Quickly, before the girls need picking up and the wood needs stacking and dinner needs chopping and a radio show needs turning in:

Unwrap a loaf of bread. Slice it thin, or as thin as the crumbly, homemade feel of it allows, and slather it with mustard. Dijon or whole grain, whatever you prefer. Cut two thick slabs of extra sharp cheddar and a sweet, juicy Macoun from the farmers' market. Cut off a few thin slices—three will do—and layer them on the mustard. Warm up a big pat of homemade butter in a pan. Transfer the bread and the insides together carefully, so that no cheese or apple escape, and turn the heat to medium, maybe medium low. Cover the pan. Wait—not a distracted wait, no telephone calls or writing or dish washing—just a few minutes, until you hear the faintest sizzle of cheese from under the lid of the pan. Open, flip, and wait again—less this time, a minute, maybe two.

When it's ready both sides are dark and crispy, verging on burnt but not quite there, and the cheese spilling out the sides makes crispy little lace edges in the pan. Now eat, with the rest of the apple and a bitter winter green salad and a glass of milk.

On Saturday, maybe again, with a beer.


Is this a recipe? Maybe, maybe not, but I like to give credit where credit's due, and the inspiration for this sandwich did come from a recipe, one found in The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso. "Pretty much anyone can make an acceptable grilled cheese sandwich," Amy admits. But the combination of sharp cheese, sweet apples, and tangy mustard is unbeatable, particularly with the remaining apple slices, a salad, and a few bread and butter pickles.

butter, for the pan
2 slices bread (I like our homemade Easy Little Bread but a nice sourdough would be good too)
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
2-3 slices of a crisp, sweet, juicy apple (I love Macouns, still available at the Orleans Winter Farmers Market!)
2 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced

Warm up the butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Spread the mustard on one side of the bread. Layer it with apples and cheese, press the remaining slice on top, and transfer carefully to the pan. Cook, covered, for 3-4 minutes, or until the bottom side of the bread is golden and crusty and the cheese has visibly started to melt. Flip and cook another 2ish minutes until the other side is golden and crusty and the cheese starts to drip down the sides of the bread into the pan. Enjoy warm.


We begin again // elspeth

The upheaval of the last year was big. I would say bigger than I imagined, but that's not true. I have an active imagination, and it tends toward the worst. 2017 was roughly on course, or maybe slightly better, than I imagined it would be. The upheaval started out political, but for me as for many I know, it quickly got personal. As in: if I do not believe in this system, in what ways am I perpetuating it? How am I complicit? What can I change?

And so I started last year with a list. I accomplished or at least attempted many of the items on it. Some were small and some were big (keep a careful garden record; get an EV). Some had to do with food, others with community and volunteering. In retrospect, the big things were not necessarily the ones I thought they would be: the electric motor we got for our bucket bike was much simpler and also much more transformative than the electric car: not so much in terms of carbon emissions, but in terms of happiness. The local climate action group I started has morphed into a bigger, better, and more wonderfully unwieldy thing than I'd have thought. "Make something in a crock" turned out to be a resolution about friendship, not food. 

A lot of this last year for me was about walking outside of my comfort zone. I like to feel with others but I prefer to think alone; for me thinking, growing community projects with groups are hard. It challenges me, and I want to keep up with that challenge. But as much this year ended up being about  challenge, it was also about acceptance. I read a great quote sometime back in September about climate change, from an article on eco-anxiety published on Grist.org

"When you feel anxious and out of control in the face of a changing planet, choose the thing that you can do best and most effectively, and then don't let others ruin your faith in it."

It's good advice, not just for climate challenges but for life. There's a big sign above my desk these days. "EMBRACE WHO YOU ARE," it says. It's tacked up next to a photograph of my grandmother at 95 and a hand-drawn sketch of a farm Alex and I visited in November. Below it is a picture of us taken at our staff party in late September. Alex is holding his hand up to stop the camera, and we're jostling each other, laughing. It is late at night and we are in a bar. I put my pants through the laundry the next day without realizing the polaroid was in my pocket, and the picture is tattered around the edges, but our grins and our togetherness are unmarred.

I'm not making out loud or on paper resolutions this year. They haven't changed much from last year's list on the fridge, or the 2013 one still taped up behind my bathroom cabinet door. I know the things I do best and most effectively. Keeping the faith is the challenge, the thing to work on. It's the part that's most important, and also most hard.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.