Living With Poetry is an occasional series where we explore how poetry infuses our everyday lives. Catch up with past features here.
I started reading The Lowland last October, when Andrew and I went to Santa Barbara for a long weekend. There on our terrace, and on a cushioned chair at the pool, I read the book I had pre-ordered months prior, that I told my friends about, that I couldn't wait to for. I was planning to use the book to usher in fall, start fresh, get back to reading for the sake of it.
Fifty four pages was as far as I had time to get that weekend, but reasoned there would be more reading to do when we returned home and lovingly placed the hardback by my bed, where it stayed unopened for months. (It has now been so long that the book is available in paperback.) I'm almost embarrassed to admit that it's taken me approximately 10 months to finish one novel. Oh, I've been reading plenty (this one I just finished, food magazines, cookbooks, all of Pablo Neruda's odes) but fiction has been illusive.
The difference in my life when I first began the book to now is profound. New job, new home, new neighborhood, new perspective, new challenges, new kitchen. Now that I'm starting to feel more relaxed, there is both space and time to enjoy simple pleasures again, like reading for no reason on a Saturday afternoon, then again Sunday morning while waiting for breakfast to bake.
I've told you about Whole-Grain Mornings before, but it bears repeating. I find myself cooking from it often, especially on the weekends, when breakfasts are for lingering and pancake making and such. I'd marked this breakfast crisp months ago but felt an urge for it when I pulled the book from its perch on the shelf. In between prepping dinner Saturday night, I sliced the strawberries, coated them with lemon juice, and gently mounded them with damp crumbs of oats, almonds, and butter. Into the fridge.
Sunday morning I woke up promptly at 7 am, still wanting to read The Lowland. I tiptoed to the kitchen and turned on the oven, slid the crisp inside even before it had finished preheating, then propped up two pillows and read in the blue morning light for 35 minutes, until the crisp was golden and bubbly. Five minutes before my timer went off, the strawberries came. Lost in a passage, a mother drinking tea on a terrace in Calcutta, wrestling with the memory of her sons, one killed and the other far away in America, my breath was steady, in and out. The next inhale brought sweetness, the perfume of roasted strawberries collapsed in the heat, telling me it was time to close the book. To live poetry instead of read it.
I wiped sleep out of my eyes, pulled the crisp from the oven, waited impatiently for it to cool, saw down to write a blog post, sipped water from a small glass, smaller than my husband's sitting just beside it, lost myself in a story, watched light filter through the blinds as I finished my bowl, got up to scrape a spoon through the pan for one last bite of summer.
STRAWBERRY OAT BREAKFAST CRISP
I already had almond meal from Almond Milk LA stored in the refrigerator, so I made the topping in a stand mixer instead of a food processor.Preparation will take little time, but waiting for the crisp to cool will likely be a struggle.
Serves 4 to 6, because I'm hungry and adore strawberries.
1 1/2 cups almond meal1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons muscovado sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved
1/3 cup natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter an 11 by 7-inch baking dish. (Or, you can prep the crisp the night before and keep it in the fridge overnight before baking.)
To make the topping: Add the almond meal, flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and nutmeg to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are whisked. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until the butter breaks down and it begins to resemble coarse cornmeal. Slowly add the milk and continue mixing until the liquid has been evenly distributed. The dough should have some together and look clumpy, but not be too wet.
To prepare the filling: Toss the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Scrape into the prepared baking dish.
To assemble and bake: Place the topping over the strawberries in an even layer and place in the oven. Bake until the top is golden brown and the juices begin to thicken and bubble, 30-35 minutes (in my oven). Remove and cool for at least an hour before serving (although I got away with about 25-30 minutes) before serving.