Purposeless walking and Honey Roasted Rhubarb and Peaches.
As much as my daily dog walks annoy me because they are a must-do, I realize how important they are from a more mental point of view; some time ago I tweeted this link about walking where the virtues of purposeless walking is explored: “Walking is a luxury in the West. Very few people, particularly in cities, are obliged to do much of it at all. Cars, bicycles, buses, trams, and trains all beckon. Instead, walking for any distance is usually a planned leisure activity. Or a health aid. Something to help people lose weight. Or keep their fitness. But there’s something else people get from choosing to walk. A place to think.” And I’m realizing more and more that I really need my morning walks as a place to think. I used to listen to audiobooks when I walked the dog but when I occasionally do that nowadays, I notice that my mind wander and I don’t really listen at all to the book so I have given up on that and now let my mind and my eyes ramble as they please. It isn’t even close to meditation obviously but it somehow gives me the same benefits. I’m not a huge Wordsworth fan but I do think that this poem points at one of the many rewards purposeless walking can give us. Maybe my daily walks (well when I’m not away for work) aren’t that purposeless because I usually take the same route, but they fill the purpose anyway, I pass the same olive fields, the same vineyards and the same vegetable garden every time but there is always something that is different, new flowers, unexpected bird songs, the grapes change colour and the vegetables grow and grow. Sometimes I can smell a wild boar that has passed or is possibly hiding behind a bush and in the summertime I try to concentrate so I remember to check how the blackberries are getting on on my favourite blackberry bush, the one that is strangling the olive tree next to it and that has the best berries you can find. But it isn’t always that idyllic, last week I was disturbed by a man asking me if I had seen five piglets that had escaped from his pen a bit further down and that was the last of any other thoughts than piglet thoughts and as lovely as it is now during the spring and summer, I have say that is easier for the mind to wander during the winter when there is less to look at but on the whole I find that the dog aspect in my dog walks is getting smaller and that the walk has become a ramble for the mind instead. Poor dog.
There are really very few things I miss about Sweden but rhubarb has always been one of these. My parents always had rhubarb plants in their garden and it was a perfect symbol of summer to me with those huge, green leaves that we used as umbrellas when we played as children and that I now love because of their beautiful shape and ‘veins’. They flagged that summer had arrived and that it was time to make rhubarb pies. But in the twenty years I have lived here I have never seen a rhubarb plant so when I found one at a plant nursery this spring, I immediately grabbed it and took it home with me and it is now growing right outside my kitchen where I can keep an eye on it. It isn’t very big yet but I have already been cutting off stalks and I have have high hopes for the years to come. Finally I can cook and bake with rhubarb! The other day I made this dessert, Honey Roasted Rhubarb and Peaches, and because I could blame it on the small crop I ate all by myself without any regrets. I kept the dish fairly simple, rhubarb and peaches, honey and cinnamon sticks and a little butter to round it off but as you know, that is how I like my food, simple and with space for the flavours to come through.
This is how I made it: My rhubarb stalks weren’t that big and therefore not ‘woody’ so I only trimmed the ends a little and cut them into pieces. I cut the peaches into pieces as well (I kept the skin on because it gives the sauce such a pretty hue of pink) and put the rhubarb, fruit and a cinnamon stick broken into three pieces in a oven-proof form or low pan. I used more or less 50/50 of rhubarb and peaches. Then I mixed runny honey with a few tablespoons of Grecale, a sweet dessert wine from Sicily, but you can use anything really, and a little water and drizzled it over the fruit. I stirred a little and added 4 or 5 small knobs (the size of a hazelnut) of salted butter and then swept it all into a pre-heated oven (175°C/350°F) for say 20-25 minutes. You can serve it warm, tepid or cold, if you don’t want to eat it alone, I suggest you to serve it with a nice vanilla icecream.
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