Tag Archives: Lament by Edna St. Vincent Millay

When the Going Gets Tough, I Bake a Tart

These days, a girl’s got to get creative in order to balance the scales. (I suppose this applies to guys too, but I can’t speak for them.)

The world news is getting more overwhelming by the day. Positively – or should I say, negatively? – apocalyptic. Straight out of the Book of Revelation, if you ask me. Famines and pestilences. Raging wildfires. Life-threatening, record-breaking hurricanes. Great swaths of gullible folks believing the bold-faced lies of a power-drunk president…

Oh, and I mustn’t forget to mention the worldwide plague. To date in 2020 the novel coronavirus pandemic has taken the lives of more than 180,000 Americans and about 832,000 people across the globe, and it shows scant hope of abating.

If you happen to be a thinking, feeling, sensitive soul who’s not on mind-dulling drugs, all of this can pull you down. Proposed remedies by well meaning pundits sound to me like little more than efforts to, as they say, rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.


I’m reminded of one of the many poems I memorized in high school. This one, “Lament,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, reads in part:

Listen, children:

Your father is dead.

From his old coats

I’ll make you little jackets;

I’ll make you little trousers

From his old pants. …

Life must go on,

And the dead be forgotten;

Life must go on,

Though good men die;

Anne, eat your breakfast;

Dan, take your medicine;

Life must go on;

I forget just why.

Gloomy, isn’t it? Well, we must find ways to, as the Brits say, “pull up our socks” in times like these.

For me, especially lately, I’ve been baking pretty tarts and sharing the finished results with others. This may sound silly, but it really works. The sense of satisfaction and accomplishment I get from this creative effort helps to balance me. It grounds me.

Earlier this week I baked a peach galette and shared it with my neighbors:

Then yesterday I baked a savory asparagus tart to bring to a small, socially distanced cocktail party in my apartment building:

I can’t pretend to have answers to the world’s huge problems, of course. But I can suggest this one helpful little thing we as individuals might do:

Step away from the cold, soulless, screen-faced messenger (TV or computer) that brings all this disturbing news. Stroll into your kitchen. Make some dough. Feel its silkiness under your hands as you roll it out. Fill it with fresh fruit (or whatever you like). Watch it as it bakes (if your oven has a window in its door, as mine has). Inhale its intoxicating baking fragrance. Offer it up, like a sacrament, to your dear ones. Watch their eyes widen and listen for their appreciative ooooohs and ahhhhhs. Then taste the slice you’ve saved for yourself:

Think before you swallow: This is good. I am alive. Though I forget just why.

~ ~ ~

My forthcoming book, Sweet Tarts for My Sweethearts (Nighthawk Press, September 2020), contains recipes for fruit galettes and many other sweet tarts but none for savory tarts. So here you go — the Asparagus Tart recipe:

Asparagus and Parmesan Tart

* Roll out a sheet of purchased puff pastry to a 10 x 16-inch rectangle.

* Transfer pastry to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready.

* Preheat oven to 450 F. degrees.

* Sauté one minced shallot in 1 tablespoon of olive oil about one minute.

* Add tender asparagus spears (1 pound, ends trimmed, and cut into 4-inch pieces) and cook over medium heat until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes, shaking the pan frequently to keep them from sticking. Remove from heat.

* Evenly spread ½ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese over the chilled puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border all around.

* Spoon the asparagus evenly over the ricotta and sprinkle all with ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season with ½ teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

* Brush the edges of the tart with an egg wash (one egg yolk whisked with 1 teaspoon of water). Bake 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

* Cut into 8 (or more) pieces, then share it.