Some Simple, Great Things (Berlin, May 15-30 2012)

For uninteresting reasons I’ve been under a lot of stress for the past two weeks – lots to do, lots to do. Now it’s the last day of May and I’m wondering what happened to spring. Other than foraging for ramps, I haven’t had much of a chance to enjoy the season’s best produce – although there has been a good deal of asparagus. It’s a big thing here in Berlin – both the green and the white varieties.

Sometimes when I get preoccupied, I find myself going from point A to B without engaging, too busy stewing and dwelling on thoughts. This had been happening last week, so I made myself go grocery shopping first thing Saturday morning before I sat down at the computer. I picked up asparagus and some good potatoes at the market. Simple, great things to have around. It was going to be a long, sad weekend and there wouldn’t be much room for planning dinners (except: shout out to Alexis for drinking wine with me at the faux-American “dive bar” in Prenzlauer Berg on Sunday – that was fun).

One day, when I get sick of writing paragraphs about the role of architectural ornament in the history of art, I’m going to open a bar – not a restaurant – and serve some amazing cocktails based mostly on obscure Italian aperitifs. And I’m going to have a daily one-pot dish – gumbo, jambalaya, tamales, whatever. It’s going to be great.

Since it was memorial day weekend in the U.S., thought of one memorial day weekend three years ago in Chicago. This beginning-of-summer holiday always fell right before finals week for us on the quarter system, so I always spent it writing papers. But that year it was my very last quarter of coursework, ever, and I was more carefree. So I did a lot of wine-drinking with my roommates on Cleaver Street and some friends I had made in my new department that year. That summer ushered in one of the best years of graduate school – the time between coursework and exams when the idea of a dissertation wasn’t real, but you felt like you were moving on to a whole new phase.

Simple, great things (roasted):

Buy the best looking asparagus and potatoes you can find at the market. Buy small potatoes and thin stalks of asparagus. Wash and trim the asparagus, wash and half the potatoes. Preheat your oven to hot- I put mine here at 200 C. Then douse all of the vegetables in olive oil and shake them around in a pan with lots of salt and pepper. You should see evidence of both easily from afar. Roast until the potatoes are golden brown and the asparagus is wilted and caramelized. Serve with two fried eggs, and cold rosé wine.

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