Seasons by the Sea: The Beautiful Basics

I am better and more confident at cooking with limited equipment and pared down supplies

    I have now had my little camp at Lazy Point for five years. Five years, long enough for the clams in my secret clam bed to mature and become sustenance. Long enough for me to learn what I need and don’t need to make time spent out there worthwhile, restorative, contemplative.

    When I first took possession of my 9-by-17-foot box, I felt compelled to outfit it with lots of candles, some cool pictures for the walls, enough outfits to suit any occasion that might pop up (really?!), way too many First Aid items, and enough fragrant creams and emollients to stock White’s Pharmacy.

    My thinking while buying food supplies took on a panicky mode: “Whoa, don’t wanna get stuck out there without Milano cookies or shredded Mexican taco cheese!” I don’t even eat that stuff, so why did I feel compelled to stockpile it? It’s not like the I.G.A. is that far away. But once I am settled in, I like knowing that I can go several days without getting back in the car, communicating via technology, knowing what’s going on in the world, and hearing sounds other than the water, birds, and occasional fishermen.

    One thing I have learned: If a woman like me were allowed to stockpile a survivalist bunker, my fellow bunker mates would have super soft skin and be well fed on useless carbohydrates.

    Here is something I find truly remarkable: On one of the most beautiful late August Saturdays, I never saw a single soul at Lazy Point. It is that preserved, special, remote.

    When I first moved in, there was a rooster nearby that felt compelled to crow at all hours of the day or night. One neighbor had a beagle that bayed at the wind, the mosquitoes, parasailors, the tides. Both are gone. It is even quieter now.

    I am better and more confident at cooking with limited equipment and pared down supplies. I have learned that my 12-inch cast iron skillet and one big stock pot can pretty much perform any necessary culinary tasks. I have brazenly added a Dutch oven to my arsenal because, quite often, baking something mid-day for the evening meal means I won’t overheat my tiny wooden box of a shelter. I have learned that I am a useless fisherwoman, but then again, I see plenty of expert fishermen show up for a few hours, cast, chat, and leave empty-handed (empty-hooked?).

    At the beginning, I made a few mistakes. Like discovering I had no can opener when it was time to make a tuna fish sandwich. Or realizing that I had no spatula at the very moment it was time to flip some fragile fluke filets. You try doing that with two butter knives.

    I have been there long enough to get to know the rhythms of my neighbors. One couple shows up at the same time every afternoon for a dip. They walk down from their cottage to swim in front of my shack because it is a somewhat protected area, across from Hick’s Island, with a Lilliputian sandy beach. I am always at the ready in my bathing suit when they arrive, although I pretend I just happened to be taking a dip at the same time. Sometimes it is nice to have company.

    A few days ago, a group of men pulled up in several trucks and a Jeep. One of them was in a wheelchair. They pulled the Jeep up as close to the water as they could, assisted him out, and set him up in a chair on the sand with his fishing rod. Much jollity ensued. Guffaws, shouts, lager! This sight was as beautiful as the morning’s egrets tiptoeing and poking along the shore. No fish were caught, but it was easy to tell it was a fine time for these friends.

    There is a land art installation on a remote plateau in New Mexico called “The Lightning Field.” It is a series of tall steel poles arranged in a 1-mile-by-1-kilometer rectangle. The artist Walter De Maria intended for the installation to be viewed over a 24-hour period. As the sun rises, pauses overhead at midday, and then sets, the steel poles turn pink, virtually disappear, then reappear looking completely different. David Ulin, writing about “The Lightning Field” for New Yorker magazine, described it as a “narrative which unfolds not as a fixed encounter but rather as something that gets inside us in a more sequential way.” This is how I have come to feel about Lazy Point. From the sunrise over the harbor to sunset over the bay, it just gets inside you.

    I have also taken to heart Carl Safina’s words from his book “The View From Lazy Point.” He describes venturing out “looking for nothing in particular, a strategy that has fueled many a discovery.”

    These past five years at Lazy Point have had a profound effect on me. My silly supplies at the beginning have been whittled down to almost nothing. My cooking supplies, equipment, and ingredients, however, have actually grown, but in a streamlined, efficient way. Gone are the creams and emollients and outfit for that possible invitation to . . . what? One book at a time is enough for late night entertainment. One CD, Buena Vista Social Club, plays over and over in my boombox. Yeah, you heard me, boombox! I have even run out of mosquito repellant. The less I have, the more I realize how little I need.

    One thing I have learned is that using pre-blended spice mixes saves time, not to mention space in the one small cabinet. Therefore I keep a jar of Montreal steak seasoning (a mixture of herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper), and a jar of Italian seasoning. Fresh citrus fruits last a long time so they are always in the fridge, ready to enhance chicken, Greek potatoes, cocktails, salad dressings.

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