Chard and white beans with raisins, walnuts and smoked gouda

Chard and white beans with walnuts and smoked gouda

Chard and white beans with walnuts and smoked gouda

If you’re following along at home, you’ll recall that yesterday found us, here at The Ordinary, seeking some solace from our busy thoughts in the form of quiet film scenes. David mentioned a film we’d watched last week, Le gamin au vélo, and I thought “ah, yes, of course.” I was going to add a scene from the movie to yesterday’s post, but in watching the scene, I realized that this was one I want to go on an on about, so that’s where we find ourselves today. The film is by the Dardenne brothers of Belgium, renowned for making emotionally and stylistically bleak and austere films, most notably La Promesse in 1996. They almost never use non-diegetic music–they don’t have a soundtrack. The sounds of the film are those that people make going about their day, and these sounds become oddly compelling as we become immersed in the rhythms of the character’s lives, as we learn their routine and become alert for any small change in the patterns. All of their films are quiet, they’re a succession of silent moments. And that’s why this scene is disarmingly beautiful. We’re given music! We’re given, specifically, a small, moving swell of music, like a warm gentle wave; a few notes from the second movement of Beethoven’s Emperor piano concerto. And then we return to the quiet world of this ridiculously beautiful expressive boy, to the sound of his breath, and of his madly pedaling feet. Throughout the film, in certain scenes, this music washes over us, just a few notes, and then recedes. You feel that you need to hear the rest, you want the notes to resolve themselves. You want the boy’s life to resolve itself, you want him to care for himself, you want him to let somebody take care of him. The Dardenne brothers’ films, though beautiful, are often hard for me to watch. The very honesty and rawness that makes them wonderful makes them painful. Their characters are battered by life, conflicted and rejected, and they spend a lot of time alone. We’re compelled to watch them in their solitude, drowning in the silence of their own company, facing rotten choices and making regrettable decisions. They raise all sorts of questions for me, as a film viewer, and as somebody that hopes to one day call herself a filmmaker again. You could make a film this revelatory of human nature as it actually is–you could, and you probably should, but why would you? Why watch something so depressing? The older I get, I find I have less tolerance for unrelentingly grim movies. When I was younger I could watch anything, but now that I have children, I just can’t–particularly if the movie involves kids the age of my boys, as this film does. I don’t need a happy ending. I don’t want to watch sickeningly sweet saccharine feel-good movies, but I do need some small hopeful sign. So I will admit to you that when we watched this film, we stopped halfway through, and I read about how the film ended, and only then did we watch the rest. But we did watch the rest. Because in being entirely honest about human nature, you have to include moments of warmth and generosity and connection, and that’s what this film does, quietly, slowly, without melodrama or judgement. The few notes of Beethoven that we hear throughout the film are full of sweet sadness, the music veers between hope and despair, light and darkness, but it’s so beautiful that we need to follow it to the end, which they finally allow us to do during the credits. And that is why you watch a movie like this one.

Chard and white beans with walnuts, raisins and smoked gouda

Chard and white beans with walnuts, raisins and smoked gouda

Greens are my favorite! This time of year is the best! We’re getting greens by the armful from our CSA–chard, kale, spinach, broccoli rabe. I love to come up with new ways to prepare greens, and this one turned out really good. It’s a twist on the old chard/raisin/pine nut combination that I love so much. This one adds white beans and smoked gouda, for extra substance and flavor. We ate this with whole wheat pearled couscous, which I prepared “according to the package instructions,” except that I cooked the couscous in olive oil and herbs at first. You could eat it with pasta, rice, millet, farro, a big bed of lettuces, or as a vegetable side dish. You could eat it in a box, you could eat it with a fox.

Here’s the second movement of Beethoven’s Emperor piano concerto.

