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Posts Tagged ‘Gaston Bachelard’

peach ice cream.43.45

So much depends upon the peach ice cream, tucked with a spoon in a blue willow bowl

I have been too busy making frozen summer treats to write. Some weeks ago we bought a peck of peaches from Roland’s farm up the way. There were 22 peaches in our peck, and I made a peach cobbler and two batches of peach ice cream.

Ernesto admired Roland’s tomatoes, which were large and picture-perfect. The day after we bought the peaches I was talking peaches at church with Margie. Margie had purchased some of Roland’s peaches, too. “Did you get any tomatoes?” I asked her. “We didn’t buy any, but Ernesto said his tomatoes were beautiful.”

Margie sniffed. “Roland didn’t grow those tomatoes,” she said. I went straight home and told Ernesto this news, and he nodded as if he were not surprised. “He probably doesn’t grow the peaches, either,” he said, which seemed unfair because Roland has about five acres of peach trees.

And in fact, later that afternoon we witnessed Roland crossing the road in his four-wheeler, hauling several half-bushels of peaches from the orchard to his house. So unless Roland is so devious that he places California peaches from Food Lion in his orchard then carts them around to make it appear as if he has picked them from his own trees, we can be sure that we had been eating fresh local peaches. I have to say, Roland doesn’t look one bit devious.

There’s nothing devious about this ice cream recipe, either: It’s simple and delicious. I had forgotten how much I loved peach ice cream.

Peach Ice Cream

Peel, pit, and slice 2 pounds of very ripe peaches (6-8 medium peaches).
Puree the peaches in a blender, then pour into a large bowl. Stir in:

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

Stir thoroughly until the sugar has dissolved. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, stir 1/3 cup of sugar into 3 cups of light cream. When the peach mixture and the cream mixture are both free of sugary grit, pour the cream into the peaches and mix thoroughly. Some people who are more patient than I am suggest that you must chill the mixture in the refrigerator until ready to proceed. I am always ready to proceed right away, and if you follow my instructions and stir thoroughly, you’ll be ready, too. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker. Once the ice cream is ready, spoon into a freezer-proof container (or two) and place in the freezer.

Once the peaches were gone, we moved on to cantaloupes. Our garden produced about seven excellent cantaloupes this year, and I found a nice recipe for a sorbet which I am tampering with, adding various herbs from our patch.

Herbed Cantaloupe Sorbet

First, make a sugar syrup by mixing one cup of water and one cup of sugar in a small pot over medium high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then bring the mixture to a boil. Throw in a handful of mint or basil and allow the syrup to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, pour into a jar or bowl. Cover and chill. Yes, you heard me: This time you really do have to wait for the stuff to chill.

When the syrup is chilled, strain out the herbs and pour the syrup over 4 cups of cubed cantaloupe. Add the juice of one small lemon. Place the cantaloupe mixture in a blender and purée until smooth. Freeze in an ice cream maker, then spoon into a freezer-proof container (or two) and place in the freezer. This is smooth and silky on the first day; later it will become icier and won’t scoop quite so prettily, but it will still be good. You don’t have to include any herbs if you prefer not to.

Even though I haven’t been writing much while in the middle of turning fruit into frozen desserts, I have been reading quite a bit on the side. First, I read Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space. It’s hard to explain why I loved it so much, except that I’ve always been a bit obsessed with houses, playing house, nests, shells,  and daydreaming–all of which Bachelard discusses at length. Then he wins my heart by saying:

Words–I often imagine this–are little houses, each with its cellar and garret. Common-sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to engage in “foreign commerce,” on the same level as the others, as the passers-by, who are never dreamers. To go upstairs in the word house is to withdraw, step by step; while to go down in the cellar is to dream, it is losing oneself in the distant corridors of an obscure etymology, looking for treasures that cannot be found in words. To mount and descend in the words themselves–this is a poet’s life.

Enchanted, I immediately tried to find every other book G. B. had ever written. I came across a different title in the Kindle Store, and glanced at the reviews before buying it. One reviewer gave the book four stars, but wrote: “I’ve been reading all of Bachelard. No reason to. Read Poetics of Space. Then he repeats a lot.”

While the Kindle Store sent me a list of Bachelard books, it also spat out a book by e.e. cummings: The Enormous Room, a memoir about his time as a Red Cross ambulance driver in France during World War I. I don’t know why in the world it came up—it was a miracle, plus it was free or maybe only 99 cents on Kindle, so I got it. I’ve always liked cummings’ strange modern poetry, but I really love his prose. For example, one of his fellow inmates (cummings is in a French prison, more or less by mistake) is a man he calls the Schoolmaster, a thin man in too-large clothes, who is “quietly writing at a three-legged table, a very big pen walking away with his weak bony hand.” 

