Christmas tree pick-up was this morning. We dragged ours out to the curb, and looked up and down the street at the other dejected trees patiently waiting in the January drizzle. Christmas decorations have all been stowed and the house looks a bit empty, like it's waiting for the spring sunshine to fill the empty corners.
This is the time of year that I wish I remembered how to knit. I've learned a bunch of times. Once when I was very small I managed to complete a set of wrist-warmers. These might be a Swiss phenomenon, but if you can remember that fingerless gloves still can keep your fingers warm, imagine how hand-less gloves might keep your hands warm. The point is, they do. Another time I learned to knit was my freshman year in college, when one of my hall-mate's dad's taught us. It was January term, which meant we only had to take one class, and it was pass/fail. We had lots of time on our hands. In the evenings, we would all gather in one room, listen to Barry White, and knit. I have absolutely no recollection of what I was even working on. I doubt any of us do.
My great aunt, who had a story more harrowing than most, was a great knitter. She knit me an army of pink sweaters when I was little. I especially liked it when she chose yarn that had sparkles in it. Throughout her difficult life she managed to maintain a child-like joyfulness, so I wouldn't be surprised if she chose the pink sparkly yarn for her benefit, as well as mine. She was also a great maker of Schnitzel, and I fondly remember going over to her apartment to eat a huge steaming platter of it, decorated with lemon slices and served with potatoes, bread, and a salad. After lunch, she would knit while all the grown-ups talked. She's the only person I think I'll ever meet who actually kept her current knitting project tucked in her bosom. This fascinated me as a young girl, and it was as good as a magic trick when she would reveal first one arm, then two, then the entirety of a full-sized sweater from her voluminous cleavage.
|Tante Emmy and Onkel Paul ready for feasting. Note the amount of Schnitzel she prepared for three people.|
She left our family a great legacy -- she was the only one of her siblings who was strong enough to recount the stories from the war, the only one brave enough to face life with perpetual cheer and generosity. Perhaps one of these Januaries I'll relearn how to knit again, perhaps when my daughter's old enough to do it, too. Until that happens, I have a big box of pink sweaters, some with sparkles, that I hope Tante Emmy sees my little girl wearing, wherever she is. They would have had a good time together, those two.
Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup
This soup is many things: it is fast, frugal, a good use for stale bread, delicious, simple, comforting, and healthy. As with most simple things, the quality of the ingredients is crucial, but these are all things that you either have on hand, or are easy to find. You can have dinner on the table in 10 minutes. Adapted, barely, from The Mediterranean Kitchen.
Cut thick slices of day-or-two-old crusty bread, a piece or two per person. Heat a soup pot (or a small pot if it's just you) over medium-high heat and add a pretty generous glug of good olive oil (probably about 1-2 tablespoons per person). When the oil is hot, fry the bread in a single layer (do as many batches as it takes), on both sides, til nice and golden. Remove bread and rub with the cut side of one clove of garlic (per serving). Place bread in soup bowl. Add another glug of olive oil to the pan, roughly chop the garlic you just used, and add it to the pot. Garlic burns quickly, so stir it around for only about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add a soup-bowl-full (per serving) of chicken or veggie broth (homemade if possible) to the pan and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to medium and crack an egg (per serving, and one at a time) into a cup or small ramekin and carefully slide into the simmering broth. Use a spoon to nudge the whites around the yolks. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the whites are completely opaque. Repeat with as many eggs as you need, but cook no more than two eggs at a time. Ladle an egg into each soup bowl, adjust the seasoning of the broth with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the broth evenly amongst your soup bowls. You can enjoy this as is, or you can garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro, red pepper flakes, or Parmesan cheese.