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Butter beans with chard, asparagus, fennel, and castelvetrano olives

Butterbean and spring vegetables

Butterbean and spring vegetables

I’m always in a hurry when Isaac and I walk to school. He’s an ambler, and he’s not concerned at all about the dire consequences of tardiness. One of us has to be! As a mother, I think the responsibility falls to me. So I’m always rushing him along, yelling, “With me!” as if he’s a dog I’m teaching to heel. Not this week, though. It’s the last week of school. Monday morning the air was just right, like water of a perfect temperature. In a sleep-deprived daze following a weekend of insomnia, it seemed as though we were swimming serenely through the air. It felt perfect to walk along, holding Isaac’s hand, answering true and false questions about matters big and small. I didn’t want the walk to end.
“True or false, the universe has a universe.” True!
“True or false, all bats are scaly and rough.” Well, that’s complicated, because all bats are different. “Wrong! It’s false, all bats are incredibly soft and furry.” Wait a minute, just because your brother touched one bat and it was incredibly soft and furry does not mean that every bat in the whole world is soft and furry. That’s faulty reasoning. “Nope, Malcolm said so. All bats are soft and furry.”
“True or false, when a bat flaps its wings, the vibrations can be felt on the other side of the world.” Um, true? Short pause. “Dad said it was false.” Well, where did you hear it was true? Longer pause. “Batman. Why are you laughing?”

I’ve been feeling like a literary magpie, lately. Or maybe just an airhead. I’ll happen across a small passage that intrigues me, and then I’ll buy the whole book from the magical used book store across the street, which has every book you can ever think of, precisely when you’re thinking of it. Then I’ll read a chapter, be completely charmed by it but understand it not at all. I’ll read a wikipedia entry on the text, feel slightly more informed and slightly guilty, and then some new passage will capture my gnat-like attention, and I’ll chase after that like Clio chases after dried leaves. A bit of Aristotle, a bit of Hobbes, a bit of the Mahabarata…maybe a few pages of Tintin to clear the palate. And of course I want to talk about whatever I’m reading, I want to discuss it and try to understand it, but my lack of comprehension combines with my inability to string words together to form a sentence and I sound like a complete idiot. But I think I’m okay with that. I’m not in school, I don’t have to write an essay or pass a test. I don’t even have to finish a book if I don’t want to! Although I usually do want to, if only for a feeling of completion. I like to read books about other people trying to figure things out, even though I don’t believe it’s possible to do so. I love the language, particularly in the very old books, I like the perfect parallel between my inability to understand a concept and the strangeness of the words themselves. I’m fascinated by the connections between books from around the world and throughout history, by the patterns that form, and the way everybody was influenced by somebody else, their thoughts echo the thoughts of those who wrote before them. In a poem Isaac described himself as “a thinker.” I’m so glad that he is, and that he knows that he is! I like to see Isaac and Malcolm make sense of everything, everything that teachers tell them, and friends tell them, that they tell each other, everything they read, and yes, even all the important scientific facts they learn from a batman cartoon. They’re processing it all, and learning to doubt and to reason, and it’s a beautiful process to watch. There’s a beautiful portrait of young Francis Bacon by Nicholas Hilliard with an inscription that translates as, “If only I could paint his mind.” I know what he means!

UPDATE! This was our conversation on the way home from school, and it seemed relevant, and I want to remember it, so here you go…

Isaac: I frequently think about what was there before space.
Me: Do you frequently think about that?
Isaac: Yes.
Me: And what do you think was there?
Isaac: Well, I get frustrated, because I think there was nothing, but then I think about what color nothing would be.

Butterbeans and spring vegetables

Butterbeans and spring vegetables

This was a green meal! A spring green meal. We kept it fresh and simple, with a saucy sauce of white wine and lemon. We used greens and fresh herbs from the CSA, and a special treat of castelvetrano olives from the market up the road. The boys ate this over gemelli pasta, and I ate it over a mix of lettuces from the farm, and arugula and fresh spinach, as a sort of warm salad. Good either way!

