Cooking, Food and Drink, Friendship

Summer’s Lease is Almost Up!

Happy First Monday in September (AKA Labor Day) everyone!

I hope, in this weird time, as we are about to enter our seventh month of “Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread,” that some of you will be enjoying times with family and friends, and perhaps even a picnic. (Don’t be put off by those who, after they’ve guilted you for super-spreading, will, as a fallback, try to make you feel like a worm for using a racist term to describe your activity. You’re smart enough not to fall for the first, and the second simply isn’t true.)

I’m not going to be indulging in a big celebration myself, although I will be driving to Pittsburgh this afternoon for a little get-together on the back porch with some dear friends. Our hostess is a fabulous cook, but today we’re just having scones and coffee, and whatever each of us brings with us to add to the festivities.

My own contribution is a quintessentially English dish that, you’ll think, can’t possibly work (and it’s very likely you’ll find the idea appalling), but which is a refreshing and delightful dessert on a hot day, and perfect for an outdoor gathering: Summer Pudding.

Classic summer pudding

*Photo is from the BBC recipe site, because mine is setting in the fridge as I write this. I use strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, because red-currants are hard to find here. I suppose I should plant some.

Think a mixed berry pie (which is basically what the filling is), with a ‘crust’ composed of slightly-stale bread that’s been dipped in the juice given up by some of the berries when they were gently simmered for a few minutes to extract it. Sweet, but not too.

My sister asked me the other day (when we were discussing it), how such a simple thing can taste so good. “Well,” I said, “it’s really just a pie in which the crust and the flour are presented in a different format.”

Serve with sweetened whipped cream, and some of the excess juice/syrup puddled around it. Delicious.

NB: The title of the post is inspired by Sonnet 18, one of my favorites. First because it deals with every Englishman’s best-loved topic of conversation, and the one about which we can drone on ad nauseam–the weather–but then because of what it says about the object of the poet’s affection, the beloved, whose “eternal summer shall not fade” and who will live even after loss and death, just as long as the poem lives.

So can we keep those we loved and lost alive in our own lives and in our minds and those of others, by telling their stories and honoring their memory.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.–William Shakespeare

Onward, to Fall!

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