Nous oublions toujours qu[e la beauté et le bonheur] sont individuels et, leur substituant dans notre esprit...une sorte de moyenne entre...les plaisirs que nous avons connus, nous n'avons que des images abstraites qui sont languissantes et fade parce qu'il leur manque précisément ce caractère d'une chose nouvelle, différente de ce que nous avons connu, ce caractère qui est propre à la beauté et au bonheur. Et nous portons sur la vie un jugement pessimiste et que nous supposons juste, car nous avons cru y faire entrer en ligne de compte le bonheur et la beauté, quand nous les avons omis et remplacés par des synthèses, où d'eux il n'y a pas un seul atome.
Towards the beginning of In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, Proust writes a stunning passage about the particular and surprising quality of beauty and happiness -- you all didn't realize you were signing up to read along, did you! -- about how we are pessimistic about life because we remember beauty as some sort of synthesis or average of "beautiful things" we've seen, when instead it is something that is new and different each time we come across it.
This is how I feel about fall. I remember I like it all the year round, and yet the particular red of a climbing vine or the bright golden of a certain tree always surprises and stuns me when the actual season comes around, no matter how many times I've seen it.
For the past three years, living in a city, (and a warmer climate than I'm used to,) I've spent my autumns pining for New England in a very active, heart-wrenching sort of way, wishing to walk in the woods there and bathe in the river of colors. Although some part of my heart will probably always be in New England, this year I decided it was time to stop whining and start appreciating what was around me. Hopie, I said to myself, you don't live in New England. You live in Montmartre. And that's a pretty darn cool place to be if you'd stop to appreciate it.
So that's exactly what I did. I took my camera and went for a long leisurely walk up through the gardens below the Sacre Coeur and then down through the streets of Montmartre and I stopped to appreciate every color, every vine, every pretty fall leaf, and, you know what? It was stunning. And I wanted to share the experience.
Today's recipe is perhaps a bit late, given the season. It's one I made quite a bit at the beginning of the fall when there were still way too many zucchini to know what to do with and my window box was overflowing with basil (which I still haven't completely harvested and better do quickly before it gets too cold!). Still, you can give it a try or hold on to it for next year when it might jump out and surprise you like all wonderful things :-)
Zucchini - Feta Tart
(based loosely on this recipe)
1 butter puff pastry
2 med-sized zucchini, thinly sliced
150g (or about 1/2 cup) feta, crumbled
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC. Pierce the puff pastry with a fork in the tart pan and prebake 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, toss together the zucchini, feta, basil, lemon juice, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste and lay out in the tart pan. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Let cool a few minutes before serving.