A day late and a dollar short, but…Happy Mother’s Day anyway!
My mother is, without doubt, the most bestest mama I’ve ever met. She’s five feet tall, 100 pounds, and the purest example I know of the Mexican jumping bean in human form. She’s always moving, always doing, always thinking and wondering and checking up on business. She’s a bottomless well of unconditional love and nurture, mixed with a healthy dose of clear-eyed practicality. She’s endearingly, sometimes cringe-inducingly silly; she will regularly crack herself up to tears before even reaching the punch line of a joke. And she’s the only woman I know who has never given her firstborn child grief for the horrific length of time she spent in labor with her. (Sorry, Mom. I hope it was worth it.)
So of course, when Mother’s Day came around, I jumped at the chance to cook for her. I’ve written before about my impulse to shower people with love in the form of food. So I made dinner.
And, if I may say so, I knocked it out of the park.
You know what? It’s spring. The air is soft and downy, shot through with veins of light and blossom scent. The sky is bottomless blue, the kind of super-saturated color that makes my teeth ache (no, really). The market stalls are overflowing with bright clamoring produce, so fresh and blink-you’ll-miss-it-seasonal that it’s tempting to bring home bagfuls and just eat it, unadorned.
This is the season when I start to lose patience with fuss. In the winter, I’m perfectly content to hone my kitchen-sink cooking and practice all manner of fancy flourishes. But when the clouds break and the temperatures climb, I want something different altogether. I want fresh, and simple, and clean. I want to really taste spring in my food.
It’s such a shameful cliche to say it’s all in the details. But cliches achieve their status for a reason: they’re most often true.
Back in college, I took pride in my lack of detail-orientedness. (Detail-orientation?) I was practically detail-averse. I’m an artist, I said. I don’t have brain-space for such things. But somewhere in the transition to the working world, something happened. I became…organized. I began obsessing over minutiae. I started color-coding things.
Well, maybe organized isn’t the right word. My bedroom floor is still blanketed with clothing, and my desk at work is shingled willy-nilly with paper. And truth is, I’ve always been a perfectionist of the highest order; I just didn’t always know which details to tweak to catapult my projects ever-closer to perfection. But now I’m figuring these things out. I’m zeroing in on the little things. I’m learning.
Which brings me to pesto.
Do you ever have the kind of workweek where you go in expecting to have an easy-breezy time, and instead your office is handed a bomb with a sizzling fuse? Where your boss was supposed to be on vacation, but instead has to come back to defuse said bomb, and his frantic, disappointed aura sours everyone’s mood? Where you spend days on end combing through the haystack that is Google, looking for needles that may or may not exist? Where, to add insult to injury, the sky is gemstone-blue and the air is perfumed with fruit blossoms and the sun is high and bright for the first time so far this year, and you’re stuck indoors for all of it? Where you come home every night tasting sleep in your mouth, wishing to somehow melt your corporeal self into your mattress and lose consciousness for a million years?
Yeah. That was my week.
I’ve had no spare energy left for creativity. Which is a shame, because I had a really fabulous time cooking with friends over the weekend, and I’ve completely run out of words to describe it. I’ll try, though.
Okay, let’s be honest. Valentine’s Day is a marketer’s dream. Red, pink, chocolate, hearts, Cupids with chubby dimpled buttocks–it’s all very sweet, and entirely manufactured. I’ve long been a cynic about Valentine’s Day, far more so than about any of the other Hallmark Holidays. For me, the real magic comes the day after, when chocolate goes on sale.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something inherently lovely in the day. Showing loved ones a little extra care and devotion is never a bad thing. And if there has to be a designated calendar day to remind us of that, then so be it. For me, Valentine’s Day is about genuine displays of warmth and affection, whether it be for romantic partners or friends, parents or siblings or children.
And when I want to lavish someone with love, I feed them. (This should come as no surprise to…well, anyone.) To me, it’s the ultimate homemade gift: a special meal of favorite ingredients, prepared by hand and served with care. As The Boyfriend said, “It’s like flowers, but I can eat it.”
Let’s talk about anchovies.
They’re not easy to like. They’re salty, they’re fishy, they’re pungent, and they’re generally not out to make friends. Given the chance, they’ll take over a dish, running roughshod (or rough-finned?) over meeker, milder flavors. A mere mention of the word prompts scrunched noses and pouts. “I don’t really…like anchovies.”
Which is a damn shame, because they’re absolutely delicious when they’re treated right.