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Summer Is Almost Upon Us!
This week, two dear childhood friends are visiting, and so instead of sitting at home to write, I have taken them to the mountains for a hike.
Besides, it’s almost a long weekend, and no one wants to be inside reading articles on their phone when we could be outside enjoying nature and feasting with family and friends at a cookout. So this week’s post of miscellaneous business offers a couple of announcements, a brief poll, a recipe, and nothing else. Enjoy the weekend, and see you next week!
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First, Substack now allows writers to customize our websites and tag our posts, and so I’ve been having a lot of fun tagging and organizing my old posts into the following categories: Books, Culture Wars, Education, Fixes, Life Lessons, Movies and TV, and Recipes. So, for example, if you are having an army of guests over for the long weekend, need something to cook, and vaguely remember that I once posted an awesome recipe for chili, you no longer need to comb through scores of old posts to find it. Simply go here and click the Recipes tag at the top of the page, and you’ll find all my posts with recipes listed in reverse chronological order.
Second, observant readers may have noticed that I’ve replaced the Happy Wanderer logo (which used to be a photo of me) with a new logo—a photo of the actual Happy Wanderer:
I took this photo on a recent hike to the summit of Harder Kulm above Interlaken. This cheerful fellow is one of many hand-carved wood sculptures at the summit. Notice that the Happy Wanderer is carrying giant wheels of cheese. No wonder he’s happy!
Summer Reading Club
Last year we read The Turn of the Screw and had two weeks of terrific discussions. This year, I thought it would be great to continue reading shorter American classics over the course of July. I had originally planned for us to read “Bartleby the Scrivener.” Melville’s novella is one of my all-time favorites, not least because it contains such relatable moments as this:
But since I view the Happy Wanderer as more of a democracy than a dictatorship, I thought it would be more fitting to put the choice of summer reading up for a vote. So readers, please take the poll below, which will be up for one week. If you choose the write-in option, please suggest a different work and/or author in the comments!
I’m looking forward to our discussions! Now, on to the recipe!
A Summer Recipe
To create my recipe below, I stole a brilliant idea which I saw many years ago in a column by Mark Bittman: Soup made from tomatoes, peaches, and very little else. (Bittman’s version is more austere than mine; his soup is chilled and doesn’t include herbs and seasonings, and he makes the cream optional. But in my opinion cream is not optional! It is a necessity!)
This soup is a special treat at this time of year, when peaches and tomatoes are ripe, juicy, and flavorful. You can serve it with a salad and crusty bread for a light summer meal for two, or it makes an elegant first course for four. You can also easily double the recipe if you are having more guests over.
Tomato Peach Soup
6 large (or 8 smaller) ripe tomatoes
2 very ripe peaches
3T unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely minced
1 small clove garlic, finely minced with 1/2tsp salt to make a paste
salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg
a glug of heavy cream
fresh oregano and thyme
Prepare the tomatoes as follows: Cut in half crosswise, squeeze out the seeds and pulp and discard, and peel by inserting your thumb between the flesh and peel and pulling the peel off. (Or you can just leave the peel on, but definitely get rid of the bitter, slimy seeds and pulp.) Roughly chop, discarding the stem ends, and dump the tomato flesh with its juice into a large bowl for now, so you don’t lose any of the juice.
Prepare the peaches as follows: Peel with a vegetable peeler and then squoosh the fruit on top of the tomatoes in the bowl, being sure to retain all the juices. (Discard the pits, obviously.) Note: If the peaches are very ripe, they will turn into goo as you squoosh, but if necessary, coarsely chop.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and briefly sauté the onion, sprinkling salt over it to help the onion along. Add in the garlic, pepper, and nutmeg and stir. Be careful not to let the garlic brown.
Tip the tomato-peach goo into the saucepan, sprinkle salt over everything to help the fruits break down, and cook until almost smooth, stirring occasionally.
Purée the soup with an immersion blender (or use a regular blender and then return to the pot). Note: The soup can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point.
When you are ready to serve the soup, heat on low, and when it’s warm, stir in enough cream to turn it a peachy-orange color. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and oregano leaves and serve. This soup can be served piping hot or—very nice in summer—gently warmed.
How about you, readers? Do you have special plans for the long weekend? What would you like us to read together over the summer? Do you have any minor aspect of your life that you strive with outsized and often ineffective effort to get just right? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
In the midst of all the cookouts and leisure, it’s easy to forget that Memorial Day commemorates the brave men and women who have given their lives for our country. In their honor, let me share a performance of Mozart’s Requiem by Collegium 1704, in my opinion the greatest baroque chamber orchestra and chorus in the world. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole performance, the Lacrimosa begins at the 21:20 mark. I predict that you will feel awe and possibly even be moved to tears by their performance.