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Simple.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Steve Earle--"What's A Simple Man To Do" (mp3)

When things begin to grow from the ground, life gets simpler. Not necessarily easier and not necessarily less busy, but simpler. When the earth comes back, we have to deal with it--lawns, weeds, flowers, buds and leaves all require both thought and action as we seek to contain the uncontainable and make look how we want it to look, however briefly. To do so is to engage in simple, repetitive tasks of cutting, pruning, pulling, hauling. Not easy tasks, necessarily, but simple ones.

Simple ones and good ones. Nothing feels better than simple, honest earth work done by day and then that step outside as the sun begins to set to gaze upon one's accomplishment, even knowing full well that within a week, it will all need to be taken on again.

Add in Easter and its spiritual rebirth and the shift to a more focused life is complete. Those of us who took on Lenten vows (I didn't) and engaged in six weeks of reflection and either denial or additional responsibility can only be more prepared for the less complicated months ahead.

But it isn't all work. Pleasure, too, is simpler. During the months when things grow from the ground, our food requires less preparation. Why complicate something that has just achieved ripeness when it is that ripeness, that sun-fed infusion that we want to taste?

Any entrenched Southerner, from a gnarled-fingered old woman cooking her own food to the most accomplished chef, will tell you that one of the greatest pleasures of summer's peak is the tomato and mayonaise sandwich--slices of warm, ripe fruit on soft white bread spread with mayo, seasoned with salt and pepper. So simple, so good.

I want to suggest or to remind (depending on your background) that there is a spring version of this glorious sandwich. And it may be even better. I'm talking about the radish sandwich.

For most people, radishes are barely on their food radars. Maybe you were scared away from them as a child because they were the hottest food that a child's mouth is often exposed to. Maybe they don't look that appealing in a grocery store, either old and dull in sealed plastic bags or intimidating in fresh bunches that will, no doubt, require cleaning and trimming and throwing away.

But to the enlightened adult palate, radishes are a great, maybe the great, spring pleasure--sweet, hot, a little bitter. They have a clean taste that doesn't really suggest, as a potato does, that they have been pulled from the ground. There's something more ethereal, more exotic about them. And they provide the basis for a delicious, inexpensive, transcendent sandwich.

The Radish Sandwich
2 slices soft white bread
3-4 thinly-sliced radishes
butter, at room temperature
salt and pepper to taste

Spread the butter on one or both slices of bread. Using a hand-held mandoline or a sharp knife, slice radishes thinly. Spread radish slices over the bottom slice of bread. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Close sandwich and slice on the diagonal.

For whatever reason, like tomatoes, the radishes benefit from fat. Tomatoes are enhanced by a light spread of mayo; radish flavor increases when paired with butter. The inclusion of butter on the sandwich is not optional. It is essential. It need not be a lot of butter. The thinnest layer possible will make the sandwich better.

It is no accident that the Germans feature the radish so prominently during Oktoberfest. This cheap, neglected tuber pairs well with a crisp beer. Bowls of prepared radishes and plates of fresh rye bread are a perfect match. But even a bowl of radishes, washed and still lightly wet, with a salt shaker is a wonderful snack.

I am ready to walk into the simple months. When I walk into a produce stand and I see a basket of radishes, I know that the simple months have come.

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