Today I spent the day with my friend Summer. A remarkable artist and a devoted mother, I’ve known Summer for nearly a decade, and the way in which she sees life and inhabits it, so completely, so beautifully, always inspires me. Summer is a light that refuses to dim, and whether she’s drawing, crafting comics, painting or writing, she’s an artist who is surgical in the way in which she can evoke a mood or a detail simply through a brushstroke, a line deliberately drawn, or a careful meditation on color.
Hers is a world in which you want to dive in, headfirst, and succumb; feel the undertow, drift wonderfully in and under. I stood in her studio space and eyed the vibrant book cover illustrations, a mess of photographs that she holds close to her art, which is an extension of her heart, and a sweet arrangement of vintage foodstuffs, cookbooks, and labels, and I felt a sort of calm. The kind of calm where you needn’t see your friend every week, but something about who they are and what they do makes sense to you, ebbs and flows with your creative rhythm, and as Summer and I settled into talk I felt as if it were yesterday that we were two women — one strumming a guitar, the other publishing a literary magazine — trying to find our voice, our way.
My world is small, deliberately so. I don’t have patience for telenovela-level drama. Working a room, and accumulating a litany of high-wattage names, exhaust me. So I tell people that if I leave a meal and don’t feel inspired to create, if I leave drained and spent, if I feel as if I’ve encountered a barnacle in human form, I excise. This may be cruel and cold but it’s efficient for it allows me to spend time with people who ignite something, and that mutual reciprocity builds things, hatches plans, makes us run in separate directions to set the world ablaze.
So maybe it was the sugar high from a simple pie that is rich and smooth and sweet, or perhaps it was the ride up the Hudson, or possibly time spent with brilliant, wonderful people, but Summer and I parted, invigorated.
We parted wanting to wreck things. To deconstruct. Build anew.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Ruth Reichl’s The Gourmet Cookbook
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (preferably dark amber)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
Accompaniment:crème fraîche or unsweetened whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Roll out dough into an 11-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin and fit into an 8-inch (3-cup) glass pie plate. Trim excess dough and crimp edges decoratively.
Whisk together brown sugar and eggs until creamy. Add cream, syrup, and butter, then whisk until smooth. Pour filling into pie shell.
Bake pie in lower third of oven until pastry is golden and filling is puffed and looks dry but still trembles, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool on a rack to room temperature (filling will set as pie cools).
Notes in the margins: If you don’t have an 8-inch pie plate, substitute a 9-inch tart pan and prebake crust before baking with filling.