And here’s The Pixies with Where is my Mind??? Which has been stuck in my head, for some reason.
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Roasted grape tomato crostini, and penne with zucchini, spinach, olives, capers and almonds

Roasted grape tomato crostini

Roasted grape tomato crostini

A while back I was standing in the kitchen at work waiting for food to run, and I chatted with the food runner, who was standing in the same place with the same intent. For some reason, I mentioned to her that you’re not supposed to be sarcastic in front of children because it confuses them. She laughed and said, “your kids must be confused all the time.” Well! This gave me pause. I hadn’t spoken often with the runner or even said much in her presence. How could she know about the sarcasm? Had my inner-sarcasm somehow seeped through the cracks of my professional and friendly demeanor? Because I don’t think you’re supposed to be sarcastic in front of bosses or customers either–they get confused, too. I started to think about what it means to be sarcastic in front of your children. It’s true that my boys get confused when you say something they know isn’t true. When Isaac walks into a room, don’t say, “Well, who are you? I’ve never met you before,” because he hates it as much as if your words could actually negate his existence. (Although apparently he’s allowed to say, “Mom, my right arm is attached to my left hand and my left hand is attached to my right arm, and both my arms are put on backwards!” and I’m supposed to take this alarming information all in stride.) Honestly, children ask a lot of questions. Sometimes you don’t know the answer, sometimes it’s too complicated, and sometimes it’s too dull, and like Calvin’s dad, you find yourself presenting a different version of the world. So when they ask you why the subway is so much hotter than the street, you might find yourself answering, “because it’s closer to the fiery earth’s core,” instead of the actual answer–that it’s the cumulative temperature of all the pee that’s been peed there, which can’t cool and evaporate so far under ground, because this is obviously too scientific an explanation for little minds. But surely this is just using your imagination to present an alternative view of the world, and surely the world is always shifting and mutable anyway, so that there are no constant and correct answers. Obviously, if your child is uncomfortable you abandon the joke, but most of the time they recognize a good story, and if nothing else, they learn to become very skeptical of everything they’re told, and that can’t be a bad thing. I did a little research on the subject of sarcasm and children. Apparently, you’re not supposed to be sarcastic at all, in front of anybody, ever, because it’s cruel and dishonest. Well! (again) this gave me even more pause, because I love sarcastic humor, but I abhor cruelty and dishonesty. Sarcasm comes from the Greek meaning to tear or cut the flesh, and I realize this does sound cruel, but like anything else in life, it’s how you use it. You can use sarcasm to be snarky and bullyish and make people feel bad about themselves, certainly. But why would you? You can also use sarcasm to cope with an unpleasant situation, to make fun of yourself, to express something that you’re not allowed to come out and say. It’s a coping mechanism, and it’s a tool I’d like my children to posses. I always admire people that can disarm a tense or nasty confrontation with a joke. At its most effective, sarcasm can demonstrate the absurdity of a predicament and help you to change it or wade through it. And, far from being dishonest, sarcasm, like all humor, is a way to speak truths that otherwise couldn’t be spoken, that wouldn’t be accepted in any other form. With sarcasm and irony you can turn the world on its head, and sometimes that needs to happen. So I’m not going to teach my boys that sarcasm is bad, I’m going to teach them that pettiness and cruelty are bad, however they’re expressed. And when they each inevitably develop a sarcastic sense of humor (they’re sarcastic on their father’s and mother’s side, so it’s only a matter of time), I’ll be glad to step back from the world with them, have a chuckle at the absurdity of it all, and forge back into life better prepared to shape it the way we like it.

Zucchini and spinach with olives and almonds

Zucchini and spinach with olives and almonds

I’m combining these two recipes because we ate them together, but they’d each be fine on their own. They’re both super-simple, so this is a nice summer meal. I roasted some grape tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic and herbs (use fresh if you have them!) and piled this on little toasts spread with goat cheese. That’s it! A nice combination of flavors, though. And then I made a stir fry of zucchini with spinach, capers, olives, and topped the whole thing with almonds. The boys ate it with pasta as a sort of pasta primavera and I ate it over greens as a sort of warm salad. Good either way!

