Dinner & A Story
One Saturday Morning, by Tessa Hadley.
What I love most about this story is the tender and tentative nature of the main character, Carrie, home alone on a Saturday morning, practicing the piano, when an old family friend knocks on the door, bringing his particular tragedy into the family’s day. Being an American weaned on the violence and conquest of American movies and novels and life, I worried for Carrie’s safety, alone in the house with this man, Dom, while her parents are grocery shopping. Carrie feels awkward and out of place so she flees upstairs to spy on the visitor from afar. In fact, Carrie does a lot of viewing from afar and thus her understanding of adult situations is often skewed. Upon her parents return she is excited and happy to be presenting the visitor to them.
…her mother turned on the coffee percolator and unpacked the perishables into the fridge. The grownups sat down around the kitchen table to drink their coffee, and Carrie pulled up a stool to sit beside her mother, delighted with Dom’s presence now, as if it were her own achievement.
Hadley completely immerses us in a particular time and place. Immediately, with the first paragraph and the descriptions of the family home, I’m engaged. The writer Eudora Welty, in her essay “Place in Fiction,” says, “The moment the place in which the story or novel happens is accepted as true, through it will begin to glow, in a kind of recognizable glory, the feeling and thought that inhabited the novel in the author’s head and animated the whole of his work.”
The setting is so vivid, the home so comfortable and sloppy, I believe everything else that is to come. Consider this description from the opening:
Carrie shuddered; it was still cool indoors and she wished she had her cardigan on. This room at the front of the house was always dark, because of the horse-chestnut trees outside the window. They called it the dining room, though they used it for dining only on special occasions, or when her mother had a dinner party; mostly, they watched television in here. A dinner party was planned, in fact, for that night, and the room seemed braced in anticipation: the notes Carrie played fell into an alert silence.
The house, it seems, is an extension of Carrie herself, who spends much of the story in alert, anticipatory silence. Dom brings his particular sorrow and tragedy into the home and Carrie watches her parents adapt, absorb and offer whatever consolation and comfort they can.
Herb Crusted Salmon:
¾ lb salmon fillet/skin on
5-6 Tbs herb rub – my favorite:
2 Tbs smoky paprika
2 Tbs dried thyme
2 tsp pepper flakes
Maldon salt flakes to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425.
Slice salmon fillet into individual servings. Apply liberal amount of herbs to flesh side of fish. Over medium high flame, heat a generous pour of oil (enough to coat the surface) in cast iron pan until shimmering. Place fish, flesh side down in pan and do not move for several minutes. You want the herbs to form a nice crust on the flesh. When you see the flesh turning from bright pink to a more opaque shade, up the side of each fillet, maybe ½ an inch or so (roughly 3 minutes), swiftly slide a spatula beneath the fillet and flip.
Place pan in hot oven and continue cooking for 4-6 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet and your desired doneness. When cooking is complete, remove pan, slide spatula between the skin and the flesh of each fillet. The skin should adhere to the pan, leaving a nice clean piece of fish to plate.
A squeeze of lemon and a parsley garnish are all you need.
To accompany our meal I served quinoa tabbouleh and broccolini I tossed with olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes, then roasted on a cookie sheet beside the fish. Not a complicated meal, but certainly a delicious one. Happy Summer!!