There is a time of day when Provincetown becomes magical. As the sun sets behind the town’s houses and gradually changes colors, it illuminates the harbor. The water, dotted with little boats, becomes a palate of teal blue and tangerine orange, while the sky goes from bubblegum pink to ruby red before letting darkness take over. When you are standing on the deck of a restaurant or a bar, or walking along the cool sand, and watching this live painting take shape in front of your eyes, you understand why so many painters and other artists have flocked to this little enclave for decades. Resting at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown has beckoned to everyone from Eugene O’Neill to Jackson Pollock to Michael Cunningham and they have found inspiration here to produce some of the best work.
For decades, Provincetown has been called an “artist colony”, which for a long time also served as a veiled euphemism for what Ptown (as it’s also know) really is: a gay town. This is a place where gay men and women have felt safe and welcome even before they did so anywhere else in the country. It’s a town where couples of same sex (as well as couples of opposite sex) can display affection publicly without any reproach or fear of being attacked. Where drag queens are a constant sight on the main street that runs along the town and families with children will be eating lunch next to a group of leather-clad bears like it’s an everyday occurrence.
Provincetown is one of my favorite places on earth. That’s where we spent a week this August, as our last summer vacation before the beginning of the fall and work taking over. It was, as always, a wonderfully relaxing, yet exciting six days, doing nothing but walking around, eating and drinking, and enjoying the beauty of the town (as well as dancing for two hours to nothing by Madonna music at the famous Boat Slip tea dance on a Wednesday afternoon).
It’s never easy to say goodbye to summer. It makes me understand why people pack up and move to Los Angeles or Florida. But I try to remind myself that even after Labor Day is gone, we’ll have weeks of beautiful weather that’s even better than some of the unbearably hot days in August. And to stay in a summer mood, we’ll eat “summery” foods, like this farro salad that I first tasted when our friend Greg made it while we were on Fire Island (another “artist colony”) for a weekend earlier this summer. I loved it so much, that we’ve already had it at least four more times in the last couple of months. It’s incredibly flavorful and the chewy farro and crunchy pistachios give it a substance that makes it sufficient as a dinner main dish. Take advantage of the late season basil and make this today. I plan to make it year round, substituting what’s out of season with something that is. And when I eat it, I will think of next summer when I’ll be back at Provincetown, watching the sunset.
Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad – Slightly adapted from the New York Times
Note: For a vegan version, omit the parmesan cheese or substitute it with vegan cheese or some nutritional yeast.
1 cup farro
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
2 bay leaves
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
70 grams Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 1/2 cup)
70 grams chopped pistachio nuts (about 1/2 cup)
2 cups arugula leaves
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup mint leaves
¾ cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
⅓ cup thinly sliced radish
Maldon or other flaky sea salt, for finishing
In a medium saucepan, bring farro, apple cider, salt, bay leaves and 2 cups water to a simmer. Simmer until farro is tender, about 30 minutes. If all the liquid evaporates before the farro is done, add more water. Let farro cool, then discard bay leaves.
In a salad bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Add arugula, herbs, tomatoes, and radish and toss well. Add cheese and pistachio nuts and toss lightly. Sprinkle flaky salt to taste and serve immediately.