Today it set in that I will not be getting on the Smartway bus to Tech anymore this summer. The Blue Ridge Writing Project Summer Institute has become such a regular, and welcome part of my day, that it is hard to say goodbye. I know I will see all of those wonderful teachers who I have grown close to through shared writing, research, laughter and collegiality. This summer I witnessed people getting in touch with that lost writer that they had not touched in many years, if ever. I am privileged to have learned and shared with each of them.
The last day of the institute was my snack day. We take turns with this and I really look forward to it because I get to stretch my cooking chops with a live audience. I brought homemade banana bread and a tomato, basil, goat cheese tart with a cornmeal pate brise crust. Did I mention that the crust was ridiculously good but agitating as I was rolling it out? I learned some time ago that using a fancy, non-stick rolling pin is overrated (at least for me). I like an old, oaken one that has been in my family for some time, or just an empty wine bottle (exceptionally effective and just the right size). I have tried every method to roll out dough in the hopes of finding one where 1). The dough does not stick like glue to the counter, or 2). The dough does not crack and break apart. I have found that easy-does-it rolling with the old faithful wine bottle until just the right thickness, and then reverse rolling the shell on to the actual bottle (keep it loose, not too much pressure) is the trick. Then I just aim the bottle over one end of the pie or tart plate and unroll. Voila, perfect crust! I was especially excited about this tart because my heirloom yellow cherry tomatoes and heirloom Black Princes were popping and I had just harvested a load of Thai basil from my back deck, makeshift garden. Gotta’ love containers when you have limited space!
There is something enjoyable about being a part of an ingredient from seed to ingredient. It makes the cooking of it satisfying.
The tart and the banana bread were well received, if you can take the fact that they were gone before the morning institute even started as an indicator. It was gratifying to be able to share this part of myself with a group of people that I have grown so close to. That day, more than any other this summer, was filled with poetry, laughter, tears, fellowship, respect, writing and love.
Next, I must remake that tart and banana bread and actually write the recipe down so that I can share it, as promised. I am one of those just-throw-a-pinch-of-this, add-some-of-these, cook-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, girls. This works for me, but it also keeps all of that cooking knowledge I have picked up since I was a little girl trailing after my Nanny in the kitchen eagerly watching her every move locked away for an audience of just me forever. Keep an eye out for the recipe and some pics I snapped of the finished tart soon!