Donna Deane's Curried Chicken Salad on Naan
Marian Burros's Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Corn

Cherries and Rice

I broke down yesterday and, sustainability be damned, bought a pound of California cherries. I couldn't help myself, really. The cherries were piled high on the fruit stand, taunting me with their ruby glow, and I knew it'd be a while yet before our local cherries hit the markets. I'd been walking under the midday sun for a while and all I could think of, as I gazed at the display, was that cold, clear flavor that cherries have when they pop in your mouth.

(Eating cherries makes me think of sitting at my mother's kitchen table in our old apartment in Berlin. My memory says that it has to be warm out, because that's when the local cherries are always for sale, and it should be late - way past dinner, because cherries are such a good late-night snack - but the sky is still light. Northern Europe is nice that way. As long as it's still light out, the birds stay awake and sing in the trees. So I sit at the table and crunch my way through a handful of just-chilled cherries while the birds chirp away and the light filters through the leaves of the tree outside our long kitchen windows. I guess that's how cherries are meant to be eaten. There' s just no other way.)

Back in New York, I brought my three dollar sack of cherries to the office and popped one, then another in my mouth. I closed my eyes as I chewed and imagined myself back in our old kitchen, listening to the birds, with cherry juice squirting inside my cheek and my mother at the counter. Just then, as these things are wont to happen, the phone went and my mother's voice rang out on the other end of the line. We hadn't spoken in almost a week. As I listened to her say hello from her balcony, my mouth full of cherries, I could hear the Berlin birds chirp in the background. Just as they were supposed to.

It was such a silly little moment and it felt like pure magic.

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It's been another quiet week in my kitchen and it's kind of making me crazy. I'm dying to try Amy's pavlova and Florence's rillette sandwich and I'm flirting dangerously with buying an ice-cream machine and soon enough my CSA will start up again and I'll have vegetables coming out of my ears (I can't wait), but right now I'm struggling to even get an egg fried for dinner. And I know you don't want to read about that.

But I do have to tell you that I'm currently reading Nigel Slater's genius book, Real Fast Food. Do you know why Slater's such a genius? Two reasons:

1. Because, as a food writer, he manages to make everything he writes about sound delicious and perfect and exactly what you should be eating for dinner. Whether he's writing about fish stick sandwiches or broiled chicken breasts, Slater whets my appetite like no other person I know.

2. He legitimizes almost anything for dinner. Sauteed mushrooms on toast? That's dinner. Melted Gruyere cheese spooned over boiled potatoes? That's dinner. Canned sardines, brown bread and mustard? That's all there is for dinner, and it's perfect. Your larder is a veritable treasure trove when Nigel's telling you what to cook.

And so, as I read tonight that sometimes plain white rice can be served as a main course "if you are feeling decidedly delicate", I realized that the half-empty pot of day-old rice in my fridge actually could serve a purpose, instead of just taking up space there until I felt strong enough to throw out the leftovers and use the pot for something useful again. I wasn't feeling decidedly delicate, rather robust to tell you the truth, but I didn't have time to cook and there was very little else in the house otherwise. With Nigel's wise instructions in my head, I forked the cold rice into a bowl, ate the still-fragrant, tender grains and felt very happy and nourished indeed.

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Tomorrow morning we're off to Bermuda for my friend Betsy's wedding, where there will be kilt-clad Scots, a lot of men in knee-length shorts, and a very beautiful bride. I can't wait. Happy Memorial Day, everyone! May your barbecues be smoky and your beers cold.

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