Here’s Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers with Hyena Stomp. Need a laugh? This has plenty.
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Soba noodles with potatoes, black beans and spinach in red pepper sauce

Roasted red pepper and black bean sauce

Roasted red pepper and black bean sauce

Each day on our way to school, Isaac and I pass a house that half-burned down a few years ago at Christmastime. Apparently it will be torn down before too long, but now it’s oddly beautiful with its charred, inside-out appearance. Many of its lovely architectural details remain intact, but now it feels as though you can catch a glimpse of its pretty bones. The last few times we’ve passed, a giant black vulture has peered down at us from the roof. I happen to think black vultures are remarkable birds–beautiful in their black-upon-black scruffiness. We have a lot in our area, and we’ll see them lined up with gothic gravity on abandoned barns and silos, or perching with unlikely balance on slim branches their weight should snap. They seem social, as they all stand together, long wings stretched in a wide arc to catch the sun. When we passed our local vulture today, my little modern-day Ben Franklin said that he likes turkey vultures better than eagles because eagles kill their prey, whereas vultures just take what’s already dead. They just clean up. So between Franklin and Isaac, we’ve established that bald eagles are thieves and murderers, whereas turkeys are brave, and turkey vultures mild and helpful. It’s funny that we saw the vulture just now, because my boys have spent the week scavenging. Not for carcasses of course (we’re vegetarian!) but for junk. It’s sparkle week in our town, which means that people put out their still-sometimes-useful garbage, and other people pick it up and take it home. It’s a nice idea, really, and many people I know have furnished their house this way, and in quite a stylie style, too. However, if you have two small pack rats, it can become dreadful. Isaac is sparkle-obsessed. He wants everyone else’s half-broken toys. He flies from garbage pile to garbage pile shouting “sparkle! sparkle!” Like some mad trash fairy. He roots through broken glass and dog crap, convinced that a treasure awaits if he only looks hard enough. Malcolm is an admirably efficient sparkler. He found a working door knob, a working watch, a perfect darth vader mask, and any number of small, intriguing objects. I suppose this bodes well for his chances of surviving in a post-apocalyptic landscape. He’ll build us a home of packaging foam and old dressers, and we’ll cook our food on abandoned grills and dismantled ovens. Personally, I’ve always been a little wary of used goods and thrift-store clothes. I can’t shake the idea that they take on the personality of the people that owned them. That they’re imbued with the sadness or happiness of the lives they were part of, and that they become spirits of their own as they pass from person to person. It’s silly, I know! I should saunter down the street, like Malcolm, hand in pocket, flannel shirt catching the breeze, coolly appraising each pile of reusables, happy to be part of the cycle of renewal that takes place each spring in our small town.

Soba noodles with roasted red pepper sauce, black beans, spinach and tomatoes.

Soba noodles with roasted red pepper sauce, black beans, spinach and tomatoes.

I seem to still be making warm and earthy meals, despite the fact that on paper it’s springtime. We’ve had a damp and chilly spring, and I haven’t found mounds of sweet peas, fiddleheads and ramps. Even the asparagus looks thick and woody, and costs a bundle for a bundle. So I’m still in the warm and saucy world of food. I think this would make a nice summer meal, though. It has the appealing color of a sun-drenched brick wall in summertime. It involves red pepper, which is summery, which I roasted under the broiler, but which would be even better grilled. Malcolm loves soba noodles. They’re made of buckwheat, and they have a nice nutty flavor. They go nicely with earthy potatoes and black beans, and I mixed them, in this instance with smoky peppers, smoked paprika and spicy red pepper flakes and jalapenos. You could eat this over rice with tortillas, or even on it’s own as a sort of chili.

Here’s Decemberists’ Sweet Clementine, because I borrowed a phrase for my essay today!

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Carrots and cauliflower in carrot-ginger-lemon sauce with cashews

Coconut ginger lemon sauce

Coconut ginger lemon sauce

It’s Saturday again, and you know what that means! It’s story time! Here’s your picture for the week. Who is this fellow, and how did he end up at Joe’s in 1954? As ever, my story is after the jump, and yours could be, too.
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Here’s a link to the post with the original idea for the series.

