When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: Exactly what you want, when and where you want them.
Today: The nut tart -- made from the holdings of your pantry -- that Jackson Pollock would have made.
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I sit alone in the car, listening to reports about the upcoming hellastorm, a trail of broken windows from the previous night’s protests, how everyone is bringing booty back. I try to find my morning.
Gather every lonely nut you can find in your pantry, fridge, freezer.
I squeeze my eyes shut, smack my cheeks, and try to kickstart my brain. I don’t know how I jumped out of bed this morning, how I got these clothes on my body, how I showed up in the kitchen. I have no memory of nuzzling one child and then the other awake.
Roll out your tart dough. Find your favorite square pan.
My arms must have prepared three breakfasts, two lunches, one cup of very strong coffee. My voice must have guided with variations of take a deep breath, I will help you find your homework, yes your socks are clean and in the bin, no you can't get Snapchat.
Think about all of the tarts that have passed through this pan, this kitchen. Testing, re-testing, learning to let go of being perfect.
My head drops to the steering wheel. I am feeling the side effects: the slow decline of my sacrum, my teeth, my brain. I need to look up. I need to break some rules.
Caramelize the sugar. Stir in the cream. Watch it rise up like a volcano.
I re-enter the kitchen and the morning floods back. Every last word, struggle, sprint, geometry problem, glass of spilled milk. I hear myself say: first, make the bed. I see myself tucking, folding, scrubbing.
Add some salt. A bit more salt. Some vanilla. A bit more vanilla.
I pick my kids up from school. As the helicopters start in for the fifth night in a row, I see my son cover his ears from the noise. I feel myself start a stumbling rant: Things must change and we can help and we must not just let things be and we are all equal and there is so much history filled with violence and oppression and we must march and chant and fight. I want to be the right parent. The clear parent.
Pour the caramel-drenched walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, almonds into the raw pastry shell. Fuck par baking.
Dash, sometimes people have to make some noise.
Stare at your pretty tart. Melt bitter chocolate. Get a spoon. Drizzle. Mess it up.
1 recipe of your favorite tart or pie dough 3 cups nuts (I use walnuts, pecans, slivered almonds, and pine nuts) 1 cup white sugar 1/2 cup heavy cream 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 tablespoon good quality vanilla extract 1 teaspoon kosher salt 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.