Summer’s Lease

 

Happy First Monday in September (AKA Labor Day), everyone!

I hope, in this weird time, as we are about to enter our seventh month of “Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread,” that some of you will be enjoying times with family and friends, and perhaps even a picnic. (Don’t be put off by those who, after they’ve guilted you for super-spreading, will, as a fallback, try to make you feel like a worm for using a racist term to describe your activity. You’re smart enough not to fall for the first, and the second simply isn’t true.)

I’m not going to be indulging in a big celebration myself, although I will be driving to Pittsburgh this afternoon for a little get-together on the back porch with some dear friends. Our hostess is a fabulous cook, but today we’re just having scones and coffee, and whatever each of us brings with us to add to the festivities.

My own contribution is something I should have written about on Friday. A quintessentially English dish that, you’ll think, can’t possibly work (and it’s very likely you’ll find the idea appalling), but which is a refreshing and delightful dessert on a hot day, and perfect for an outdoor gathering: Summer Pudding.

Classic summer pudding

*Photo is from the BBC recipe site because mine is setting in the fridge as I write this. I use strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, because red-currants are hard to find here. I suppose I should plant some.

Think a mixed berry pie (which is basically what the filling is), with a ‘crust’ composed of slightly-stale bread that’s been dipped in the juice given up by some of the berries when they were gently simmered for a few minutes to extract it. Sweet, but not too.

My sister asked me the other day (when we were discussing it), how such a simple thing can taste so good. “Well,” I said, “it’s really just a pie in which the crust and the flour are presented in a different format.”

Serve with sweetened whipped cream, and some of the excess juice/syrup puddled around it. Delicious.

NB: The title of the post (which is not the quote of the day) comes from Sonnet 18, one of my favorites. First, because it deals with every Englishman’s favorite topic of conversation, and the one about which we can rattle on ad nauseam–the weather–but then because of what it says about the object of the poet’s affection, the beloved, whose “eternal summer shall not fade” and who will live even after loss and death, just as long as the poem lives.

So do we keep those we lose alive in our own lives, by telling their stories and honoring their memory.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
William Shakespeare

Onward, to Fall!

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  1. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Lovely!

    • #1
  2. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Sweet She,

    Thank you for the wonderful lift of spirit. Mouthwatering tasty treats, glorious poetic verse, and your upbeat good sense.

    I’m not going to be indulging in a big celebration myself, although I will be driving to Pittsburgh this afternoon for a little get-together on the back porch with some dear friends. Our hostess is a fabulous cook, but today we’re just having scones and coffee, and whatever each of us brings with us to add to the festivities.

    My own contribution is something I should have written about on Friday. A quintessentially English dish that, you’ll think, can’t possibly work (and it’s very likely you’ll find the idea appalling), but which is a refreshing and delightful dessert on a hot day, and perfect for an outdoor gathering: Summer Pudding.

    Your get-together sounds great. Enjoy.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Exquisite–both the sonnet and the dish! My mouth will be watering for hours. (It always does when I read your food posts.) Have a lovely day!

    • #3
  4. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Sweet She,

    Thank you for the wonderful lift of spirit. Mouthwatering tasty treats, glorious poetic verse, and your upbeat good sense.

    I’m not going to be indulging in a big celebration myself, although I will be driving to Pittsburgh this afternoon for a little get-together on the back porch with some dear friends. Our hostess is a fabulous cook, but today we’re just having scones and coffee, and whatever each of us brings with us to add to the festivities.

    My own contribution is something I should have written about on Friday. A quintessentially English dish that, you’ll think, can’t possibly work (and it’s very likely you’ll find the idea appalling), but which is a refreshing and delightful dessert on a hot day, and perfect for an outdoor gathering: Summer Pudding.

    Your get-together sounds great. Enjoy.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Hi Jim!

    Our little shindig is in Beechview, and it’s made up of former Duquesne folks. We’ll raise a glass to absent friends and loved ones, including your Mom and Dad, some of the best and nicest people it’s ever been my pleasure to know! Best to you.

    • #4
  5. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Oh, that almost looks too delicious to eat, and I’m so hungry as all I’ve eaten today is a banana. I’m looking up that recipe as we speak.

    • #5
  6. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Did you bake a brioche or use regular bread? Baking brioche looks way too complicated and takes ages. 

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Did you bake a brioche or use regular bread? Baking brioche looks way too complicated and takes ages.

    I used a loaf of bread from the Giant Eagle (local supermarket) bakery. I took the slices out, separated them and left them in a paper bag overnight to “toughen up” a bit, as the bread was fresh and very fluffy. If you don’t want to do that, I’d suggest something like a Pepperidge Farm loaf (Mr. She used to call it “pre-stale” bread, because it’s firmer, doesn’t usually have any larger air holes in it.) You want the bread to be a bit (not too) dry. Cut off the crusts and then cut it almost diagonally, so you get irregularly shaped pieces to fit around the edges of the bowl, as it says in the recipe. A square piece at the bottom. It’s not an engineering conundrum, so it’s OK to squish it a bit to make it fit. Then fill with fruit, and put similar pieces of bread dipped in the juice on top, making them fit too. Put a weight (I used a saucepan lid, because flat, and 4 small jars of salmon pasted to weight it down a bit, and stuck it in the fridge.

    Don’t forget to line the bowl with plastic wrap first, that makes it much easier to tip it out.

    None of the folks at our little gathering had eaten, or even heard of it before. All agreed that it was delicious.

    • #7
  8. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Since I can’t get redcurrants here, I did try a summer pudding several years ago with blueberries as a fourth fruit, in addition to the strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. It was a disaster from the aesthetic POV, although it tasted alright.

    It might work if you held the blueberries back from the simmered fruits, like the strawberries, and added them in fresh, as you spoon the raspberry/blackberry glop in. (I cut the strawberries into 2 or 4 before I do this, because US strawberries, even the organic ones, are enormous in comparison to the English ones).

    But when I added blueberries, I put them in the sugar syrup and simmered them with the raspberries and blackberries. The resulting pudding, rather than being a lovely red-berry shade, was virulent blue, and quite unattractive.

    • #8
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    I’ve seen the top picture before, the one of the neatly sorted picnic basket. By chance, is it taken from a publicity still for a British car? Austin, Morris, Vauxhall, Ford Zodiac?

    • #9
  10. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    I’ve seen the top picture before, the one of the neatly sorted picnic basket. By chance, is it taken from a publicity still for a British car? Austin, Morris, Vauxhall, Ford Zodiac?

    Could be. It came up in a search for a “public domain” graphic for a picnic basket. As usual, can’t guarantee that it is, but I did my best. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the basket my grandmother had, although her color scheme was more blue and gray.

    • #10