Last fall we bought a cabin from a lovely couple who moved to Gilmanton, New Hampshire to raise alpacas. They bought a 1756 farm house previously owned by Grace Metalious, author of the Peyton Place books. Today we visited them at their new home to help with their barn-raising.
My husband, a civil rights attorney with a yearning to be a builder, had the time of his life. It made me happy just to see even from afar how much enjoyment and satisfaction he was deriving from the work on the barn. Watching an idea become a finished product through the work of one's hands is a blessed experience, even more so when a small community of hard-working friends comes together in trust, commitment to excellence, generosity, and good will to make the dream a reality. I think participation in a barn-raising should be required for business employees, students, and physicians!
Though some women helped with the construction and one of the men helped with the cooking, for the most part we fell into stereotypical gender roles, and LIKED it that way I might add, with the men performing most of the hard labor and the women providing food and drink, keeping an eye on the children, and engaging in some warm conversations over tea or coffee. By midday the "progress" in the work-in-progress was visible.
Today's work was a true labor of love for our friend, who was building the barn for his wife's alpacas. We had the chance to visit a neighboring alpaca farm after lunch. I have found my new favorite animal. My encounter with them was such an unexpected blend of warmth and mystery. Alpacas are cute and gentle, guardedly friendly, with an adorable "humming" vocalization that is much more pleasant than bleating, baa-ing, or mooing. What surprised me, though, was an otherworldly, almost mystical aura about them. I can't explain it, but they exude something really tranquil, an almost palpable serenity. Their presence is somehow actively calming, as if they carry some of the blessing power of Macchu Picchu in their gaze. My children and I felt an immediate affection for them.
I visited one website that defined the word "cria" as an unweaned camelid baby, from an old Spanish word for "create." I seem to recall my parents calling my cousins and me "los crios" when we were kids. Creation, creativity, childlike freshness - I like the suggestion of all these in the word cria.
We spent the rest of the afternoon back at the barn raising, thankful that the predicted thunderstorms seemed to be holding off. The cloud cover and cool temperature were ideal, in fact, for construction work. Afterward the four of us drove twenty minutes home to our beloved cabin, ate a light but yummy supper of homemade pasta puttanesca, and played a rollicking game of Ouistiti, a card game passed down in my husband's family which has some similarities to Hearts and to French Tarot (but is much simpler and faster-paced than the latter). All in all a wonderful Saturday.
Pasta Puttanesca for Four
(How can stirring together a bunch of ingredients I don't particularly care for individually result in a sauce we enjoy so much...?!)
¼ c olive oil
6 minced garlic cloves
1 huge Vidalia onion (or 2 medium regular onions), chopped
6 oz can of tomato paste + equal volume of water
1 28-oz can peeled plum tomatoes in puree
1 can medium pitted black olives (dry wt = 6oz), drained & halved
1 tin of rolled anchovy filets w/ capers, minced finely
1 3.5oz jar of capers
2-3 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
sprinkling of black pepper
several shakes of dried basil, oregano, & parsley
Heat olive oil.
Sauté garlic & onion 10 min.
Add tomato paste, water, & plum tomatoes (reserving some puree).
Stir & cook 3-4 min.
Add olives, capers, dried herbs, & seasonings; heat & stir.
Add minced anchovies & some tomato puree for volume. Stir.
Stir & simmer till heated through.
Cook 12 oz of your favorite pasta – tricolor rotelli, penne, linguini, etc. – & serve w/ sauce (either mixed in or on the side).