Yesterday was a near-perfect summer day. Bright round blue sky, wispy clouds; not too hot, not too humid, with just an edge of autumn in the breeze that stirred the leaves. The kind of day on which it feels like a crime against time passing to spend even a moment indoors. On this perfect day, Malcolm and I found ourselves in the chilled fluorescent tin can that is the grocery store. Not ideal, but it has to be done. And I was with Malcolm, which is always a good thing, and we were pondering ice cream flavors, and there are worse places you could be. Malcolm said, “a little while ago I decided to start a career as an optimist.” !!!!! Of course I had a million questions! What made him decide to be an optimist? Where was he when this career path occurred to him? I hadn’t gotten as far as “how do you define ‘optimist?'” when I saw that look on his face that says, “Why do I bother telling her anything? So many questions!” So I stopped asking. He said it got hard to be an optimist because he felt sad about something, but he’s going to take it up again, because he is an optimist. Aside from the obvious joy I felt to hear that my occasionally broody 13-year-old son considers himself an optimist, I just love the idea of optimism as a career. I can imagine his guidance counsellor saying, “And what do you want to be when you grow up?” And Malcolm replying, with that bright, clever look he gets, “An optimist!” And at career day he’ll pick up pamphlets from the optimists’ table, maybe set up between the army recruiters and the guys offering careers in pharmaceutical companies, and the pamphlets will tell him about which colleges have the best optimism courses and what kind of jobs that will be available when he graduates with his optimism degree. I like to imagine a world in which optimism is a career option. It’s not that far-fetched. Did you know that Epictetus began life as a slave, but through studying and teaching stoicism he obtained his freedom and started his own school? Surely optimism is an easier sell than stoicism! And Malcolm is no idealistic fool. He’s shrewd, he’s savvy. He hears everything and understands everything–the bad as well as the good. So his brand of optimism will have depth and value. It won’t be some shallow meme-worthy advice telling you that if you smile a lot money will drop in your lap and all your problems will be solved. It won’t be that. What will it be? I don’t know, don’t ask me! I haven’t had a career as an optimist! We’ll just have to wait and see.
This dish was extremely easy to prepare, extremely simple, and full of flavor. If you decide to use lemon thyme and a dash of fresh lemon juice, it will have a bright spicy flavor. If you decide to use balsamic and regular thyme it will be more round and earthy. Delicious either way! We had this mixed in with some fresh tomato sauce. It would be good on a bed of baby spinach. Or just as it is, simple, as a side dish.
Here’s Nina Simone with Ooh Child. It’s the best!
3 medium-sized summer squash
1 T butter
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 T chives, minced
1 t lemon thyme or regular thyme
splash white wine
dash lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
Clean and trim the squash. Slice it lengthwise into strips about 1/4 inch wide, and then slice these into shorter pieces…so you make small thin squares of squash. In a medium-sized frying pan melt the butter. When it starts to brown add the jalapeño and the herbs. Stir and cook for a minute or two, then add the squash. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the squash starts to brown. When the bottom of the pan gets brown and crusty, pour in a big swig of wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook, adding a little wine or water, until the squash is cooked to a consistency that you enjoy. The pan should be dry but not browned. Add a dash of lemon juice or vinegar. Season well with salt and pepper, and serve.