This was a delicious sauce. It had a lot of ginger in it, which gave a nice little zing to the tartness of the lemon and the creamy sweetness of the coconut milk. It would be good with other vegetables as well – broccoli would be nice! We ate it with long thin pasta, but it would be good over basmati rice as well.

Here’s Mississippi John Hurt with Joe Turner Blues

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Grilled tomato and red pepper sauce

Grilled tomato and red pepper sauce

Here at The Ordinary’s obvious observation department, we have determined that sunshine feels good. These chilly mornings, when Isaac and I walk to school, we head to the sunny side of the street. When he doesn’t have pockets, he’ll put both of his smooth little hands into one of mine, and swing the whole way to school, which is bad for my back but good for my spirits. I love the feeling of passing from shade into sun on a cold morning. It’s such a small but powerful thing – like when somebody you love pats you on the back as they walk by, and it cheers you all out of proportion with the slightness of the gesture. One of my favorite things about this time of year is watching everybody bask in the sun. We saw a man riding on the back of a truck – standing on the side and holding on with one hand. He had his free arm stretched out, feeling the wind passing and the sun shining down. It must have felt like flying. It stuck in my memory as such a beautiful moment. In the mornings the bluejays gather in the top of the oak trees, where the sun seems to collect like a golden haze – and they eat green acorns and call to each other. I love the sight of vultures on the tops of buildings, lined up in a row facing the sun with their wings stretched out. It’s the simple things, I tell you!

And here’s a simple meal. My poor boys are subjected to so many strange and unlikely food combinations. Sometimes they beg for just a simple meal. One of their favorite is pasta with “smooth” tomato sauce. Well! We had an abundance of tomatoes, and perfect weather for a fire in the backyard. We piled tomatoes and red peppers on the grill and left them for a long time, turning them every once in a while, but basically forgetting about them till the fire went out. We peeled them a little, but left some of the charred peel on, and then we cooked them up into a smooth tomato sauce. The boys loved it! And so did we. It’s ridiculously adaptable. You could add any herbs you like, or olives and capers, or red wine, or shallots or onions, or any other vegetable you have lying around, or cheese. Anything, really! This would make a nice soup, as well, if you add some cream or broth.

Here are five different versions of Sunny Side of the Street!!
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Creamy zucchini, walnut, and white bean sauce (with sage)

Zucchini walnut sauce

One of my favorite lines from any movie is spoken by Ballou the bear in Jungle Book. “Fall apart in my back yard,” he says. It’s always seemed like such a tempting invitation. I’ve had a stressful week of cut fingers and a sick boy, making hard decisions about cut fingers and a sick boy (hard for me, anyway, indecision is my m.o.) trying to pretend I’m strong and that I’m not freaking out about everything when inside I’m a mess, and not sleeping much. Silly, I know, when taken individually, but it all added up to wear me out a little bit. So last night I spent a little time in my own backyard, in the the dark, cool evening, just enjoying the soft sounds of summer-night bug flights and the smell of the herb garden and yesterday’s fire. And then I saw a face in the witch hazel bush! Not as if somebody was standing there, but as if the witch hazel itself had a face. Two kind, softly glowing eyes in a dog-like face. I sat and stared at it a long while. I moved to another seat, and it was still there. I like to think about spirits all around me. When I clean the bathrooms (remember that I have two little boys!!) I always imagine a pee spirit living behind the toilets. A mischievous noisome yellow blob of a spirit, that I angry up when I bleach his home. I’ve always seen faces in tree trunks, and in stones, I see dog’s eyes and noses in knots in planks of wood. I swear it sometimes seems like everything has a message to tell me. And then, of course, there are the fireflies. (Fireflies and zucchini, again!?! Yup.) I love our witch hazel bush, with its wintertime flowers like fragrant fireworks. I felt oddly comforted by the idea of a witch hazel spirit. I sat for a long while, reluctant to go up to bed despite being exhausted, and thought about spirits. I finally went inside and locked everything up, and turned out all the lights, and through the window I could still see softly glowing eyes in the witch hazel.

