Monday, January 21, 2008

a brief notation on lists

The first months of the new year always seem to bring on a flurry of list making: lists of New Year’s resolutions, lists of projects to do, lists of hopes, lists of long range plans. These rather serious lists are punctuated by daily lists: the grocery list, the to do list, our daily provisioning list for the restaurant, the wine-to-buy/stock-list, the don’t-forget-to-do-this list. We also make lists at the new year of favorite meals, lists of restaurants or places we want to go, lists of films we want to see, lists of books to read, lists of recipes to make.

All these lists came to a crossroads recently along with a list of questions and inspiration. A friend asked where to find good farro; a customer at the restaurant asked what kind of olive oils we use and like; another asked where we got the hanging screens of disks at the entrance to the dining room,;and yet another asked about how to find a certain wine they’d never tasted before. A visit to a favorite blog, thecureforlife, which includes a list of favorite spaces labeled Espace leads us to think about our own beloved spaces and how great to consider the environments we move through. The coincidence of these questions and our list-making, along with a clever idea and the suggestion of writing about where we procure ingredients (by the same friend who asked where to source farro) made us think a little more deeply about the true nature of lists.

Lists are a guide to memory. We write the grocery list in order to collect our thoughts about what we need for the kitchen, what we need to try a new recipe, or to make a favorite dish. Recipe means to procure. The grocery list helps us remember what we need when we actually get to the market. The to-do-list helps us remember all the things that help us corral the general chaos of everyday work and living. The New Year’s resolution list helps us remember how we’d like to do things better. But as we remember the items on all these lists, we spend only a fleeting moment actually remembering why we have put that thing on our list in the first place. We put the rustichella d’abruzzo farro on our grocery list because we want to make a farro soup, but the story is actually deeper than that, and if we take a moment to remember why it’s on our list, we know it’s not only for its taste and wholesomeness, but because we know the family that mills the farro at their small agriturismo in the Abruzzo where we’ve stayed and dined, and we can remember the warm spring day we arrived at the farm and we were shown our freshly painted and comfortable rooms, and we went for a walk in the olive grove, then came into a dinner at which we started with a plate of local salame and cheeses, then ate a farro soup thick with spring vegetables from the garden. The fire was roaring, and the wine was young and smelled of licorice and red currants. This is the real reason we love rustichella d’Abruzzo farro.

Camelia red beans are a staple in our larder at home because these are the red beans my mother uses, and with which she made classic red beans and rice. The brand was named after the grand-daughter of their neighbors who lived on Sycamore Street in New Orleans. The same little girl who accidently exploded a fire cracker in her mouth (same girl was alright after said event). Camelia red beans not only provide the right consistency and flavor for red beans and rice, but for me they are threaded with a series of memories: my own, my mother’s, my sisters’, and my father’s.

We always take a month or two to finish our list of New Year’s resolutions. At the top of the list now is the reminder to remember the stories of the things that comprise our lists, or if it is something we have yet to experience, like a future trip to a new place, what about it has ignited our imagination. The effort at memory marries our effort to create Time. We must make or take Time to remember.

Remorseless thieves, we start by making a list of spaces we love to include on this blog. We’ll make a list of the ingredients in our pantry. We’ll write about why these spaces speak to us; we’ll write about why we choose these staples for the larder. We plan to take the time to write about why they have inspired, so that in the end, we honor the spirit of a series of words written in a line, or in a column, on a piece of scrap paper, in a formal book, or on a cocktail napkin. We hope to add lists of favorite restaurants, hotels, cities, towns, cookbooks, plants, fruits, wines, gardens….


No comments: