knowledge that at some point I would go to Briermere farms to pick one up. Actually, my sister and I ended up grabbing three pies and I saved the strawberry-rhubarb one for last. When I finally went to cut myself a slice last weekend it was too late. The top was covered entirely with a snowfall of white mold spores. How appropriate. And it was entirely my fault. I didn’t freeze the pie but just left it in the fridge, saving it for that moment when I was really craving it. And now it is too late. I could try to recreate it using frozen fruit but it wouldn’t be the same and I need to learn this lesson once and for all. You can’t put things off! I should have been seizing summer moments all along.
So I am giving up. Or rather, admitting to myself that I missed some opportunities these last few weeks. I am sure I am not alone in my feelings and felt somewhat validated last week when the Times food section did a piece on final bites of summer. I love a good cobbler and Sam Sifton’s blackberry version looked delicious and rustic baked in a cast iron pan—I could pretend I’d been to a cabin in the Adirondacks! I decided a trip to the farm stand was in order for the last of the gorgeous peaches and berries and it was worth it. Topped with a biscuit crust the cobbler is bright and very juicy, better to eat in a bowl with vanilla ice cream than on the plate I went with. If you are not a lemon fan, just use two teaspoons. It is the perfect comfort food to help ease the transition from summer to fall. I know I’ll be fine once I get there.
What Happened to Summer Fruit Cobbler
from the New York Times, August 31, 2011
5 cups of blackberries (OR I used a combo of blackberries, blueberries and sliced peaches)
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Place the fruit in a large bowl, and add 1/2 cup sugar and the lemon juice and zest. Gently mix until the sugar dissolves. Transfer to the skillet.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. Add the butter and, using a fork, work it together with the dry ingredients until the mixture is coarse.
In a separate bowl, stir the egg and milk until combined. Pour over the flour and butter mixture and stir to combine into a smooth dough.
Using your fingers, place clumps the size of golf balls of dough on top of the fruit mixture, pressing down slightly to create a rough-textured, cobbled crust.
Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Yield: 8 servings.