“Early in the morning, I’ll come calling, I’ll come calling after you
Darling if you answer, oh we’ll wander, down the garden where it’s cool,
Later we’d discover, all in covers, children silent as the stars,
Early in the morning, in the morning, everything at once is ours.”
– James Vincent McMorrow
And then, as you’re walking up to your apartment building from the car, the embarrassingly cheap bottle of wine underneath your arm slips and shatters onto the undeserving pavement below. All that is left is the negative space, mocking you for thinking it would ever turn the day around.
That was my attempt at writing last week, when it seemed that everything I touched developed some fatal flaw. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. The bottle hit the ground and I didn’t even stop to mourn it, didn’t stop to ask “why me?” because there wasn’t going to be an answer. I immediately cut my losses and went upstairs to bake the pizza under my opposite arm.
There’s something about the lack of discernible reasons for life’s messiness that has always been a challenge for me—a challenge for any of us really. But as a child of the internet-age, I’ve learned to divide the world into two types of knowledge: that which can be looked up and that which can’t. No one can teach you to just let the terrible, no-good, wine-shattering, bus card losing, car breaking weeks float away. There’s no Wikipedia entry on handling the sticky pieces of your life with grace. We live to learn and we learn to live.
It’s that recognition, the everyday acknowledgement that not every day will be our best, that I find so admirable in others. The openness to be messy when so much tells us to be impeccable. I realize that all of my favorite artists, from cookbook authors to musicians and poets, share this trait. It is why, when I see them perform, I cry nearly every time. I remember what it is like to be on stage, to bear some sort of truth out in the open—to be honest rather than perfect. Last night, Lindsey and I went to see James Vincent McMorrow play a show. He’s one of those artists who has been with me for nearly every transition of my adult life and after listening to him live for the first time, I understand why. His music is emotional and unapologetically so, yet he approaches it with humility. I lost count of how many times he thanked the audience and all of the people who made his show possible. He was there to do his thing and that was it.
Yesterday before the show, when I sent AM a picture of my baking aftermath, he told me the photo looked “triumphant” and I felt the veil of the week lift. By proxy then, I was triumphant too. I had finally done my thing and someone recognized it as mine. I made some whole wheat raspberry and ricotta scones (from Deb Perelman, naturally) and the process was simply a delight. Tactile and rewardingly messy. The dough develops gorgeous striations of raspberries just beginning to fall apart and you’re asked to show restraint, to not work the dough too much with your hands for fear of losing that beauty and ending up with tough, pink disks. It’s the kind of dough that you wish you didn’t need to bake and could just eat right then and there.
Surprisingly, the result wasn’t quite what I wanted. Though very moist, I was hoping for more of a raspberry punch and my use of new biscuit cutters (thanks Mom and Dad!) was probably not the right choice for this wet dough. But it doesn’t matter—it was the process that was important this time and they still go wonderfully with a morning cup of coffee in a cold kitchen.
Whole-wheat raspberry and ricotta scones
slightly adapted from Deb Perelman’s smitten kitchen
(makes 9 scones)
I have made some modifications to the recipe below to address the concerns I had with my final product. My result was delicious, no doubt, but I think some of the changes will put yours over the top—a bit more sugar, some extra raspberries, and even preserves. Who could argue?
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/3 c. sugar
½ t. salt
6 T. unsalted butter, diced and chilled
8 oz. fresh raspberries, halved
2 T. raspberry preserves
¾ c. whole milk ricotta
¼ c. heavy cream
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 425°.
In a large bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut chilled butter into flour until the butter is the size of small peas (I always give up and used my fingers halfway through).
Add the raspberries, raspberry preserves, ricotta, and heavy cream. Mix with your hands (trust me) until just combined and the raspberries have just started to spread their color. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and gently pat into a one inch thick square (about 7 inches across). Cut into nine scones and transfer to the baking sheet.
Bake for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until edges are just golden. Remove from oven and let set-up on baking sheet for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool. These are very moist and if you eat them immediately, they will seem doughy. This goes away if you let them cool a bit, I promise!