Nancy Harmon Jenkins' Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce
Barbara Kafka's Moroccan Tomato Soup

Heat Wave


I remember one August in Berlin many years ago, my mother and I came back from visiting our family in Italy and had to turn the heater on. It was that cold. In August! Things have, uh, changed in northern Europe over the past 20 years. Currently, Berlin is in the grip of a heat wave - meaning we've got temperatures hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit and have had them stuck there for days now.

I know, I know - New York and the whole Eastern Seaboard have humidity that we blessedly do not. But come hang out in my attic apartment and feel the hot air licking your legs like a Sicilian scirocco and tell me where you'd rather be: here or in a good old North American movie theater, where the air conditioner is cranked up to Wintry Storm and you're wrist-deep in popcorn.

Or maybe that's just where I'd rather be.

I've beaten a hasty retreat to my mother's apartment, taking a sharp knife and some tomatoes with me. That's about all I can stomach in this heat. But look what I found on the way! My very first transcribed recipe, for crostata. I'd learned how to make it from the teenaged daughter of our friend Maria one summer and after returning to Berlin, I'd written down the recipe for my mother's friend Joan. I must have been around seven or eight years old at the time. She's kept it all these years.

"Later EAT!" I love that.

So I have a few questions for you, friends. Can you cook in this heat? Or do you just survive on cereal and cold milk? If you can cook, what are you making?

And also, what's the first recipe you remember learning? The first thing you were taught to make? For me, it was that crostata. I remember feeling the oily, smooth dough beneath my fingers, the cool roughness of the wooden countertop, the smell of my aunt's oven as it heated. What was it for you?