If there was a spirit in our back yard, I imagine it would eat the sage in our vegetable garden, because sage seems like good spirit food. Well, I harvested some myself to make this pasta sauce. This is a good quick-meal-after-work sauce, and it’s a good way to use up some of my over-abundance of zucchini. The zucchini is blended with white beans, walnuts, and broth to make a thick and creamy, though cream-free sauce. I used the broth from the millet stew I’d made, and it was very flavorful with sage and bay leaves, but you could use any broth you have on hand, or even water. I also used caramelized onions, because I’d made a huge batch over the weekend (and cut my finger!) but if you don’t happen to have them lying around, a shallot or a regular onion would be fine. And that’s all I can say about that at the moment because Malcolm is desperate for the computer.

Here’s Aretha Franklin’s remarkable Spirit in the Dark, live in Philly.
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Zucchini, chickpeas & pinenuts/ Zucchini, coconut & cashews

Zucchini, cashews

We watched the Wimbledon final at work, with the sound down. I was surprised and moved by Andy Murray’s tears, possibly more so because I couldn’t hear what he was saying. And I felt a little bad for Federer, he looked so apologetic. I think that’s how I’d be. I’m not competitive at all. My idea of a fun game of tennis is hitting the ball back and forth to each other for as long as possible. I don’t really like to beat people at anything – especially if I like them, which, let’s face it, is usually the case when you’re playing a game with someone. I let my kids win at races and board games. I know there’s a school of parenting that insists I’m setting up unrealistic expectations for them, but I’m not too worried about it. The world will knock them down soon enough, sadly. And, increasingly, I’m not letting them win! The few times in my life I’ve felt myself get all competitive, it felt horrible. I recognized that it was coming from insecurity or envy, and I said to myself, “what the hell, self! Cut it out!” It’s strange to think about how much competition is a part of our lives, as Americans. The assumptions about human nature inherent in setting up such a system bewilder me a little. But I’m okay watching from outside of it all, with the sound down.

Last night we sat in our yard in the evening, and made a fire. The boys dashed around catching fireflies. Malcolm twirled Isaac around at arm’s length (by the fire! So dangerous!), and he came flying into my lap. I thought he’d be hot and sweaty from all the mad running, but he was as soft and cool as the dusk. One of the boys said, “I wonder who turned firefly-catching into a sport?” I said, “Ah, yes, the firefly catch, I saw that in the olympic trials last week.” And David said, “No…the firefly toss. Can you imagine what a quiet, gentle sport that would be?” People standing near each other, in the gloaming with their hands in the air, waiting for the firefly to climb to the fingertips and take off into the night, at their own twirly dreamy pace. I love that idea!

What!? Talking about fireflies again! What!? More zucchini recipes!?! Haven’t we just done all that? Yes. Yes we have, people, this is summer!! The first zucchini recipe we ate as a side dish, but it would be good as a meal over rice. It was very quick and simple, like most good zucchini recipes. It involved sauteeing the zucchini with some frozen peas. We added a little cumin and ginger. And then we tossed the lot with cashews, sweetened flaked coconut, and, lime, and fresh basil. Ta da!! The second zucchini recipe is actually a pasta dish. Despite being vegetarian, we don’t eat pasta very often. I’m drawn to things with more intensity of flavor. The boys love it, though, so I’ll make pasta, and I’ll eat the sauce as a sort of soup or stew. Anyway – this pasta dish. We made orchiette, and then we made a summery mix of quickly cooked zucchini, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, and pine nuts. Simple, substantial, and super.