I might have something more to say about the cummings book when I’ve had a chance to finish it, but in the meantime here is a snippet of an e.e. cummings poem, one that fits rather well with August and summer:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

No, I have to give the last poetic word to William Carlos Williams, as we wait for our fruits and sugar syrups to chill:

This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
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Lumina

Lumina/No Diving

I

My pleasure still is to follow the stream, to walk along its banks in the right direction, in the direction of the flowing water…. I can’t sit beside a brook without falling into a deep reverie, without seeing once again my happiness…. The stream doesn’t have to be ours; the water doesn’t have to be ours. The anonymous water knows all my secrets. And the same memory issues from every spring. – Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams, as quoted in Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama

II

When I was eight years old, I used to spend a lot of time in the woods behind our house, especially after a snow. The snow never lasted long, and as it melted it flowed down to where the landscape leveled off to its lowest point. There the snowmelt gathered and began to forge a path, as best it could, toward the proper creek on the far border of our property. There were many impediments to its flow. The path it took was littered with leaves, fallen branches, tree roots, rocks. So I would act as an engineer, following the flow until it reached a block and pooled. I moved branches, dug out leaves that clogged the passage, whatever it took to relieve the pressure and send the water forward. It was mesmerizing to watch as a small gout of cold, pearly water was freed from some hindrance and rushed forward, with more speed, until it was thwarted again and needed my assistance.

Like Gaston Bachelard, I am happy whenever I see water moving forward.

III

In February 2008, we got 6″ of snow overnight in St. Louis. After a day spent inside, we decided to go to Forest Park on Saturday afternoon and watch the sledding down the big hill in front of the art museum. We had heard that this was a popular place to go when it snowed, as there was a wide, sweeping hill descending in front of the statue of King Louis IX on horseback, who gave silent encouragement to those taking the plunge. People slid downhill using every sort of conveyance—plastic trays, curved-front toboggans, slices of cardboard, Flexible Flyers, and snowboards. One group had replaced the wheels on a bicycle with skis; this contraption flew downhill smoothly and with great speed. Three girls stacked themselves on one toboggan like a sandwich and rode down. On another, the dad was stretched out on his belly and a little boy sat upright on his back. Several small boys built up humps of snow that sent them airborne when hit at precisely the right angle. There was an area filled with abandoned sledding vehicles, including a pretty good-sized kid’s swimming pool and an ironing board with no legs. A lost and found area had been created, where bright hats, scarves, and mittens hung on the branches of trees and shrubs, dripping and adding to a cobweb of rivulets that flowed downward toward the foot of the hill, where they were absorbed by a row of hay bales meant to prevent the sledders from sailing into the road.

IV

Sir Walter Raleigh did not believe in following the natural flow of water. Simon Schama describes Raleigh’s ill-fated voyages up the Orinoco in search of El Dorado, during which Raleigh concluded that to follow the flow of a river was to head toward civilization, while the attempt to navigate upstream was an attempt to return to Eden. He must have believed that if he could have mastered the Orinoco, if he’d been able to proceed past the cascade that thundered over steep, black rock, he would have reached the throne of God. Schama concludes: “To fight a way upstream, [Raleigh] now realized, was to pursue a sacred mystery.”

Anymore all of life seems to be a fight upstream, through various hazards and perils. Yet I seldom get the sense that I’m approaching closer to a sacred mystery.

V

My friend Ruby’s daughter was baptized at the age of 7 in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ—a full-immersion denomination. This was probably in the 1970s. “She said she wanted to be the first person baptized that day,” Ruby told me, “and I thought how nice it was that at least one of my children was so devout. Then she told me why—said she didn’t want those other people’s sins washing off on her.”

VI

Ernesto told me that scientists have confirmed that there was once water on the moon. “Do you know what would be good made with water from the moon?” he asked.

“Moonshine!” I said, quite pleased with myself.

“No. Moon water would be good for washing down moon pies.”

VII

On Mother’s Day Sunday we carried a table down by the pond and spent the afternoon there, fishing and eating dessert and sailing my dad’s remote-control sailboat. (The Christmas that my dad got the sailboat, he tried it out while maintaining security in the event of a malfunction: He tied a fishing line to the boat and had one of the grandchildren work the fishing pole, feeding out line and then reeling it back as needed while the sailboat circumnavigated the pond.) That Mother’s Day I caught two fish and got a tick, so I won the impromptu fishing tournament. My nephew Clark was the runner-up. He caught two fish but didn’t have a tick. It was the tick that put me over the top.

VIII

May 2013 was a drizmal month. The early weeks were gray, cloudy, spitting rain, and no more than 57 degrees. One week we had a particularly violent rainstorm, during which our friend Wanda left her umbrella on the front porch, and it blew away. Wanda fretted about her umbrella, and even ventured outside to look for it as soon as the rain eased off. She didn’t find it in the front yard, or the back or side yards, so she gave it up as lost. It was probably wedged half-open in the ditch, which roared with rainwater. Having given up on the umbrella, she fretted about their American flag, which she feared would be torn to shreds as it popped in the wind and driving rain. She sent her husband, Marvin, out to get the flag and bring it inside. To Wanda’s surprise and delight, Marvin returned with both the flag and her umbrella. “I don’t know why in the hell you didn’t see that umbrella,” Marvin said. Usually he’s mild-mannered and polite, but he was feeling stressed that day. “Maybe because I didn’t go to hell to look for it,” Wanda replied.

