Zucchini and cornmeal croquettes

Cornmeal and zucchini croquettes

Cornmeal and zucchini croquettes

Malcolm and I have an ongoing joke. He’ll show me something–a picture he’s drawn, something he’s made out of legos, a frog, a handful of sweet ferns. And I’ll cry, “look at your fingernails!” Yeah. Actually Malcolm doesn’t think it’s a very funny joke. Malcolm is growing fast, and so are his fingernails. Moments after he cuts them they’re already a quarter-inch long and caked with dirt. This is only a slight exaggeration. The thing is, I never used to mind dirty fingernails. I used to say they were a sign that you’d had a good day, that you’d gotten out of the house and climbed a tree or played in the dirt. How much more true is this for a boy in this age of video games and nonstop screen-related entertainment. He could spend the whole day indoors staring at flickering glowing surfaces of varying sizes and never move at all. So I should be glad when he has a little dirt under his fingernails, or when he has mud on his shoes that he’s tracking all over the house. I’ve never been a super-tidy person or a stickler for cleanliness, so why did I become a person who sees the dirt on the hands and not what they’re holding? I resolve to change the situation from this moment forwards. I won’t see the dirt for the ferns. I won’t be distracted from the truly important things by trivial matters of personal grooming. I will fully appreciate the gesture of somebody raising cupped hands towards me to share something that is remarkable or precious to them. I will see the beauty of the outstretched palm. When I see muddy prints on the floor, I won’t grab the broom, I’ll ask for the story instead, I’ll ask where he was walking, where he gathered this mud, and what he was thinking about as he walked, who he was talking to, where he was headed.

It’s the season of summer squash and tomatoes. What a wonderful season! I like zucchini croquettes. I wasn’t sure what to call these, in point of fact, because they’re almost like dumplings. They’re soft inside, crispy outside, with a pleasant denseness. They’re very flavorful with golden raisins, sage, oregano, garlic, pine nuts and a bit of sharp cheddar. They’re nice dipped in or covered with a sauce, and this time of year of course it’s going to be a tomato sauce! We ate them one day with fresh chopped tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic, and one day with a simple cooked fresh tomato sauce. Good either way!

Here’s Dirt Dauber Blues by Memphis Minnie. We found such a large blueblack wasp in our store today! Nearly two inches!!

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Hazelnut sage cracker fans stacked with roasted mushrooms, french lentils and chard

Hazelnut cracker stacker

Hazelnut cracker stacker

Isaac gave me a card for valentine’s day. It’s got a three-dimensional heart made of red tissue paper flowers, and it says “my heart belongs to you.” Sweet. A fairly traditional valentine’s day sentiment. Nicely made card. It undid me! I get weepy when I think about it! The thought of my Isaac’s heart – so sweet and generous, odd and contrary, so singularly Isaac – the thought that it’s mine, at least in part, threw me for a loop. The gift and the responsibility of being loved by both my boys is almost overwhelming, if I stop to think about it, and my lovely card made me do just that. I like the word, “unmanned.” It’s an old-fashioned term, I know, but I like to think about men striving to be manly, working to be strong and just and mature. And I like the idea that, in an instant, some emotional force can dissolve all of that, and leave him feeling like a boy, raw and bewildered. Sometimes I feel “unwomanned.” I don’t walk through the world thinking about being a woman or a mother. Honestly, despite my advanced and advancing years, I don’t really feel old enough, most of the time. Being a mother is a fairly common pastime. Everyone in the world has one. But when you take a moment to consider motherhood, it’s awesome, it’s terrifying, it’s wonderful. Isaac’s heart belongs to me, and I made that heart! And I’m responsible for keeping him healthy, and feeding him good foods that will help that heart to grow. I work to be strong and just and mature – to be worthy of the boys’ love; to be a good example for them; to give them some core of conviction and kindness. But sometimes it feels as though all of that falls away in a moment – not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me feel more awake, more keenly aware of my power and privilege in being important to the boys. Last summer Isaac had an echocardiogram. I sat with him for an hour in a darkened room, while we watched the workings of each inch of his beautiful beating heart. It was almost too much information. I felt undone, but I had to be collected when the lights came on – I had to listen attentively, ask relevant questions, reassure Isaac, and answer his sweet anxious worries. It’s such a strange world! We all walk around each day with our hearts working so inexplicably and so persistently, and with those hearts we love people, so inexplicably and so fervently. And we can’t even think about it, or we’d be so overwhelmed we’d never get out of bed!

Hazelnut crackers stacked with chard and roasted mushrooms

Hazelnut crackers stacked with chard and roasted mushrooms

Last night, for valentine’s day, we took some time off. I made a special, strange meal. We ate together and talked together, and we let everything slide. We missed a basketball game and a meeting. We cuddled on the couch and watched a movie, and decided to skip the showers and the evening reading. It feels good to be irresponsible, some times! And, guess what? I’m a mother, so if I say it’s okay, it’s okay!! It was a really nice night. And the dinner was strange! I wanted to make something a little fancy, and less pedestrian than my usual fare. So I made some large fan-shaped crispy crackers, flavored with sage and smoked paprika, and crunchy with hazelnuts. I piled these with layers of sauteed chard, roasted mushroom & french lentil puree, cheese, and whole, small roasted mushrooms. It was very fun to make, and very fun to eat, too! I thought all of the flavors and textures were nice, altogether. I used my 8-ish inch tart pan ring to cut the dough into fluted circles, and then I cut those into quarters. You could use a medium-sized bowl with a thin edge. Or just cut it freehand with a knife. Or make circles instead of fans, by cutting with a large glass. Whatever, man!

Here’s My Heart, by Louis Armstrong. It’s bright and cheerful and serious and thoughtful at the same time, like my Isaac.
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