I consider nothing more luxuriant than waking naturally, unprompted by an alarm, fixing a cup of strong coffee with cream, and then settling back into bed amidst a drift of peonies, pillows, sheets, unread books. A mild wind fluttering through the curtain, a kitten poised at the open window’s sill. And silence. Voluptuous, soft silence. Yes, yes, another effusive post that could be chalked up to much ado about nothing. But I never forego the power in appreciating small pleasures. It allows you to find happiness pretty much everywhere.
What a day! After my Blue Detective debacle of a morning, I waltzed into the city and saw a curious German film—The Strange Little Cat—in a New Directors/New Films press screening at the Museum of Modern Art. Afterward, still halfway in that poker-faced comedy about the life and times of a family kitchen and its pets, I wandered through the museum’s galleries of late 19th-century art, peering over people’s shoulders at Gauguins and Van Goghs and Matisses. What a way to look at such impertinent paintings, now heralded as sacrosanct. I walked down 6th Avenue to Union Square, ogling window displays of buttons and flowers and velvet trimmings, and munching from a little wax paper bag of cashews sold by a kind-faced, doleful-voiced street vendor. As I walked, I thought about how New York is like the kitchen I’d just watched: always changing, always staying the same. I thought about about how, as much as I like Brooklyn, Manhattan’s street smells—hamburgers and onions, hot dogs, pretzels, smoky and sweet nuts, quick gusts of trash and fancy flowers—trump all. And I thought about how alley cats like me—ladies of a certain age, ladies of a certain indestructibility, ladies of a certain scandalous independence—have been clicking in high heels down the city’s avenues for hundreds of years. I hope we always will.
Something about this still-chilly March Sunday—on which we all felt a little fragile about losing an hour to daylight’s savings—made me keen to steam up my kitchen’s windows. First I brined a turkey with juniper berries, salt, sugar, cloves, chili peppers, thyme, fennel seeds and bay leaves. Then I assembled an enormous and very earnest salad of spinach, fresh feta, blood oranges, roasted beets, tarragon, mint, and parsley, and fed some of it to a friend and myself while her new baby and my tiny cat watched with round eyes. As the bird slowly roasted with red wine, lemons, fennel bulbs, leeks, carrots, and potatoes in a bright blue Le Creuset, we took a stroll around the neighborhood and felt glad about the afternoon light as well as each other. After she wended home with her small charge, I stored the leftovers in carefully labeled containers, and made a pot of polenta with chopped sausage, lacinato kale, oregano, rosemary, fennel, tomato, and garlic. I ate a bowl of all that with grated Parmigiano and a glass of Italian table wine while paging through an elaborate 1970s cookbook, and, when finished, stored the rest of the pot’s contents in more carefully labeled containers and washed all the day’s dishes while humming along to Dinah Washington. By then, the many bridges of my fine city had finally lit up the night sky, and I regarded the view, as well as the contents of the refrigerator, with great satisfaction. No matter what this week brought, I’d ensured I’d be the queen of my castle.