Part Five of the Story

We can all recall a moment when some refined and fortified, fluffy white bread became supremely memorable, especially delicious, because of the setting, because of friends.

I remember March, 1985, after seven days hiking the Appalachian Trail, when a friend and I knew we’d be sleeping in some backwater town the next day, after we’d eaten all the fresh food packed seven days earlier, after seven days, one complete week together, sharing the sunrise, the blisters, the indigestion, the stories that came rising up out of us when we couldn’t avoid them any longer, the anger and intense joy, the eventual sharing of sleeping bags to fend off those cold nights…that last box of macaroni and cheese, powdered cheese and powdered milk, fresh river water, will never be forgotten by either of us.

Was it because for hours our minds had not been concerned with hunger, because so many other areas of our lives were mined as we hiked the trail, strong, yet open hearted? Because these were our last hours woven together in such an unplanned fashion, never to be worn again, and we knew it?

Who do we invent to stand at the gate of our own pleasures? Under what circumstances do we allow that gate to be opened? Only when our sentry is overwhelmed and over taken?

Storming The Gates

Barbara and Claud came by the other day delivering fresh home roasted coffee beans. We sat out under the late afternoon sun with an extraordinary cup of coffee, dark roasted beans( the type of bean is a secret), made with a ceramic Melita cone and paper filter. Barbara has mastered the art and science of coffee roasting, hence the local popularity of her beans and conversation about them. As our hunger became apparent we began our foraging. Start with the bread, multigrain, flecked with millet, oatmeal, flax seeds, unsliced to heighten the tension, the immediacy of freshly cut open loaves. A hearty crust is nice but more important is the chewy texture of the insides, the density. In all sincerity there is nothing more satisfying than a whole heartedly baked loaf of bread.

My recipe for flavored, scented olive oil is simple. Always use extra virgin oil, the Spanish or Greek is so deep in color, it becomes the background of the little landscape we make with the rest of the ingredients. Place about one fourth cup of oil in a round or oval flat ceramic dish (another use for that set of crème brulee dishes). The oval shape is best as it gives more room for the bread to sweep up oil, and avoids the other ingredients getting trapped in a corner. Next, sprinkle one fourth teaspoon of sea salt and three grinds of black pepper over the oil. Peel a half inch piece of garlic clove and run it through a press into the oil. Mix it around with a fork, Take one tip of a rosemary branch, about five or six needles, chop coarsely, and drop into the oil.
By this point you might be over come by the fresh, cheeky paso double going on  between the garlic and rosemary. But wait, because the top note approaches.

Lastly, peel off two pieces of orange zest or skin, lemon if you are without an orange, about two inches long, with a vegetable peeler, just the skin, no pith, and float these skin side up on the oil. Now, stop for a moment, marvel at the bright colors. Citrus skins are full of volatile oil which easily releases into another oil base. That’s why you can light a match, squeeze some fresh peels together with your thumb and forefinger next to the fire and a mini fireworks display occurs. While you’ve still got the peeler handy peel off one more strip and rub it behind your ears, at your temples, and feel aromatically blessed. Let the mixture dance about together in the dish for at least fifteen minutes.

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