This meal I’m going to write about was a little rite of passage. It was the first thing I cooked in my new kitchen, in my very own studio apartment.
When I was a little kid, and making my little-kid list of what Being a Grown-Up might possibly mean, high up on the list was having a living space all to myself. From the time I was 3 until the day I left for college, I shared a room with my sister. Never let it be said that I don’t love my sister–if you’re reading this, sistah, I love you–but the everyday grinding closeness, the shattering of any privacy, got under my skin in a big way.
I went to college, and had roommates and dorm-mates. I graduated and moved back home, then found other roommates. But this is the first time, ever in my life, that I have really had a complete living space that was 100 percent my own.
I’m so happy I could cry.
Northern California is slipping into a late-summer lull. I love this time of year, when the sunlight loses a little of its edge and people begin to dig in their heels against the long slow downhill slide to fall. These are the kind of days that were made for napping under an open window. (Screened, of course. This is also bonanza time for bugs.)
It’s a fabulous farmer’s market time. There’s still a glut of stone fruit and berries and colorful tomatoes. Corn is everywhere; fresh herbs are plentiful. But there are also the unexpected summer treats, the ones that sit patiently by while everyone gorges on peach cobbler and tomato-mozzarella salad. There are seasonal ingredients that I’ve never tried before, but have intrigued me for years.
Like zucchini blossoms.
Hello, blog. I’ve missed you.
The past few weeks have been…strange, to say the least. My father was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly our family had to learn a whole new vocabulary.
Tumor. Malignant. Carcinoma. Radiation. It’s amazing how a few singular words can suddenly taste so different rolling off your tongue.
Thankfully, the only words in our mouths right now are ones of relief and gratitude. Dad is healing at warp-speed, and (fingers crossed) on the way to being certified tumor-free. We’ve moved on from swarming and fussing and waiting with fingernails in our mouths, and settled back down somewhere near normal. It’s been a wild ride.
Time for some comfort food.
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.