Zucchini, chickpea, pine nut

Here’s Belle and Sebastian with Stars of Track and Field. I like how someone became a runner simply to feel the city air rush past their body.
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Roasted (tomato, beet, & zucchini) sauce with basil and pine nuts

Roasted sauce

It’s my birthday! I know I should probably be more cool about it, and not say anything, but I’m like a big (rapidly aging) child when it comes to my birthday. I genuinely don’t want a lot of fuss, or presents or parties, but I have this feeling that I want something special to happen, but on some cosmic level. I know! It’s dumb! I’m 43, which is just absolutely crazy to me. How can I be middle-aged when I’m still waiting to feel like a responsible full-grown adult? I have to admit that turning 40 was harder for me than I expected it to be. Part of me felt like I was having a slow-motion mid-life crisis, with brief shard-like pangs of anxiety and melancholy. (I feel better this year, though! Not sure why!) I’m not indulging in this birthday whine for sympathy, but because one of the harder things, for me, was having everybody tell me how great they felt to turn 40, and how easy it was for them. I think it’s okay to feel the pangs of time passing. Anxious aging people everywhere, I absolve you!

The other night while we were at the shore, and I had my usual not-in-my-own-bed insomnia, I was half awake and listening to the waves, and this metaphor crept into my head. I’ll share it with you! It’s an extended metaphor, and I’m going to go on about it for a really long time, so I get extra points on my essay. Aging is like being in the ocean. You bob along, from day to day, treading water. You see your family on the beach, bright, and real, and busy and playing in the waves that wash towards them. You feel the sand under your feet slipping away, a little more with each wave, but it’s not unpleasant. Every once in a while you step on a sharp shell or get pinched by a crab, but the waves carry the sharp thing away again, and you bob and and you tread. The vasty ocean curves all around you, beautiful, comforting, frightening, inexplicable. And you’re fine; you’re lifted up, you’re set back down, you’re happy. And then when your back is turned a giant wave comes and breaks right over your head, you’re not ready for it, you’re turned upside down, your mouth and eyes and ears are full of water. But you struggle to right yourself, to see your family on the glowing sand, you clear your soggy head, you tread, you bob, you’re fine.

The older I get, the more I realize it’s the small everyday things that matter. Today we’re making a cake, and Malcolm drew me a card with green and blue Dog Woman on it, and Isaac drew me a card with a picture of him and me laughing. The sun is shining, the day is cool. Yesterday I went to a grocery store with my boys, but it was a special grocery store, and I got special things, and they’re full of happy potential for good meals. We’re all on the same boat together going in the same inevitable direction – we may as well enjoy the meals!

One of the nice things about having a summer birthday is the vegetables. I LOVE VEGETABLES!! Yesterday I made a sauce with roasted tomatoes, roasted beets, roasted zucchini, tons of fresh basil, a pinch of marjoram and thyme, and a few of my special birthday purchases – viz, sherry vinegar, fresh mozzarella, and pinenuts. I think it turned out really nice! A little beet-sweet, with the subtle tang of sherry vinegar. We had it with penne, but it would be good with anything, I think. It would even make a good soup, if you added more water or stock!

Here’s Tom Waits’ Time, surely one of the most beautiful songs ever!

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Zucchini with nicoise olives & almonds

Zucchini, nicoise, almonds

There’s a little market not far from my house. I love it! I have to stop going! It’s not like a regular farmer’s market, with local vegetables you can afford. It has irresistible, beautiful things that you can’t afford, but can’t not buy. I’ve gone the last three weeks, and I’m like a kid on christmas morning, with my trumpet mushrooms, fiddleheads, castelvetrano olives and french feta. But it has to stop! Yesterday, I stood clutching my bag of olives and my loaf of bread, my brain feverishly trying to catch up with the fact that I’d just spent nearly ten dollars on two kinds of olives, whilst simultaneously trying to figure out if it was worth waiting for the french feta to arrive on the scene. Sigh.

But I bought more castelvetrano olives, because I still have a big crush on them, and I bought some little nicoise olives, which are the cutest things you’ve ever seen! Small and perfect little purply-brown ovals. They’re firm and salty and meaty, and very easy to pit. I decided to add them to some quickly sautéed zucchini, with some garlic, summer savory and chervil, for a quick, light side dish. And I decided to fry some sliced almonds in butter to top it off, because they’re ridiculously tasty that way! (But you could toast them in a dry pan, if you’re vegan). Nice with an arugula salad, but it would be good tossed with pasta, as well!

Here’s Nat King Cole with This Side Up, to listen to while you make this side dish!
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