Flowers of Evil

What pairing could be more perfect for Valentine's Day than poetry and flowers? Of course, the flowers here are all from my favorite garden in Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens. My husband and I traveled to the lush conservatory on a remarkably lovely and bleak February day to enjoy the "soft humidity of plants." Naturally, I brought along my brand new translation of Fleurs du Mal.

The moody Symbolisme francais hardly embodies the stereotype of love poetry-- but then who cares? I like moody poetry, especially in translation, and the smell of petrichor on a rainy day. I'd rather read Baudelaire in a downpour than Rupi Kaur in the sunshine.

Transcendentalists may rapture to the beauties of nature, and I with them, but Baudelaire lives in a world apart-- the lush velvet and rich golds of civilization. For me, the beauty lies in the contrast between the two. "The spear is as beautiful in the throwing as the shield in the act of blocking it" or whatever. One deepens my appreciation of the other.

I first encountered Baudelaire as a translation assignment in my senior year of high school. I was preparing to take a subject test in French, so my instructor assigned me Baudelaire for practice.

Baudelaire’s poetry illustrates the infinite nuance of the French language; it challenges translators to retain all the grandiose ennui implied by the poet. As someone who has wrestled with the language, I recommend the Edna St. Vincent Millay and George Dillion translation. Not only are the translations top notch, but Millay's preface is intelligent and humorous.

Whether you find flowers evil or lovely, I hope you all enjoy your Valentine's Day. Love all things the way you want to love them, in spite of the saccharine holiday vibes.

I Capture the Castle

(the essentially nostalgic "ham" sandwich)
Although rarely simple, growing up defines our perspectives in ways we unravel for the rest of our lives. But sometimes, some strange compulsion causes us to nostalgically look back on the angst of our teenage selves-- or is it just me? Even though I would never wish myself a teenager again, I find myself revisiting old diaries, movies, and books and enjoying them all over again now.

Somehow, however, I missed Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle as a teenager (too busy with The Bell Jar and the like, I suppose. Still, I truly enjoyed reading about the awakening of intellect, possibility, and love that completely alters the young Cassandra and the ways in which destiny shapes the lives of those within her small sphere. Even without the main and subplots, all of the dialogs on art and the nature of it’s creation, the meaning of life and love, and the necessarily complicated interactions with family enriched the book as much as the descriptions of the English countryside.  

(suggested pairing)
While reading I Capture the Castle inspired me to bring out the Bach I’d been neglecting on the piano, there was also a great deal of focus on ham. I admit, I despaired of a vegan version of the simple ham sandwich, but as the narrator Cassandra would agree, the heart wants what the heart wants. Although a number of excellent seitan ham recipes exist, I rarely make the time for seitan.

Therefore, here is my suggestion (recipe?) for a simple, grocery-store vegan ham sandwich:

Field Roast Smoked Tomato Deli Slices
Daiya Swiss Style Slices
Whole Grain Mustard
French or Homemade Rye Bread
Dill Pickles (or relish, if you prefer)

1. Layer ingredients.
2. Devour (with relish).

Pasta Panache

How many actresses can claim the life Audrey Hepburn led? In addition to surviving German occupation and working with the resistance, she was a ballerina and a humanitarian. Her biography demonstrates the power of persistence as well as the benefit of an education rich in literature and art.

Colette, one of my favorite French novelists, cast her as the leading lady in a stage adaptation of her novel Gigi, bringing her to the notice of William Wyler. Considering her family's ties to royalty, she certainly provided the élan necessary for a princess in disguise!

Audrey Hepburn & Colette

Her graceful posture and mellifluous voice clearly lent themselves to the illumination of the silver screen, but her perception and philanthropy represent the most refreshing aspect of Audrey Hepburn's personality, evidenced in full in her biography. Learning how she rose to fame and what she chose to do with it once she found it is well worth the read.

After finishing the book, Aaron and I watched Charade (my favorite Hepburn film) and devoured a massive bowl of her favorite dish: pasta! A huge fan of the exceedingly simple pasta pomodoro, I thought I would stir up a batch. Somehow, this pasta turned out a bit fancier than I normally prefer, but equally as delicious and certainly more satisfying!

2 veggie sausages
3 tomatoes + 1 c cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
1 onion, diced
1/4 c EVOO
1 c pesto
1 pckg angel hair pasta

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut out stem of each tomato and stuff with garlic clove, dress with olive oil and baked for 35-40 minutes until soft and slightly charred.
2. While the tomatoes are cooking, use a swirl of EVOO to sautée the remaining garlic with the onions until translucent (about 3 minutes). Add the sausage and brown for an additional 2 minutes.

3. Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding a bit of salt and some EVOO to help the noodles slide apart.
4. Once the tomatoes have finished roasting, blend them and the pesto together in the food processor.
5. Combine pasta, sausage, and sauce all in a big bowl and serve family-style!

Of course, if you have any pasta sauce on hand, simply skip ahead and use that! The taste of freshly cooked pasta and simple marinara with fresh basil is beyond divine-- it's iconic!

Well-Read Vegan. * BLOG DESIGN BY Labinastudio.