Why I Sleep with the Oven Light On

Last Friday night was “Mommy Time.” This is defined as any period of time over a couple of hours that I can spend in my kitchen. My son is away at school and, since my husband is a professional musician, he was off “gigging” at the Stephen Talkhouse until the wee hours. Mommy Time!

In preparation I’d bought a half bushel of apples from my favorite little stand on Seven Ponds Road outside Southampton. The fact that you have to park on a dangerous curve to get these apples makes them all the sweeter.

Mommy Time is at once leisurely and highly productive. I get wrapped up in doing my favorite thing—baking and preserving like a crazed 19th century farm wife.

I was determined to get myself out of pie debt and put up some applesauce. (Pie debt occurs when you’re really good at making a particular pie and you more or less promise some dear friends pie. My specialty is apple pie, so when apples come into season “dear friends” get especially antsy for their “piece of the pie.”)

All was going well. Our next-door neighbors are away and I’d remembered to feed their cats dinner right after I got home. I’d taken off my shoes, thrown on an apron and set up my mise-en-place.

In short order I’d cored and peeled three pies’ worth of apples. That’s all the oven can hold, so I stepped over toward our open shelves to pull out my pastry mat. This is a silicone sheet that I throw over the counter to contain the pie-rolling mess. After I roll out all my dough, I rinse the mat and toss it into the lower rack of the dishwasher.

But as I approached the shelves an image popped into my head. Oh crap. After the last time I’d used this mat I must have I put it into the dishwasher wrong—I could envision it looking like the white cap that Marge wears to bed on “The Simpsons.”

But…there was the mat, neatly folded and looking every bit its pliable self. Holy crap! I’ve become so obsessed with food and cooking that I’d had a nightmare about the death of a TOOL!

There were signs of mania before this.

Recently I experienced a bowl of Creamed Pea and Spinach Soup with mint that was so good it induced temporary blindness. Of course, I kept eating until the bowl was empty.

I’ve spent the last 20 years telling my husband that he’s never really tasted a carrot because he’s never eaten one fresh from the garden. Last week while I was interviewing Ty Kotz, the chef de cuisine at the Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, he pulled a carrot out of their garden and gave it to me to eat with the dirt still clinging to it. My only thought was “Ah, a brother.”

I’ve gotten really into “the four-hour rule.” Foods processed within four hours of picking are purported to contain more nutrients—I know that I can taste the difference. Over the summer I gave up going to a gala hosted by Rufus Wainwright because my friend’s raspberries came in.

Well, the pies were as enthusiastically received as always. I was told that they were sublime—so I’m sure I’ll keep at it. But I’ll never eat pie right before bed.

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