There was a moment last week when Justice Roberts reminded us that marriage is at the core of our solidarity with the bush people of the Kalahari. Now, way back a long time ago I was an anthropology student. Did you know that the fat surrounding the heart of an antelope (specifically the eland, a close cousin of the oryx) is a traditional bush-groom gift to the parents of the bush-bride? I think that's fascinating. So fascinating, in fact, so utterly absorbing that I confess I lose my way through what was no doubt a very nuanced legal and moral argument. Simpleton that I am, I can't really feature why my sense of solidarity is being called upon to persuade me to exclude some people from this and other joys of a recognized union.
Mountaintops, bees, oceans, good sense...so many things are losing out in our generation. It is deeply calming to be able to say to our children--well, there was this one time when people thought clearly, engaging their hearts and minds together, and something great happened: everyone with hate or fear where their soul should be was left quacking around aimlessly while the majority of humans felt grateful and maybe had some cake.
From here, let's work our way around to that chocolate sauce I mentioned last time.
I have a good friend who describes life in our part of the world as “nine months of winter and three months of guests.” I don’t suppose the principle is exclusive to our region. Summer is a dense time for both the host and the hosted, and you can go far in either role if you can whip together something tasty without much fuss or thought. What's your secret weapon?
I mentioned once before that my late sister had a friend who possessed a magical brownie formula, one that could be adapted to the ingredients of almost any pantry. Some of our favorite summer guests travel with a waffle recipe committed to memory, and they manifest a wildly wonderful breakfast when the kitchen is turned over to them. I keep a recipe for crepe batter similarly stashed in a corner of my dusty head, because even a hastily-stocked rental cabin kitchen can usually allow for a breakfast/brunch/dinner built around those.
Maybe you are more of a signature-cocktail person. This looks like a good resource for you.
Even basic foraging skills can dazzle most people. It is essentially impossible to mis-identify purslane (an excellent feature in a wild food), and the plant is quite common. I posted some wildfood resources last time and this one looks like another treasure trove if wherever the weekend finds you means you've hit the purslane jackpot.
All hail the snack platter! Whether for drop-in guests or sudden hungers or mis-remembered potlucks, a tray of crackers and something--cheese, dip, etc--can save a person's arse. I am biased towards a cracker everyone can probably eat. If these crackers are too much fuss, try these (I skip the salt on top but you may not want to). TRY THEM. TRY THEM RIGHT NOW. One bowl. No rolling pin. Easily adaptable. I managed to get two pans in the oven in the time it took my family to start disagreeing about what movie to watch the other night, so if you are planning to cook with kids this summer (in which case the New York Times is offering a good place to start, and here is another), these are a winning move. My son loves to try out flavor combinations (many of them extremely unsuccessful) and these are such a receptive base (sesame! cheese! herbs! spices! nothing has failed yet) that success is almost assured.
Which brings us right to chocolate sauce, as most things do. I made the Boston Cream Pie from Alice Medrich's awesomely good latest book, Flavor Flours, for my husband's birthday feast. Made by the specs in the book, you end up with more of that black fantastic-ness full of cream and butter you see on top than will fit on the cake. So you have to find other uses for it. This did not prove to be very taxing.
I made it again, but swapped out some ingredients for others. At this point, the Universe obliged me by providing two vegan visitors, and we were able to test out the theory that a hip flask full of chocolate sauce can win friends and influence people. It can.
chocolate sauce for everybody (who likes chocolate sauce)
adapted from Alice Medrich's Flavor Flours
- 1 c sugar
- 1 c cocoa powder (see note)
- A pinch of salt
- 1tsp instant coffee, espresso or faux coffee powder (optional)
- 1 c full-fat coconut milk (the kind in a can)
- 5T coconut oil
- 1 t vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the dry ingredients very well. If your cocoa is lumpy, you may need to sift it. Slowly stir in the coconut milk and stir very well, ensuring all the corner pockets of dry ingredients have been incorporated. Add the coconut oil and put the pan onto a low flame. Stir and stir until the oil is melted and the sauce is thick and glossy and very hot. Don't stop stirring and don't let it simmer. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and test to see if you'd like a pinch more salt. Hot and warm, this is an excellent sauce for sorbet or ice cream. Cooled, it is a super glaze for a cake. Refrigerated, you may find the jar dies the famous 'death by a thousand spoonfuls,' that is if you (are lucky enough to) live with the kind of people I live with.
Note on the salt and the coffee and some heat: The saltiness of the salt and the slight bitterness of the coffee relieve the sweet and play nicely with the chocolate flavor. Speaking of which, a pinch of ground chile or even cayenne does not go wrong here.
Note on the cocoa:This powerful secret ingredient will change your life. Sub it in for 1/4 of the regular cocoa in anything you make with cocoa and see if I am wrong about that.