Thursday, May 12, 2016

Guest Essay: Spring, That In-Between Season

Sasha Davies is a cheesemonger, restaurateur and co-owner with her husband, Michael Claypool, of Cyril's at Clay Pigeon Winery. She's also a fine writer, having authored two books on cheese, The Guide to West Coast Cheese and the Cheesemakers Apprentice. Her newsletter for May struck a chord with me, as I hope it will with you.

Liminal: (adj.) Of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

You have all experienced liminal time, the kind where you're somewhere between a Here and a There. This can be very much a matter of logistics, like being on an airplane, or slightly less well defined like the time between making a decision (to move, take a job, have a baby, take a trip, quit a job, commit to/end a relationship) and the first moment where it feels like that decision is manifesting in the world.

Liminal times can be tense (picture yourself straddling a fence) and uncertain—filled with anxiety about what's coming—they can also be times of great release and letting go, or leaning into a spot of blank space.

The liminal nature of May—the month—is something I feel every year here in Portland, and I can see it play out in our kitchen at Cyril's; I sense that the rules of Here (spring) and There (summer) are malleable. This feels somewhat liberating.

Part of this could be because I grew up in California, where May felt much more like the beginning of summer than the midst of spring. When I moved here eight years ago (in April) and didn't see the sun on a regular basis until July 5th, my idea of spring got entirely rearranged. The early warmth and sunshine this year has shattered my ideas about May yet again.

Personally, I find this time of year to be one of the more challenging of the seasonal transitions. While I do find the green shoots and kaleidescope of blossoms utterly delightful, there is a quickening up that I find myself resisting. In subtle ways I cling to the last bits of slowness left over from our winter habits.

There is an overarching theme of freedom we feel about summer, the season we're barreling toward, and yet in the kitchen—and in my life—sometimes I feel there is a certain pressure about it as well, an unspoken demand that one engages in that time of year with a particular vigor. This is precisely the kind of thing that makes me anxious—you know, because what if I'm tired and I feel like staying inside?

At Cyril's we are doing our best to embrace the liminal nature of now both in terms of what is available at the market and what our guests are interested in eating. The menu feels like a bit of a moving target but somehow this pop of early warmth in the weather has meant a larger overlap of the seasons in terms of ingredients. We only just said farewell to sweet potatoes and risotto and have now created our first salad with lettuce in a starring role.

Photos courtesy Cyril's at Clay Pigeon Winery.

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