I spent the last night of astronomical spring in bed with a big bowl ice cream and the Grand Budapest Hotel, which is probably the only perk of Thom working late. Just as I always do, I fell asleep mid-film but was startled awake by gunfire (in the movie, thankfully) that was accompanied by the scent of petrichor being spun around the room by our ceiling fan. It rained. I paused the movie because I had a very unexpected and insatiable urge to run. Sometimes that happens (usually after a good rain) and I don’t fight it because WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT? So I threw on a tank top and those funny shoes with the toes (don’t worry, I was already wearing shorts), and headed out the door just a few minutes shy of 10PM. I ran on the gravel trail, hardly finding my way with my eyes but it didn’t matter because my feet know it by now.
DETOUR: Muscle memory is a funny thing, and something I very much appreciate when I find myself wandering
home from the bar in the night.
I ran three laps around the park, which made seven laps for the day which made too many fucking laps and so I went home and ate more ice cream then took a shower and thought about reading the book Thom got in the mail the other day. It’s about child soldiering and appears to be the kind of thing you would read if you wanted to feel miserable about humankind and our inability to take proper measures to protect the small, mostly defenseless, people on this planet. I picked it up, looked over the cover, and then fell face first into bed – hair still wet and in my bathrobe – and woke the next morning, just before the sun, and went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of something caffeinated. I retrieved the book I had left face down on the coffee table and 16 pages in I had to throw in the towel because my mind wasn’t in the place to endure literature on the Rwandan genocide at such an hour. Not with the birds chirping. Not with the morning breeze drifting over the back of my left shoulder. And sure as hell not with the photo of that decaying flower sitting so perfectly at the edge of my peripheral vision.
It’s my favorite photo from the trip, this photo of a passing flower I caught at the Royal Botanical Garden in Madrid. It was surrounded by a mass of vibrant, perfectly bloomed, immaculate flowers but it was the only one that caught my attention and held it for longer than is probably appropriate to stare at something that’s bidding farewell to our glorious planet. It’s petals were stringy and wrinkled, inconsistently colored and tangled in one another and splitting at the ends. But my god, it was so extraordinarily striking that I thought about picking it and preserving it and putting it up on display when we got home. And so I did, but with my camera. So now, each time I see it sitting on the bookshelf looking droopy and lifeless (but stunning) as ever, it reminds me to be a seeker of the light. Even when seven laps around the park doesn’t lead to inner peace or emotional homeostasis; even when your faith in humanity is fractured in just 16 pages of Times New Roman – it is your moral imperative to continue fighting the good fight and to choose to be a glass half-full instead of one that’s half-empty. And when all else fails – when you don’t think you can muster up even another ounce of optimism - sit on the kitchen floor with that pan of leftover summer fruit crisp and I’m fairly certain your perspective will start to shift. Eventually you’ll have the courage to pick up that book and read it without feeling too remorseful because yes, the world is incredibly fucked and twisted, but it’s also massively, overwhelmingly, and jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Glass half-full, remember? Happiest summer, folks.
Notes: This is not your typical fruit crisp as the filling lacks starch and massive amounts of sugar. It does not, however, lack flavor. But if you’d prefer a traditional crisp with overly sweet and gooey innards, increase the sugar to 1/4 cup (or 1/2 if you’d prefer it super sweet) and mix 1 tablespoon of potato starch with the sugar before adding it to the fruit. Similarly, if your selection of fruit is super juicy, mix 1 tablespoon of starch with the sugar before tossing it with the fruit. If you don’t have the assortment of fruits I used below, feel free to use whatever you have on hand. I made this in an oversized loaf pan, but it will bake just as well in an 8-9″ metal pan or cast iron skillet. If you’re looking for a gluten free option, simply replace the flour with 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons gluten free flour mix. The pecans in this recipe replace the oats that are present in a traditional crisp – so if you’re allergic to nuts or just don’t care for them, substitute an equal amount of rolled oats.
SUMMER FRUIT PECAN CRISP
1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 pint blueberries
15-20 cherries, pitted and halved
1-2 nectarines, pitted and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sucanat
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup refined coconut oil
2 tablespoons almond milk
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup sucanat
1 cup unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup raw pecans, coarsely chopped
Coconut whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350˚F and lightly grease a 9×5″ loaf pan. Add strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and nectarines to the pan. Combine the sucanat and vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl then toss with fruit; set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the coconut oil and almond milk, and cook just until the coconut oil has melted and the mixture is fairly warm; set aside to cool for a few minutes. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, and salt. Drizzle half of the oil mixture over the flour mixture then use a wooden spoon (or your fingers) to combine. Add the remaining oil and continue mixing until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few larger crumbs. Stir in the pecans then spread over fruit base. Bake at 350˚F for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes, then serve with a side of coconut whipped cream and pecans. Crisp can be kept covered and refrigerated for up to thee days. Reheat in oven as needed, but I recommend scooping it into ramekins or small bowls instead of reheating the whole dish (unless you plan on consuming the entire thing).
Yield: 6-8 servings