Here I sit on my sunny terrace, feasting my eyes on this gorgeous crop of tomatoes, a gift from old friends with a fabulous garden, and destined for tomato mozzarella salad tomorrow. The lawn is shimmering in the mid-August heat, green from just enough rain, which falls conveniently at night, leaving us with day after day of warm calm.
Calm! That makes me laugh, because the only thing calm about our summer IS the weather. It’s the usual revolving door here, welcoming guests who find Red Gate Farm’s particular brand of peace an antidote to the rigors of daily life.
John’s sister Cathy and niece Ellen were our latest visitors this week, come to bask in the sun, chat, share our table, visit our library, carry a book out to the terrace to read. But as Ellen said, “I bring my book out here, but then I just want to BE here, and look around, and feel the passage of time.” Cathy was happy to do just that.
They were happy to take a break from all the bouncing to set the table for a celebratory dinner with Rollie and Judy, and to rescue a Jessamy who has once again discovered how to slip out the back screen door.
We were so busy passing trays of home-fried chicken tenders, sweet corn and cheesy eggplant stew, and laughing over the crazy Christmas tree stand stories that Rollie and Judy always tell, that I forgot to take any pictures of our party! Avery caught one of the eggplant, though, garlicky and savoury with fresh thyme and mozzarella.
We took a trip up the hill to visit Young Rollie’s beehives, where Ellen was promptly stung, but she was enchanted with them anyway.
When Cathy went into the city for a business trip, the rest of us suited up for an afternoon at Quassy, the local amusement and water park, with whom I have a love-hate relationship. I love the old-fashioned atmosphere, the hot dogs, the view over the lake, glistening under a blinking blue and gray sky, the ancient carousel.
Through it all, we watched the closing ceremonies of the Olympics — the highlight being Eric Idle and “Always Look on The Bright Side of Life”! And we went for ice cream in Quincy the Land Rover, who has had an overhaul and now (sort of) always starts when we want him to. We argued politics with the crazy ladies standing outside the library on Primary Day, piled every vegetable in the world on homemade pizzas, read aloud from our various favorite books, and breathed in the heavy summer air.
We went to the pool and swam underwater races with Ellen, champion competitor for her high school team. John and I went to the hardware store to get the grill’s propane tank filled up. In a totally typical Connecticut negotiation, John asked the clerk if he thought it was a good idea to have an “extra propane tank.”
“Ayuh, always good to have an extra tank. Never know when you’re gonna run out.”
“Well, great. We’ll take one.”
“That’ll be $40.”
“Oh, no, propane will be another $15. You wanted propane, too, did you?”
No, what we REALLY wanted was an EMPTY extra propane tank. Because it’s always good to have an EXTRA empty propane tank.
Finally Cathy and Ellen had to go home, and because it is against our religion to sit still for more than seventeen minutes at a time, we hopped in the car and headed up to New York State to visit our old friends Chris and Marla, and their beautiful kids Aidan and Helena, at their big white farmhouse.
How Avery laughed over old photo albums of us with 90s hair and clothes, each of us about 20 pounds lighter and with no gray hair! “You guys were so COOL! Big parties with people in black tie and bathtubs full of bottles of champagne…” her voice trails off, clearly reluctant to confront the dull old people we are now!
We exchanged news about what we’re all up to, eating all the pickled vegetables Marla has been putting up — kohlrabi! brilliant — while the kids bounced around, Helena looking exactly like a tiny Marla.
Olimpia is one of the most brilliant cooks I know — helped by being Italian through and through, and she gave us falling-apart beef ribs in a rich gravy, with a side dish of a really intriguing pasta, which we cooked together. The noodles are cooked in wine and stock, like risotto rice.
Olimpia’s Green Vegetable Campanelle
(serves about 6–8)
3 tbsps olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 large bunch asparagus, cut in 2-inch pieces
3/4 cup baby peas
pinch chopped mint (optional)
1 cup dry white wine
vegetable or chicken stock (about 4 cups, enough to fully cook the noodles)
1 pound campanelle noodles (bell-shaped!)
1 cup grated Parmesan
Heat the oil until shimmering. Wash the white and light green parts of the leeks and cut them in 1/2 inch slices. Add to the oil and cook until very soft and browned. Add garlic and asparagus and peas, plus mint if using, and stir well. Remove to a bowl.
In the remaining oil, stir the dry pasta until coated. Add the wine all at once, and cook until wine is absorbed by noodles. Add the stock one cup at a time, stirring in between until the noodles are completely cooked. Add the cheese and stir well, then add the vegetables and stir well.. Serve hot.
We took Olimpia’s fresh panna cotta out to the terrace surrounded by dense woods and chatted, catching up on all our news since we last saw them at my mother’s birthday party, a year ago. We remembered all the other times we had cooked and eaten together, in our New York apartment, in our London houses. Since Tony has 3/4 of a mile of stone walls, on each side of his driveway, we sought his opinion about our poor old wall by the meadow, desperately needing repair. I think we’ll end up getting the stonemason out here in the fall to do it while we’re away. “Don’t look at me!” Tony said, even though he has all the coolest tractors, backhoes, chainsaws that a man could want.
We had a lovely afternoon.
Today, we are recovering, spending a quiet day just the three of us, watching the chipmunks cavort in their never-ending quest for peanuts. They have gotten completely insatiable, and if the glass is not kept full, they take on a sinister, predatory appearance, and I realize we are totally, WAY outnumbered. One actually jumped up on my lap, at which point I realized that until now, I had always thought it would be kind of cute to have a chipmunk on my lap.
Two weeks from today, Avery will be back at school. I will be slaving away at Lost Property, John will be hard at work on the school Christmas Fair. For now we’ll take a deep breath and enjoy these last days of August peace.Print This Post