It's an early summer evening. A hazy warmth lingers in the last, receding rays of sunlight. You go to a farmer's market that's just begun, near your house, and gaze upon buckets of twisted asparagus, bouquets of calla lilies, boxes of shining globes that are tomatoes. There are rabbit-sized heads of lettuce and strawberries no larger than a pebble. You choose a bundle of precious magenta jewels - beetroots, complete with wild, voluminous greens.
At home, you split your treasure from its stalks and gently scrub each scraggly root. Tightly ensconced in tin foil, with a smattering of water, they go into a blazing oven, set at 400 F.
There's still some time before they turn tender, so you hop on your bike and head to a little charcuterie that stocks wedges of crackled, crystallized Parmesan and rounds of oozing, chalky-white triple-cremes. Testing its heft, you lift each cheese to your nose and pause for a sniff. Some are strong and pungent (of dank cellar perhaps?) and others are mild and sweet. It is easy to imagine soft, doe-eyed cows, bells dangling, chewing grass unaffectedly with a vista of craggy, snow-weathered peaks looming high behind their alpine meadow. In the end, you splurge for an exorbitantly priced pyramid of a goat cheese, from France, smudged with grey ash.
Back to the beets - a knife slides smoothly into their crimsoned flesh so you gingerly slip the skins off each. With scarlet hands the roots are cut into rugged chunks before being tossed, still warm and bleeding, with a pucker of red wine vinegar and a crumble of salt. In a heavy, cast-iron skillet you layer the rinsed beet greens with a glass of water. Soon it begins to bubble furiously and you swish the rapidly wilting greens about until the skillet is dry. You mix them with the glistening beetroots and all that's left to do is slice some country bead, a hard-boiled egg you spotted in the fridge, and, of course, your splendid goat cheese.
You set the weathered wooden table outside with a jug of pale blue flowers, a pure white platter, a pat of butter, a saucer of salt. You sit and even though you are in the shade it is warm. You are warm. Your supper is cool and light, like the evening, like the now-becoming night. The bread is so happy with butter that you don't even need salt, and the egg, though glimmering with golden yolk, pales in comparison to deep, dark beetroots. With each stab of vermilion root, each tangle of silky green, each smudge of now-stained cheese you think - this dense tang, this minerally twist, this sweet sink, is about as transcendent as it's going to get.
Oh Nigel Slater, as always.