Sunday, April 7, 2013
Heat and Dust (and Rain) (and Cheese)
Summer returned to the Sandlands this weekend. It does so, of course, every year, generally in April, but it decided to do so in more dramatic fashion than usual this time around.
Normally, you see, I realize that our far-too-short cool season has ended when, one weekend morning, I have to finally shut the windows and rev up the aircon by 8:00 a.m. or so. This weekend, instead, we had a two-day dust storm of Griffithische proportions. The above actually does give one an excellent impression of the expression on my face when I was foolish enough to open an upstairs window Friday around sunset and got a full-on blast of the nastiest, wettest, hottest air I'd felt since, well, last November when the hell-weather finally broke.
Since then, the barometer has been all over the place, reminding me of an especially schizophrenic version of how it would behave in my Great Lakes childhood just before a storm came down from Canada - except this has gone on for something like three days, the air growing ever dustier, clammier, more ominous. Finally, last night at sunset, while Mr. Muscato and I were sitting in the kitchen having an-I-must-say rather successful supper (I got How to Cook Anything for Christmas, and recommend it highly), we heard what at first sounded like a distant explosion. Thunder is rare enough in these parts that it actually took three or four peals before it really registered. Then, to steal a phrase from nigh-forgotten novelist Louis Bromfield, The Rains Came.
Rain is a rare phenomenon in the Sandlands; we may get a sprinkling three or four days a year, but it can easily be years between downpours of the kind we had last evening, and then again overnight, and then again this morning. Usually, rain is a blessing, cleaning the air and taking some of the dust off the roofs and everywhere else it implacably lodges. People drive even more insanely than usual, true, but for a day or two at least the air is clear. This time, though, somehow the sandstorm managed to continue in between the rains and even, it seemed, sometimes during them. As a result, the city looks as if it were caked, randomly, in badly mixed and quixotically poured concrete. My poor little car, crouching in the adequate shelter of our carport, gives the appearance of having been abandoned for months, and we won't be able to look out the windows at work for weeks, until the next cleaning.
One upside of the bad weather, however, is that it gave Mr. Muscato an opportunity to indulge in his latest hobby. Yes, dear readers, it's true: I now live with a man who makes his own cheese. This has been going on for several weeks now, and I have to admit he's getting quite good at a kind of ricotta of various kinds, most recently venturing out into assorted flavors (of this weekend's batches, one, a black-pepper-curry mix, was a definite success. Alas, the second, a daring - some might say reckless - experiment in mandarin-orange zest and chili, was less so). I used one batch last week to make a bang-up cannelloni, and we've taken to having the occasional cracker with his creamy version and a dab of homemade strawberry-tomato jam. Every once in a while I look at the man I met ten years ago, who quite literally had never boiled water, and think who are you?
Mind you, I'm not complaining. At least about anything but the weather. This evening, as the weekend's odd confluence of storms goes on to plague areas south of us, it's left behind the heavy, wet air that feels all too familiar, and while it's not yet really hot, we know all too well that summer is here to stay. This year, though, at least we have the consolation of knowing we'll be well out of it by midsummer, if all goes as planned. I look forward to seeing what the Mister will accomplish in the kitchen when given free rein at a Whole Foods...