Saturday, September 8, 2007

Quote of the Week: From Michael Perry's "Truck"

One of the best books I've read this year is Michael Perry's Truck: A Love Story, described in a cover blurb from USA Today as "a delightful, quirky account of a year in a mid-American life spent restoring a 1951 International Harvester, cultivating a garden, and falling in love." Perry lives in New Auburn, Wisconsin, and, after years of writing for magazines (some of his articles and essays -- which I'd call a mixed bunch -- have been collected in volumes such as Big Rigs, Elvis & the Grand Dragon Wayne and Off Main Street), he made a decent splash in 2002 with his book Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, which I also loved. I like Perry best when he loses the verbal attitude that was probably a requirement for some of the magazine pieces, and writes compellingly -- sometimes hilariously, often with a sense of the sacred -- about small-town life.

My quote of the week comes from a passage in which Perry gathers herbs and green onions from his struggling garden, chops them with lots of garlic, mixes in olive oil, red wine, and lime or lemon juice, and after letting the mixture sit at room temperate until lunchtime adds fresh-ground black pepper and grated parmesan. He calls this bruschetta, but serves it stirred into angel-hair pasta, rather than atop the traditional grilled or toasted slices of crusty bread, so perhaps we might consider it more a mixed-herb pesto. An edited version of the rest of this passage appears in my sidebar; here's a slightly fuller version:
I eat in my favorite spot, the big green chair in the living room beside the bookcase with a view through the screen to Main Street. I can't imagine a finer moment than to be here in this old chair with this fresh alive food in my lap, all the greenness and the garlic and the sounds of the day easing through the screen on the back of a breeze. ... There is something about listening to a day through a screen that infuses the moment, as if the steel mesh slows the day down, lets us bathe in it a bit more. A screen seems to filter the harshness from the outside noises and they reach your ear softened. It will be best if the sound is coming to you over a varnished wooden floor decorated with a strip of sunlight; the flat surface, however artificially imposed, is reassuring in the face of entropy and has the added advantage of being made from trees and blessed by light. It is exquisite to sit here in this perfect moment, eating food that I -- a black-thumb gardener -- have coaxed from seed to fork. I am humbled that in the face of all chaos, I should have this plain, priceless moment.

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