Last night friends came for dinner. We always celebrate the New Year together but John and I, fresh from Christmas in Ottawa, were flattened by a bug we’d caught from our grandsons, so we stayed home and slept. Then we went to Victoria. Then something else came up. But finally we were able to gather here. Solveigh and Joe brought smoked salmon appetizers. I made rabbit in mustard and cream sauce, with pears in ginger syrup—a Paula Wolfert recipe I’ve been making for more than 25 years! (It’s worth seeking out if you have access to rabbit.) Polenta baked with fresh lemon thyme and Parmesan cheese. June and John brought a delicious salad. Dessert was a crisp using Merton Beauty apples, blackberries, and green gooseberries from the freezer. And to drink? My birthday Chablis, perfect with rabbit. The best talk until nearly midnight. This morning John got up and washed all the dishes, the lovely Spanish wineglasses given to us by Angelica (who found them at Value Village), the silver cutlery from a junk store on the Falkland Road.
Just now, putting the gift preserves away in the porch, I saw the bucket of oysters, also a gift, and the watercress with its long roots wrapped in damp newspaper. Later I’ll find a damp place to plant the cress and we’ll shuck the oysters for dinner tomorrow. (Tonight it’s leftover rabbit and polenta…) I was reminded of some of the beautiful Irish poetry in a little book I bought as a student in the last century. This is Suibhne, driven mad in battle, and living a wanderer’s life:
If on my lonely journey I were to search the mountains of the dark earth, I would rather have the room for a single hut in great Glenn mBolcáin.
Good is its clear blue water, good its clean stern wind, good its green watercress, better its brooklime.
There’s a lot we don’t have. (A dishwasher, for one.) An elegant house. But when our friends arrived, our fire was glowing, all the little lights were bright in the wisteria, the wine was cold, the rabbit tender. There’s a bucket of oysters on the deck, and that good green cress. I would rather be here than anywhere else on earth.