Forum Holitorium

Month: August, 2013

Homeostasis Efforts

Three in a row
Sorry, dear readers, for the silence. I haven’t forgotten you. It’s just that my creative energy has been flowing in other directions. About two weeks ago, it hit me. You know. That moment that comes every year when you are hit by a wave and suddenly and indelibly feel deep within you that summer will – yes – come to an end. That the warmth will ebb, the chill will flow. This year, happily, I felt a certain glee at this thought. Migratory birds must feel this way when they prepare to fly south for the winter, though since I don’t have feathers and can’t fly I reacted a bit differently. My survival strategy is to cover myself in overlapping layers of wool. This led to my casting on to knit a sweater with some dreamy soft alpaca yarn languishing in my yarn stash.


One thing led to another; some Portuguese wool picked up on my summer journey (yes, yes, which I have yet to blog about) hopped onto a pair of needles and suddenly there was half of another cardigan. A physiologist might describe these actions as those of an organism striving towards homeostasis.


This is the harvest time, the time of plenty. Plenty of ideas, plenty of things to do, plenty of herbs to dry, plenty of vegetables to gather, plenty of fruit lazing about on the kitchen counter, waiting to be turned into jam or Zwetschkenröster.


Liza Dalby wrote a beautiful book entitled East Wind Melts the Ice: A Guide to Serenity through the Seasons in which she compares her encounters with nature over the course of one year with sayings in an ancient Chinese almanac that divides the year into 72 units. The unit we are currently passing through (August 26-30) is identified as the time when “Heaven and Earth turn strict.” As I write these lines, I am enjoying the little bit of sunshine that is attempting to push through the rainclouds that descended upon us three days ago. The odds are very much in favor of the persistence of the grey gloom. This morning the floor had a chill to repel bare feet and necessitate thick socks and hot tea. I think I’ll trust my instincts and keep knitting.


Dinner for One


It’s about half a year since it was crêpe time. Maslenitsa, mardi gras – you know, the time of the year when everyone in the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere is pining away for sunshine and warmth. The time of the year to mix together a batter of eggs, milk, and flour, heat up a skillet, let a pat of butter sizzle, and pour in the batter which fills the pan and creates a sun. Like so:

The crêpe of the sun

So why on earth did I decide yesterday, the day that the record for the hottest day in Austria was broken, to make crêpes? (New record: 39.9°C/103.82°F) Was I feverish from the heat? Was it cloudy and I needed the sun? Was I feeling solidarity for those in the Southern  Hemisphere? Or were there overripe apricots and figs that were calling out to be stewed in voices too loud to be ignored?

Fruit to stew

I read in the newspaper it was so hot in China that people were frying eggs on the manhole covers. Seriously. I saw a picture. I suppose I could have tried the same (we’ve actually discussed making a solar cooker for our balcony, which definitely gets enough sun to do something like that) but the northern-facing kitchen is actually the room least affected by the fiery August sun. Though my first idea was to make a cold soup, I settled on crêpes because there were certain ingredients that needed to be used up. Stewed fruit and fresh cheese make wonderful toppings  for crêpes, filling you up without weighing you down in the heat. Retreating into the cool, I started cracking eggs.

Buckwheat crêpes with apricot-fig compote and goat cheese

4 eggs

Whey or milk (same weight as the eggs)

Buckwheat flour (half the weight as the eggs/milk)

Enough apricots and figs to fill the bottom of a small pot (see photo above), cut into 1 cm/ 1/2 inch pieces

Butter to fry

Goat cheese to taste

Crack the eggs in a bowl. Beat until uniform.  Add the whey and mix. Add the buckwheat flour and mix. Let the batter rest in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

When you are ready to start frying the crêpes,  heat up the diced fruit in a covered pot and stew, stirring occasionally.

Heat up a cast-iron skillet on high heat. Turn down the heat slightly. Add a pat of butter and enjoy watching it sizzle. Spread it into a thin layer on the bottom of the skillet.

Ladle in batter to cover the whole surface of the skillet. Fry the crêpe on one side until the edges start to curl up.  Flip over and fry it a little bit longer.

Serve with fresh goat cheese on top.

Stack o' crêpes

I’m quite proud with how the crêpes turned out – I often have trouble with frying things, a cooking technique heavily affected by temperature and patience. Last night I got lucky and had the right mix. So what do you enjoyed eating and cooking on hot summer days?