The omelette who bought us a house

No matter how many times I took it out, Epiphania always gave the same sad answer in her lilting, Italian accent: “No, you can’t buy this! The house is not on the market! “

I knew the instant we walked into the Connecticut farm that this was the place for us. Initially, we were looking for a place to rent because my husband, Bob, had been offered the direction of a nearby museum. Our plan was to get to know the area and eventually buy a seat. This would mean a long trip back to the Hudson Valley for me, but this was a fantastic new opportunity for him. Even though we were just there to consider renting the house, in those early moments in Grandma’s kitchen, with its tiny apple wallpaper and vintage wood stove, I got a weird feeling that that was it. our place.

A few weeks later, at the signing of the rent around the dining room table, after all the real estate agents had left, Epi, as she is called, offered us a slice of pear pie, made from the fruits of a tree. woven into a pergola on the back deck. Taking a bite, and recognizing the flavor, she asked her if it was Marcella Hazan’s famous recipe, to which she replied, “No”. Then, quickly, “YES! Yes, it is … I’ll have to tell him! ” Having spent weekends and summers here for more than 30 years, she Epi had rented her house for a few years and lived in New York City, where she had known and known her. I had made Hazan’s cake myself many times. It seemed like another sign that we were in the right place.

Before long, it was very evident that Bob’s new job was perfect, so we put our Hudson Valley home on the market. Sensing that this was the way things were developing, every time I spoke to Epi, I mentioned how much we love the house and asked her if she would consider selling, but her response never varied.

“No, it’s not on the market. It is not for sale!”

Even as she repeated it, deep down, I knew something she still didn’t understand: we belonged to this house. The last year I lived there has only deepened my feeling that this was the home for us.

Having tasted the sweet ether of equity with our first home, we couldn’t wait to stop paying the rent and get back to owning something. Once we got an offer for our Hudson Valley home, we started looking seriously for a place in Connecticut. We saw many houses, some ok, but none compared to the Epi farm. If you stand at the farmhouse sink and look out the window you can see that pear tree in the pergola, a deep courtyard with a variety of trees and shrubs, an old stone barn, a lawn and, finally, distant hills. None of the views from any of the other houses could offer even half of this happy distraction.

The pear tree from the Goshen farm.
The pear tree from the Goshen farm.

Photo by Gary Schiro

As our house hunt continued, I kept Epi informed of our constant research hoping this would somehow get her to change her mind, but it never worked.

The closing date had been set for our old home and we had to renew our lease. Epi said he might meet us to discuss details on a November weekend when he was visiting his daughter, who lives nearby. We settled in for a Sunday afternoon and, hoping to soften his resolve, I offered to make a simple lunch.

Whenever I offer a meal, I always try to figure out what can be done in advance and for a light lunch I decided the omelette would be perfect. Growing up, the omelette was one of the dishes my mom relied on to stretch the budget to feed our family of six. Once I had my own kitchen, it was one of the dishes I could rely on to feed a crowd on the cheap. Now, his frequent appearance at the table is more a matter of how much I like.

My favorite combination is the one I chose to make for Epi: a mix of bitter greens, sauteed potatoes and spicy cheese. This time around, however, it seemed like the stakes were very high. This woman knows Marcella Hazan! She would surely know if my lunch wasn’t up to par.

I’ve never paid more attention to completing an omelette. I squeezed every drop of moisture from those spinach. I stroked those potatoes so they didn’t darken. I diced the fontina cheese so that it was the perfect size to melt into sharp and salty surprises. I cooked everything over a very low heat, turning it in half so that it was cooked evenly. I carefully slipped it onto a cooling rack so the moisture didn’t moisten the bottom. I took out my best omelette and set the table.

Epi arrived in time for our midday showdown. Unfortunately, Bob had to work that morning and was delayed so we were forced to chat around the kitchen table. Even though we didn’t see each other face to face on the house, it was clear that we loved each other. I suggested they go ahead and eat, but he insisted he didn’t want anything. It seemed that his only desire for him was to finish the negotiations and go his way. But we waited so long for Bob – the aromas of the omelette spreading from the tray onto the table – that once he arrived, he finally agreed to eat a slice. At that point, it was the perfect temperature. While you can enjoy a hot, lukewarm, or cold omelette, I think it’s really best when just lukewarm. All flavors emerge and are in their most harmonious form.

I saw her take her first bite. She looked surprised, then pleased. Then she finished the slice I gave her. And she allowed me to give her a little more.

After agreeing the terms of the rent, I made a final proposal for the purchase of the house. Again, she wouldn’t move. I was sorry that our house hunt would have to continue.

The next day, however, I received an email from him summarizing our discussion, and to my surprise, he finally wrote that we could review the discussion on a possible sale in March. It was the first time she seemed remotely open to the idea.

Photo by Gary Schiro

My opening salvo to sweeten the deal was to offer to keep her belongings in the adjacent barn for a year to give her more time to make plans. In the end, after so much complicated back and forth, we came to an agreement. We couldn’t believe it when we signed the contract that made the farm ours. Bob always joked that it was my omelette that closed the deal, but I always laughed out loud until she came to retrieve his furniture.

Epi returned a year later, with a rented truck and some laborers to help her. Mostly I left them alone while they cleared the barn. I couldn’t wait to turn it into a summer kitchen.

At the end of the day, as the truck set off, he knocked on the kitchen door to say hello. I accompanied her to her car, where we were alone for a few moments.

He looked at the new fence we had installed along the road between the large maples. “Are they roses?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Hopefully they will eventually climb along the fence.”

She nodded approvingly.

Adjacent to the driveway, there is a door in the basement and two narrow eight-paned windows that date back to the original construction in 1785. They had been painted a very gray gray. As they are the first details you see when you arrive at the house, we have painted them a pale blue-green, which contrasts nicely with the stone lintels that surround them.

“I like this color here,” he said.

Then he turned to me: “You know I didn’t intend to sell you this house. But I knew you liked it … and you made me that omelette …” he said, waving a finger in my direction.

He took one last turn, looking at everything, and just before heading to his car, he looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve found the right people for this house.”

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