There are plenty of evenings during the course of the summer that I don’t have dinner outdoors-It could be too hot, or too buggy, or I might just be too tired to take everything outside only to have to bring it back in again. I also believe I have no end of summer days to choose from, but end they do. Yesterday it was benignly summer; today the weather is is cold and blustering towards fall. I know when I start coming to work in the dark, the close of summer can’t be far behind. As many nights as possible now, we all have dinner outdoors.
Buck does all the cooking-lucky for me. My idea of dinner on my own consists of cans of black olives, chick peas, tinned tuna, slabs of good cheese and chips of some sort. I am also likely to eat this over the sink; who would make the effort to set a table, and then wash dishes over this? On my own, I don’t cook, I survive. I take care of what needs doing in support of the cooking, and I am happy with this arrangement. Buck decides to do a roast on the grill for our close of summer dinner.
One doesn’t need to cook in order to appreciate great china. I could get out of hand easily; there are plenty of great china patterns out there. I get by with 2 sets; one is on permanent view on a shelf just sixteen inches below the ceiling in my kitchen. I take it down once a year to wash it; it’s out of the way, but always there for me to see. I built a painted Welsh cabinet for my other set. It took a long time to accumulate a service for eight, and even more time for the platters, breadbaskets and such. It was worth the wait; it is as much pleasure to look at as it is functional.
This French china is handmade by Veronique Pichon. None of her pieces have that perfect shape and repetition of design characteristic of machine made china. It is heavy, chunky and chip resistant-a good choice for china used outdoors. The green and ochre ground, with handpainted pink and rose flowers, looks good set in my garden.
My stainless flatware has olivewood handles set in pewter ferrules. The color variation in the wood has everything to do with the dishwasher. The handles of the utensils I use every day have gone dark. As we only have dessert once in a great while, the olivewood is still pale colored. As much as I like limestone steps that are worn from all the walking, I like things that look like they have been used.
Of course we need flowers. The boltonia, Japanese anemone and asparagus from the garden look good in a McCoy ceramic vase from the forties. Cut flowers last such a long time outdoors-it must be the light. Cut flowers have a decidedly different feeling than flowers planted in the ground, as they are arranged.
Buck loves to cook, and he says the rotisserie on the grill makes the work of it easy. If you are not a fan of cleaning the oven, cleaning a drip pan takes a lot less time and effort. The big design idea here-a terrace which is close to the kitchen makes it as easy to dine outside as it is to picnic-maybe easier. Good tools make quick work of the prep and cleanup. Sturdy china doesn’t mind being stacked for the trip back to the kitchen.
I like fresh food simply prepared-probably as I have been exposed to how good that can be. Food for me is not the main attraction-it is the place, the friends, the season and the weather and the food all rolled together that makes for a great time.
A pavlova for dessert-definitely out of the ordinary. A shell formed from a baked meringue is loaded with whipped cream and mascarpone cheese; this melt in your moth extravaganza is topped with a mix of the fruit of the season. Invented in New Zealand in honor of a visit by Anna Pavlova, it is my favorite summer dessert.
The dark is coming early now. The porch light is on for the first time in a very long time. Though we will no doubt get a few more chances to have dinner outside, we might need to bring blankets. Though I regret the changing of the season, I am glad to have had for a time however short, a good gardening summer.