IX

One night at 7:30 there was a tapping at the back door. Kent and Brenda were there, and they invited us to go fishing. So we put on our shoes and mosquito repellant and went. Kent and Ernesto sat on the tailgate of Brenda’s truck, and we bumped our way around the corner to the pond. The three white geese thought that we were there for their benefit, and they paraded in front of us as we fished, using night crawlers from WalMart. As soon as we threw a line in the water, a fish bit. We filled a bucket with small bream that Kent wanted to clear out of the pond, but none of us ever caught one of the big ones. Kent did pull in a good-sized bass, and Brenda did, too. I hooked a large fish that ultimately broke my line, and Kent had to tie a new hook on for me. As he did so, he said, “A year ago I couldn’t have seen well enough to tie this hook. That cataract surgery is a great thing. Wish they had something like it for ears.” When the bucket was so full that fish were able to leave it at will, we put the rods away.

X

…[A] giant with a hairy torso and a shaved head, with a copper ring in his nose and a heavy iron chain on his ankle, [watched] over a pirate chest. When it was opened by the giant, the chest gave off a glacial exhalation. Inside, there was only an enormous, transparent block with infinite internal needles in which the light of the sunset was broken up into colored stars.

…knowing that the children were waiting for an immediate explanation, José Arcadio Buendia ventured a murmur:

“It’s the largest diamond in the world.”

“No,” the gypsy countered. “It’s ice.”

– Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

XI

A bulletin board near the door of the Wolf River Outdoor Center held layers of announcements about whitewater rafting trips on rivers all over the country. One big blue flyer described a run down a river in West Virginia that was recommended for advanced kayakers because of all the holes, and standing waves, and whirlpools and other things that I’d never heard of. The last line of the flyer read: “Plug up your orifices and join us!”

It was about a twenty-minute ride by van from the Outdoor Center to the drop-off point. When we got there, we strapped on lifejackets and helmets, and listened to Eddie’s safety speech.

“This is not virtual reality, guys,” he said. “This is real reality, and the river can be dangerous. Of course, that’s what makes it so much fun, right? But bad things can happen, so listen up.

“First of all, in the event of an out-of-boat experience—also known as swimming—pick your feet up and float on your back until you get to a place where you can safely reach the bank. Keeping your feet up makes it harder for one of them to get wedged in the rocks, and your helmet will protect your fragile noggin.”

He gave us pointers on how to sit in the raft, and paddling, then he made us all sign a paper that I think promised we wouldn’t sue the Wolf River Outdoor Center if we died in the river. Then he described the course of the river, letting everyone know what to expect. “There’s a Class III rapid at the end of our run, just below the Center, called Washing Machine Falls. It’s called that because if you get trapped in the hole you’ll go through three cycles: agitate, rinse, and spin—not necessarily in that order. But never fear—before we get there, we’ll hit the bank and reconnoiter. There’s a good space, river right, to pull up the rafts, and we’ll all walk up the trail to get a look at the Falls so you’ll know what to expect before you go through them. At that point, if anybody doesn’t feel comfortable about proceeding, you can call it a day and walk down river to the final take-out point. That’s where we’ll meet the vans that will bring us back up here to the Center. If you elect to risk it, your picture will be taken by a trained professional with a clear view of the Falls, and you’ll have an oppor­tunity to purchase your photo when we return to the Center. So be sure and smile pretty.”

The ride started off tamely enough. We pushed off from shore, what Eddie called a “put-in.” Mine was the fourth raft to go in a group of six. Our goal was to keep the raft positioned in the smoothest part of the river at all times, so we had to stay alert and watch for rough spots, rocks, and debris. But there were stretches where the water was fairly uniform, and there weren’t many rocks. As we floated through those places, we could lift up our paddles and look around at the scenery, and I had time to be amazed at where I was, and what I was doing.

There was never much time to relax, though. And the rough sections were a lot of fun, with everybody in our raft yelling at everybody else to watch out and row left or right to avoid something scary. Eddie could be heard even above the noise of the river, shouting, “Flow with the river, children! Flow with the river!”

In spite of this excellent advice, our raft came to rest on top of a large pointy rock. The rock ended up smack in the middle of the underside of the raft, which formed four pockets hanging down around the rock. The girl in the outside rear corner floated almost nonchalantly out of her pocket. The rest of us watched, laughing like crazy, as she assumed a perfect man overboard position, with her feet sticking up. The expression on her face as she floated past was one of complete and utter disgust.

Eddie came up behind us in his raft, and talked us off the rock. Then we paddled downstream as fast as we could to where our castaway waited for us. She was standing in knee-deep water with her hands on her hips. When she climbed back in the raft, she splattered as much cold water on us as possible.

Later, we walked up the hill to the Outdoor Center, where I bought the photo of my group’s final descent through Washing Machine Falls. There we were, our raft bouncing up over the cascades of churning, vicious water. Four of our six paddles were in the air, everybody poised to row like crazy as soon as we hit water again. The camera caught me in my position at the front of the raft, looking straight downriver, with my mouth open and white sparks of water flying all around.

– Me, excerpt from a manuscript that lives in a drawer

XII

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. – Rumi

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