June 30, 2013

On all things liminal and pale in hue

I took a drive a few days ago to the Marin Headlands to do some photographing. It’s an old, favorite place of mine. I had a studio in those parts for a year, three years ago.

When I drive out to the Headlands, especially when I am by myself, I have the distinct impression of visiting an old friend. I feel like I’ve gone back in time—like I get to, for a little while, repossess the self that I was when I used to drive there often. On Tuesday, I drove out to the Headlands because of the fog. Sitting in my office in San Francisco, watching the rain come down in short unconvincing bursts, I knew there would be clouds and thick fog just over the bridge. I left work early.

Sometimes you just have to do that.

I have never experienced fog like I have here anywhere else in the world. There is only one other place where I’ve encountered something that even comes close, and that’s in the pages of an essay by Loren Eiseley—an imagined, rather than lived, experience. Fog is liminal and indiscernible. It is a sort of in between place. To go into it means to lose all sense of space and context; to lose, for however briefly, a sense of time.

Lately, this seems to suit my mood.

The artist Roni Horn said: “…talking about the weather is talking about oneself… with each passing day, the weather increasingly becomes ours, if not us.”

The Headlands in the fog is profoundly quiet. You can park, dead center, in the middle of the road, and there will be no one around to notice. You can be, as I am trying to say, totally alone. The fog ensures that not even the view-scape can intrude on you too greatly. Vision is limited; all seeing is on the threshold of becoming.

When I returned home late that evening tired and ravenous, I made avgolemono soup. It was warming and delicate and just right. You take nothing more than eggs and lemon and whip them into chicken broth. In a matter of mere moments, your broth will turn the most beautiful pale color, white leaning toward golden. The egg and lemon base is tangy and complex. The whole process takes all of 15 minutes, making it something that you really can throw together for a late-night dinner when you are exhausted and hungry.

This is soup, but in a sort of liminal way. And because it’s light and lemony, it’s something that you could eat, really, in any season.

Avgolemono Soup with Chicken and Orzo 
Recipe via Dinner: A Love Story 

Notes: One of the key things about this soup that makes it so appealing is the speed at which it comes together, particularly if you have all the ingredients on hand. Most items are pantry ingredients, with the exception of the dill and the rotisserie chicken. Plan on 15 minutes at most.

You could replace the orzo with cooked white rice (my Mom’s preferred method); just add the rice to the broth to warm it before adding the egg mixture.

4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup orzo, uncooked
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Fresh dill
Rotisserie chicken, shredded (optional)

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat down to medium, and slowly add the orzo. Stir it once or twice, and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. The pasta will not be completely tender at this point.

While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice in a medium bowl until light and frothy. Then, while still whisking, add a ladleful or two of the hot broth in a slow stream to temper the egg mixture.

Pour the egg mixture into the pot of broth and orzo, whisking to incorporate. Stir until the soup thickens slightly and the egg is cooked, about 2-3 minutes. (There is a point at which the soup thickens slightly but has not yet begun to separate—that is what you want here. If it does separate a little, don’t worry, it’ll still be delicious.) Shred a handful of fresh dill into the soup, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the shredded rotisserie chicken. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with more dill, if you like. 


  1. Dreamlike and evocative. And delicious.