Kumquats, ricotta, pie and self-care

We have finally graduated from winter. It's so thrilling that I'm very nearly beside myself. Yesterday, the boys and I planted tulips and snapdragons, some herbs and a beautiful pink geranium Ol picked out. Our gardens are writhing with earthworms both robust and newly born, and we found just one grub which was immediately relocated to the garbage. It's taken years to get our yard in good health, but in the absence of chemicals, things thrive, and the proof is out there in every shovel of earth.

People, I want you to go get some kumquats. Gently cut them into thirds and take out the seeds. Candy them in a simmering mixture of sugar and water. 

While you're at the store getting kumquats, pick up some buttermilk, heavy cream and 2% or whole milk if you don't have those items on hand. Buy some cheesecloth too. I want you to make fresh ricotta.

Once you've done that, find a pretty bowl and spoon some ricotta in. Top that with some of your candied kumquats and syrup. Close your eyes, and take your first bite. Chew, taste, swallow, breathe. Shiver with pleasure.

 ricotta and candied kumquats

ricotta and candied kumquats

Do this because you love yourself and you're worth this beautiful, decadent treat. Because it will stick to your ribs and fuel you with real and simple food. Because it's a joy to feed yourself thoughtfully and lovingly, to nourish yourself by spending time to make good food and also to eat it.

If you do this and then, like me, feel you must keep going with this whole creation-nourishment thing, make a pie.

Spend time rolling the crust and carefully cutting lattice strips with a pastry wheel. Think back to your childhood when you cut Play Doh with plastic tools, creating something new and of yourself just like you are now. 

 sour cherry pie

sour cherry pie

Feel the butter grease your hands, and watch the flour coat the buttery spots, rendering you a breaded cutlet.  Enjoy it.

If you have some of last summer's bounty in your freezer, use it. It's time. If not, perhaps  you have some fruit lingering in the bowl on your counter, or maybe you picked something wonderful up while you were at the store getting kumquats and ricotta supplies. 

If you have extra pie crust scraps, roll them out and dust them with cinnamon and sugar. When you slide your pie in the oven, put the sweet extras in too; just remember to pull them out before they burn. You'll love this little snack while you're waiting for that pie.

When you remove the pie from the oven, place it carefully on the stovetop or a wire rack to cool. Don't leave it just yet; lean over it, until your nose is almost touching the bubbling filling, and inhale deeply. Hints of vanilla, caramelized fruit, butter and all the supporting elements will tickle your olfactory nerve. You'll feel shot through as if with a rush of endorphins. Bliss.

Let the pie to come to room temperature at least. It's hard to wait but worse to burn your tongue. Plus, you might want to share a slice with a good friend, a neighbor, one of your child's teachers, your spouse. Or maybe not, but either way, you don't want to scald your mouth.

Anticipate the pleasure you'll feel when your fork grabs the first bite of pie, when your hand draws that bite towards your mouth. Remember how wise it is to tend to yourself, treating yourself as you do so many others around you.