Saturday, June 20, 2009

Food, Work, Rain and Summer in Providence

I suppose the title says it all. The weather in the Ocean State the past couple of weeks has been on and off rain and then rain with brief hints at misting, followed by showers and then sweat-producing humidity. All of which adds up to the revelation that summertime is upon us once again.

This marks our second summer in Providence and also our second summer of doing things we never thought we would ever do but can't imagine doing anything else -- at least for the moment, eh?

Susie continues to produce wonderful desserts; each and every day at Gracie's finds her putting together something new, something special, something different and always something wonderful, like this cornmeal crust, lemon curd, lemon mascarpone tart:


Or the Kougelhof (brioche cake with dried cherries) that she eventually turned into a delectable brioche amandes:

My work continues to engulf my every waking moment -- well maybe not every moment but close. I'm up to my neck in archiving, cataloging and tagging (don't ask) each and every image in the university collection. Right now we're up to nearly 90,000 and counting and I love every minute of it. I'm learning an incredible amount and can't begin to describe how lucky I feel to have found something I truly enjoy. It's often demanding of course, but I just can't get enough of cataloging software.

Our lives in Providence have developed a rhythm again. After our recent long hiatus in Paris we got our groove back, or nearly so. I suspect our "tonal values" (to use a photographic term for a moment meaning gradations or intensity of color), our tonal values will forever be defined by our experience in the City of Light. When we return to Paris, our values will automatically adjust, realign and reset themselves accordingly.

In the meantime we cruise Providence looking for good food and occasionally slipping beyond the city limits to explore other parts of the Tiniest State in the Nation. Recently we cruised down to a couple of the beaches on the southern edge of Rhode Island:



Among other quiet wonders we caught site of a fisherman at work:

. . . and appreciated that when the sign means soft sand that's pretty much what it means:

Near the ocean we couldn't help but stare in wonder at the beauty of the marshland hugging the edge of the continent:

Nearly two weeks ago we took a drive to Mystic, CT and spent the day touring the aquarium and the Seaport -- lots of fun and a dead camera battery so you'll just have to take my word for it.

In fact, June kicked off with a not one but a couple of big bangs.

Our sister-in-law Dorothy retired after 35 years of teaching elementary school and special education in Whitinsville, MA. On June 8 we drove up to her school spent an afternoon celebrating with Dick, Dorothy and many of their colleagues. Lots of good food and plenty of sunshine -- for a change:

Dorothy marveling at the attention:



Susan and her sister Mary:

Shortly after we helped Dorothy in her moment of life transition, our friends from London Richard and Pauline dropped in for a couple of days. They had just arrived in Boston at the beginning of a 3-week-long tour of the Old South and where better to start than in New England.

We started off their first day with a short tour of Providence, sights of the city we were familiar with and some we hadn't seen before. That evening we hosted a dinner for eight: Richard and Pauline, Dick and Dorothy and Andrea and her mother Barbara (both Rhode Islanders but with tastes and sensibilities that run far beyond the state boundaries). The conversation was fast, the wine plentiful and the company warm; we most certainly had a good time of it -- and reminded us of warm evenings gone by around the tables with the Cheffs, the Fischers, the Koppendreyers and so many others scattered to the wind.

After a leisurely morning and amidst cold and rainy weather the four of us drove to the Atlantic Ocean. We had places to go and things to see but in no particular order and with specific agenda, barring having lunch with Barbara in Narragansett. Along the way we stopped at the Point Judith Lighthouse.



From the lighthouse we drove the few short minutes to Barbara's cottage by the sea where she served up a scrumptious lunch of lobster salad (fresh lobster from Galilee, RI). One can easily see where Andrea gets her sense of taste and graciousness -- from her mother. And we heard tales of Barbara's mother who ran a clam shack and rented out cottages almost in the ocean in the days before the Second World War, back when the world hadn't thought there would be a need to number wars.


We had a wonderful afternoon of warm comradeship, lively talk while we sat and stared out at the ocean, the limitless horizon, holding you in it's infinite hypnotic embrace. It did me in.

We then took a leisurely drive across Jamestown island skirting Newport and down to Little Compton and Sakonnet. if you're thinking of going to Little Compton I have to tell you it's beautiful there -- but they would really prefer you not come and bother them:

Now you know what happens to English Majors.

That evening the four of us walked across the street to Loie Fuller's for an aperitif. We felt compelled to show them the interior, of course, the striking art nouveau homage to a woman long dead in Paris now. (An incredible dancer, born in Illinois, her ashes are are interred in Pere Lachaise's columbarium but her name plaque has been stolen.)

Afterwards we drove the short mile and a half into the city, Downcity as it's called here, for dinner at Gracie's -- we had to show Richard and Pauline the engine of Susie's life now. Another delicious meal prepared for us rather than by us and a grand way to get R & P off to the proper start of their journey through this part of North America.

Sadly, we learned recently that one of Susan's cousins passed away suddenly in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not quite 60 years old he died of a heart attack while leaving a movie theater.

God speed to you David Van Halsema. Be at peace and be at rest.

And for the rest of us, make the most of the moment we're given here. Life is short.

Take care, be well and we'll see you in Paris.

Steve

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