Monday, October 19, 2009

When Life Hands You Lemons...

You can make the most delicious risotto.

For the past few weeks I have blatantly ignored my once per week goal of posting. What have I been doing? Living. As an artist I usually get a feeling of anxiety when I feel like I'm not working enough. Balancing a part time job and studio work can be stressful, and often times simple joys in life get pushed to the side. Since moving to New York I have been able to add to my studio time a lot, and I have felt calmer as a result. So last weekend I trekked to Ancram, New York in the Hudson Valley and met up with some friends and headed over to Ayumi Horie's studio sale. Ayumi is a kind of a household name amongst contemporary potters, so it's really exciting for me to be able to make my second visit to her studio. This year her sale featured another potter and a furniture maker as well as her own work. I was so overwhelmed to see so much work in person! Usually I look at things I like online or in books, but here were hundreds of pots to choose from. After some cider and treats and much back and forth I left with a great plate, and an ice cream bowl. I spent the rest of the weekend at a harvest party, picking apples, playing with five year olds, and enjoying great food and wine. It was the perfect weekend for driving through central New York. Fall is my favorite season, and I didn't realize how much I missed it over the past four years. When I got back I made a gluten free apple crisp with my apples.

I like all the steps involved in cooking, peeling the apples and the way the different shades of the peels look so beautiful together. Chopping, mixing, the smell from the oven. Oh, and the eating. Yes, the eating. And the way the ice cream melts into the crisp.

So, the theme of the past few weeks for me, has been enjoying fall and the simple things around me. My days at the co-op go fast and I relish the time I can spend on my work. But, I also have to remind myself to relish the time I can spend doing simple things at home. With the cool weather, risotto had been on my mind. When I spied some meyer lemons in the produce department, I knew that this would be perfect for the dish. Risotto is a slightly longer process than most dishes, and requires care and patience. But it is worth every minute. As I prepped my kitchen before friends came over I was struck by a parallel feeling I get when making work. The thing about risotto is that it needs constant attention. So I had to get all my ingredients within reaching distance. The other two requirements are a glass of wine, and a back up person in case your arms get tired. I began stirring the rice and adding the ingredients. Anxiety set in. What if it doesn't turn out? The guests will be here in 30 minutes. Similarly, what if the kiln I am firing right now shuts off early or over fires? Ok, if the risotto is gross I have some pasta I can boil really quick and toss the ingredients in, Vaughn can't eat pasta, but he doesn't have to eat does he? I keep stirring the rice, is this how it looked last time? Should I be doing this in a cast iron skillet?

This must be life imitating art at it's best. Because I'm also thinking, did I put the glaze too thick? Was I rushing? Do I use too much of that new celadon glaze? Do I have other pieces I can apply for shows with? And then, the rice starts gently puffing up and getting creamy from the starches, and I know instantly that it will be good. I sip my wine, and get back-up help with stirring. The remaining ingredients are added right before the guests arrive. I sprinkle the top with meyer lemon zest and relax. Once I get out of my pajamas I'll open the lid of the kiln. I can only hope the kiln is as good as the risotto was.

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