There are days when I write to a strong audience and days when the cat circles the computer turns her back and gnaws at the cord. Writing is a difficult proposition at best, personal, ego building and equally ego shattering. For me, as with cooking, the urge to do it is stronger than the idea that nobody will notice if I do (on both counts), so I take my chances and turn on the heat hoping I don’t singe my fingertips.
It’s overcast and predicted to rain today. Yesterday it was 92 and this afternoon we’ll be lucky if the thermometer passes 70. Weird. I love the cool weather, less enthusiastic about the heat bringing with it its sizzling sidewalks and car seats that saute your legs when you slip behind the wheel. Perhaps it’s the Nova Scotian in me, or simply a penchant for a “bit o’weather” in the air.
As I read through the blogs written by contributors in beautiful overseas locations or those visiting exotic and foreign ports my increasing wanderlust intensifies. Spending a good portion of my life moving from place to place perhaps got under my skin making becoming too settled, well, for lack of a better word, unsettling.
Last night I had a very vivid dream about Priest Lake, Idaho. I had the pleasure of visiting there only once, but the memory of that visit, as apparent by the clarity of my dream, has stayed with me over the years. Priest Lake is about as far north as you can go in the Idaho panhandle before you find yourself standing on Canadian soil. (I believe as close as fifteen miles south at the highest point north on the lake.) Pristine and beautiful, the lake is a popular tourist attraction luring (argh) trout fisherman with the lake holding the distinction of having the largest trout caught in the United States being caught there weighing in at 57 lbs. 8 oz, and in the winter months heavy snows provide an ideal venue for winter sports enthusiasts.
I went there in the late summer of 1988 with my third husband-to-be, to meet his parents who had a vacation home in the area. We drove into the night, and I remember being transfixed by a spectacular summer electrical storm taking place far across the flat plains. Lightning spiked down like spears thrown from Olympus lighting up the sky as brightly as if midday. Beautiful.
Over the length of the trip, my fiance brought me up to speed on his family dynamics as this would be our first encounter. The patriarch, I was told, performed as a classical singer and played piano in the church. His mother was a homemaker. There were two boys in the family, my fiance and his younger brother, both adopted. As with many families, the story when left to the children, describes a family rife with dysfunction. The older man was described by his son as being of the controlling sort with his wife being a submissive housewife who did everything but chew her husband’s food for him. It makes you wonder how your children describe you to new love interests before your first meeting. I would come to find out the household sported all the accoutrement associated with upper middle class homes. The house itself a sprawling ranch style on a corner lot in a picturesque country location of the Bay Area. Towards the back of the property was a lagoon-type built-in pool and a lovely garden abutting an enormous vegetable garden. The Mrs., it seemed, also produced the food she cooked so brilliantly.This, as well as the cabin in Priest Lake and the boat docked there rounded out what appeared to be a rather nice quality of life. A lovely face, however, does not always define a fine character.
As the story unfolded, he went on to add that they were “horse people”. Already a little leery, I hoped this meant they owned several of the large animals and had nothing whatsoever to do with their appearance or personal idiosyncrasies.
Priest Lake was, as promised lovely in every way. As often with northern lakes, at least to me, it had the feel of being a bit more desolate and less traveled than those located lower in the hemisphere touting warming temperatures. Lushly treed wherever you laid your eyes, the cabin sat back from a side road on a hill with a bird’s-eye view of the water below. Directly behind the two-story cabin was a paddock surrounded by a white fence. Behind that could be seen part of a horse trailer, and a tack room. The paddock was occupied by one huge chestnut horse, and his smaller pinto companion.
It was just after dawn when we arrived and having little sleep, if any, we said good night leaving getting acquainted to later in the day. When I again opened my eyes sun poured in through the red cotton drapes in the window and a cool breeze drifted across my face. Showering and dressing I went downstairs to find the family scattered in seats around the living room playing a board game.
After exchanging pleasantries and a little lunch it was suggested that we take a boat ride which was unanimously agreed to. Outside the cabin where the sun filtered through the tall trees you could see the active insect life the forest supported illuminated in the rays.
Once on the lake I was surprised to find the water very smooth and relatively unpopulated for what I would have expected on such a lovely summer day. We broke out the skis and slipping in the cool water goose bumps broke out along my warm skin. I grabbed a hold of the rope and threaded it through the tops of my skis, the only parts protruding from the water. Skis straight, I yelled “hit it” and rose up quickly to find myself skimming familiarly beyond the wake of the boat. Not skiing anymore, I can still almost feel the exhilaration of that particular experience as I speak of it here.
In the end, I found the family interesting, the horses gentle and fun to ride, and the lake generous with its beauty, lovely wildflowers, and it’s seemingly endless supply of squirrels, raccoons, deer, moose and an occasional bear or two to keep you on your toes.
Some places get nicer over time as you remember them, some people less so. This would be one of those occasions.
Oh, and hats off to the Queen. Which, incidentally is where they would look best, off. Camilla’s hat looked like it could alternate as a flotation device or possibly a portable commode. Sixty years on the throne (no pun intended). Quite a feat.
This sandwich is just too gooey and good. Not a belt tightener, however, but sometimes you have to be a little bad. You can substitute most any cheese, meat or bread that you would like but I would suggest a soft cheese that melts nicely. I used a steak press while cooking.
Grilled Club Sandwich with Caramelized Onions
8 slices rosemary bread cut 1/2″ thick
1/2 lb. Italian ham
8 slices of Gruyere cheese
1/2 lb. peppered turkey, sliced thin
Prepared pesto or your own
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 large onions, slice thin
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. water
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil and butter in deep large skillet until shimmery. Add onions, separating rings with spoon as they begin to cook. After onions begin to brown turn heat down to med-low and stirring often cook for 10 mins. Sprinkle with salt and sugar and add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Continue to cook stirring regularly. If onions begin to look dry add water 1 Tbsp. at a time. Cook for 20 mins. until onions are a lovely golden brown and fully caramelized.
Melt butter and brush onto one side of each piece of bread. In large skillet (cast iron is perfect) place four slices buttered side down. Spread desired amount of pesto on unbuttered side. Place 1 slice of cheese, 1/4 of the ham, 1/4 of the turkey and caramelized onions on each slice in the pan. Top with a second slice of cheese. Spread pesto on the unbuttered side of the remaining slices and place them pesto side down on top of the cheese. Place steak press or panini iron on top. Cook over med. heat until golden brown on bottom side and cheese is melting. Remove press and flip. Repeat until both sides are golden brown and cheese is melty. Cover for 5 mins. towards the end if cheese hasn’t melted sufficiently.