You know that friend who doesn’t finish your sentences but looks at you as if she could, who sends you a card on your child’s first birthday, who drives 45 minutes for lunch with you, who always says ‘yes, you could do that! I believe in you?’ That’s Anne.
When I first met Anne, we were in our mutual friend’s urban edible garden at a seed swap party. She seemed quiet, fond, as if she were on the way somewhere.
When I next met Anne, it was at that same friend’s Beltane party. We arrived late, a little tipsy (boys) and excitable (me). Everyone was hushed and mainly under rugs as we added our cluster of herbs to the shared pot and whispered our desires.
The third time I met Anne, we were at her parents’ coastal farm, trying to persuade them to sell us a patch that we could reforest. What we wanted didn’t quite match what they were willing to release but we left, after dinner, wine and good conversation, with friends for life.
This is the friend whose car I have been using the past few weeks while she is overseas and when I went to collect it, down the gravel track past the river mouth and up the long eucalyptus lined driveway, there on the dash was a board book for Sol. One I know Anne must have been read as a child, because that’s the kind of gift she gives. Herself, her memories, her dreams, her losses, her grief, her artistry, her trust.
After a while we registered that we were both writing books. I’m writing a novel, said Anne. Me too! Well what’s yours about? asked Anne. Mine has a whale in it. Me too. It’s partly set at sea. Mine too! It’s a confusing love story. Yes! With a… A BABY. So we are also writing the same book.
Anne lives further South of the city than me in a house her parents built. It’s a big colourful clean brain of a house filled with art and sculptures her father collected. With great drapeless windows like wide open eyes looking out over the paddocks and sloping cliff tops to the rugged wash of Akatore waters.
On a windy diagonal rain day last month, we drove down to enjoy pumpkin soup, ricotta and spinach skillet frittata and this pear tart for dessert.
While we chatted over the nicely narrow table, Sol scooted round the wooden floor pulling at red flowers and deer antlers and being radiant in all the colour and light that surrounded her.
When I can’t think of what to write, I open an email and write Dear Anne.
When I can’t think who will understand, I thank all the forces that brought me to Anne.
Here’s the recipe:
1 pack of puff pastry (I used gluten free)
3 smallish or 2 usual sized ripe pears
2 tbsp rice malt syrup
a pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp ground almonds
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest and some curls of lemon zest to top
Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Roll out your pastry and trim the edges so you have a fairly neat rectangle. Peel, core and finely slice the pears and arrange them in over lapping slices making two or three vertical rows down the pastry. Leave an edge so the pastry can puff up.
Melt the rice malt syrup in a pan over a gentle heat and add a pinch of salt.
Drizzle or paint the rice malt syrup onto the pears using a pastry brush so all the pears are covered.
Bake for about 25 minutes. Keep checking and when the pastry is browned on the edges and the syrup is bubbling a little, the tart is ready.
Leave on the baking sheet to cool a little and then transfer to a wire rack. Mix the ground almonds with the lemon zest and sprinkle over the top. Slice into rectangles and decorate with a few curls of lemon zest.