It is supposed to 86 degrees Fahrenheit today. It is October.
Yes, the weather and the time of year are disconnected — and I think it has started to affect my emotional state. Because ever since I got to Washington, I’ve felt like I’ve been floating. Between seasons. Between cities. Between projects.
My life in Paris feels like a dream and every day carries me further and further from it. As a result, I am reluctant to move forward with practical things — like buying a cell phone, or stocking up on Indian spices. I want to linger in this limbo a little longer, prolong the enchantment.
Transitions, in writing and in life, are hard. (That’s a clever quote I saw in Susan Orlean’s Twitter feed.) I had no illusions that this one would be easy, but I find myself surprised to be mired in it all the same: the anxiety of forming a routine, the rude shock of displacement, the loneliness. Gosh, I had forgotten about the loneliness of being in a new place. And then there is the added challenge of repatriation, of rejoining a world that — after almost ten years away — seems to have moved on without you.
In the market, I see the vegetables clashing. Summer and fall. Tomatoes and beets. Borlotti beans and sweet potatoes. Basil and parsley. One season is ending and another beginning. It’s the world’s most clichéd metaphor, but still an apt description of, well, my life.
Instead of choosing the vegetables of one season over another, I’ve been combining the two. Pulverizing the parsley and the basil together into pesto, for example. Layering the golden tomatoes and beets in a salad. And the borlotti beans and sweet potato? I mixed those together too, an unlikely combination, but delicious with fine olive oil and lime juice, the roasted orange cubes a sweet burst against the creamy starch of fresh beans.
And there you have it friends, this food to bridge two seasons, these recipes to ease a transition. No one ever said leaving Paris would be easy. Still, I think I prefer it to the alternative of never having lived in Paris at all. And so we muddle along, cooking and eating our way to a new home while dreaming of the one waiting patiently for our return.
Cocos rouges + patate douce
Fresh shell beans and sweet potatoes
500 grams/ 1 lb fresh borlotti or cranberry beans (the Dupont Circle market called them “bird egg beans”)
1 large sweet potato
1-2 tablespoons olive oil for roasting
Juice of 1 lime
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Parmagiano Reggiano, or crumbled feta (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC. Shell and rinse the beans and place them in a medium saucepan. Cover with water by 1 inch and cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and dice the sweet potato into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Toss with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until soft, about 20 minutes.
Drain the beans. In a large bowl, combine them with the sweet potato, 1-2 tablespoons of fine olive oil, and the lime juice, allowing the warm vegetables to drink in the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or cold, dusted with finely grated parmesan or crumbled feta, if desired.