Where have I been? Doing everything and nothing.
Coaxing the lettuce and tomato patch through this extended dry spell and the children through the sudden expansiveness of no-school.
Picking berries (raspberries, the first of the blackberries, and now the last of the black currants and white currants), pulling weeds, blowing up inner tubes, sweeping the second round of wisteria blossoms from the terrace. Summer gives meaning to the terrace, after the long cold of winter and spring’s uncertainty.Taking the kids to the creek or the tree-shaded, dreaming river. Building huts is pretty high on their list. Wading, racing homemade boats and stirring up the mud ranks high as well. I’m reading whenever I can. And next week, it’s the beach for all of us.
We are very much in the here and now. Spring and fall, really anything before or after, have receded vaporously, and the present is all we know, this baking summer just short of eternal.
In the evenings, there are parties with neighbors, charming fellow bloggers and concerts. There was once again Bastille day, with hundreds of kids walking to the fireworks display, each holding a paper lantern at the end of a bamboo pole, to form a flowing, bobbing candlelit procession. There is something distinctly magical about a retraite aux flambeaux. Long live this kind of French tradition.
What we are not doing: we are not sleeping indoors. The stars, random satellites and waxing moon beckon, and we sleep on the terrace, laid bare to the night’s cool, uneven breath. We fight closing our eyes, looking instead for patterns in the hushed sky.
There is once again the warm, musky smell of summer skin. There is the sensual act of driving barefoot, toes curled around the pedals, sand drying and falling away. In the kitchen, the wide, square terracotta tiles are blissfully cool to the touch.
During all this doing and not-doing, there is always the background music of the locusts holding their lacy wings tightly against themselves and screeching ever higher, until something startles them and you find yourself in a pool of silence, with only the swallows’ zooming trajectories to break the fragile surface.
There are several nests tucked in around the house, and the mothers and fathers are kept busy teaching the little, uncertain birdlets to fend for themselves. The little ones huddle together, then hurtle off raggedly into the air.
My children are stretching their wings and growing too. They and their friends pad barefoot across the burning tiles of the terrace to dive and arch through the bracing poolwater, skin gleaming, seal-like, spangled with light.
We are at summer’s apex. Which happens to be a mighty fine time to make a particularly luscious, warm potato salad.
Salade de pommes de terre (Roasted Potato Salad)
based on Trish Gray's winning recipe
Serves 8-10 as a side dish.
1 kg. new potatoes, such as the all-purpose Mona Lisa variety, unpeeled and quartered/chopped to bite-size pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 green onions, thinly sliced (both green and white parts)
4 tbsp. chives, finely chopped
¼ c. good-quality mayonnaise
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Toss unpeeled, chopped potatoes in oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan and bake until nicely browned.
Meanwhile, combine green onions, chives, rosemary and mayonnaise in a large bowl. Once potatoes are done, toss in bowl while hot, until potatoes are thoroughly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.