But oh, did we try. Roasted. Sauteed with olive oil and garlic and tossed with pasta. Left too long in the fridge and eaten fast upon arrival. Made into pilau, Southern for pilaf, for which I made an early morning trip to Trader Joe’s for bacon and basmati and then simmered it with onion and chicken broth and cracked black pepper. We missed the pickles, however, and never battered and deep fried. But there was wok searing, tomato adding. More salt, a dash of red pepper. And finally, as the season came to a close, one last attempt. Half of it ended up in the trash, despite my intentions. “We’ve taken our relationship as far it’s going to go,” I joked, and then started planning for next year.
August 3, 2015
This time of year kicks my ass. Interviewing applicants, twenty, thirty, forty of them, reaching and scheduling and inviting and welcoming and listening and explaining and testing and reassuring and then, hardest of all, choosing. It’s difficult to imagine a privilege greater than sitting down to hear someone’s story, the losses, the yearnings, the very hard things that kept them from what they wanted. They arrive with tattoos down their arms and onto their fingers, or in a nice blouse they clearly wore for the occasion, or with young children trailing behind to be entertained by cell phones while we talk. They laugh or fall silent with shyness or sometimes cry and cry. And it is an act of attention, of holding space, to be there with them, to really be present. And it tires. And so yesterday afternoon I stepped away early, came home, put on stretchy pants and lay down. When I woke two hours later the cat was snoozing at my feet. I ate tuna salad, cleared my in-box, watched Chopped, and went back to bed. This morning puttering in pajama pants I set tomatoes to roast at low temperature for three hours. They will turn sweet, so sweet, so slow and so sweet.
July 23, 2015
Instead, a smattering of what life has brought my way. An old friend in front of an old painting. A wedding, a message, and century plants towering against a stormy sky.
Meanwhile, back home, the daily continues. We shave and brush and swab and spread. We read Nora Ephron’s prescriptions of marriage, shared by a friend in a wedding card. We fail to sit on the living room furniture and fail to sell it on Craigslist. (Vintage rattan could be yours.) And the CSA basket keeps coming and cornichons go into vinegar and pickling spices and we can’t stop eating them.
In Austin the rents still rise and a few places, against the odds, keep the faith.
And, finally, a spin through Waco on the way home. A wedding ring store leaves me with far too much to say.
On Monday we smashed potatoes and then roasted them in duck fat until they were browned and crisp. On Wednesday the squash blossoms were so beautiful I had to lay them out for a picture. The frittata sang of yellow. On Friday I sliced cucumbers thin and laid them beside French beans, sliced tomatoes, and purple potatoes. At all there were olives, manchego on a bamboo board, the pickles I made from last week’s cornichons. At all there was conversation around the yellow table with friends I was happy to see. It must be summer break, with dinner at the house and no place else I am supposed to be.
June 12, 2015
It was a week of waters coming in, homes floating away, mud washing across the streets. We are woken in the middle of the night by thunder, then the human responses to thunder – cell phones sounding alarms, blaring messages of flood warnings. It could have been me. It could have been any of us off in those houses in Wimberley. I was shopping cabins on Airbnb only days early. And all of this writ small on my kitchen table: CSA tomatoes and a ladybug. (Earlier this week Julie announced a centipede in the radicchio, the sentence like a secret code.) The earth asserting itself, reminding us we are not separate, we cannot be separate. By morning the bug had crawled to Chris’s side of the table. He picked it up and carried it outside again.
May 28, 2015
It’s true, each day I found something to praise. The focus of students writing around a table, the sweetness of the restaurant where we held our rehearsal dinner almost seven years ago. Amid an endless headache and doctors’ appointments and traffic that didn’t want to release me from its hold, I snapped pictures of the CSA baskets and the dinner I came home to and kitchen shears on a wrinkled towel that deserve a song for the satisfying snip that they make. I found what was tender and worthy in a week that tested me. So praise the practice of praising, even when it’s hard. Praise three meals a day and a husband and friends who look after me. Praise three years of Amelia at Free Minds and how proudly the writers read their work on Tuesday night. Praise a headache subsiding and a blog still alive and how I took those kitchen shears to the garden, Saturday afternoon, and clipped a small bouquet for the kitchen.
April 18, 2015
Praise how they sit on every counter at every bar and every restaurant — city, country, tiniest village where one single man stands at a machine steaming milk. Tucked into crusty bread, heated or not, this simple combo of egg, potato, and onion can fuel you through a morning, or an evening, or hundreds of miles on the Camino. In Rabe de la Calzada, the town where they prepared for the feast of Santa Maria de los Milagros by carrying a giant paella pan across the square, I ate tortilla at an oil-cloth covered table with other pilgrims. I had seen the hospitalera cooking the tortilla from a side door to the kitchen. Praise her easy shrug when I asked if I could watch. Praise her powerful wrist as she turned the tortilla from skillet to plate then slid it from plate back into skillet. Praise how she tried to give me the recipe despite my faltering Spanish, then served it to us brightened with strips of red pepper. Praise how I remember her each time I make a tortilla, which I do most weeks. Tonight, after teaching, almost 10pm, Chris and I sat down together to this one, last of the CSA leeks tucked in. Praise the brown edges of the potatoes, the perfect slice on the plate.
April 7, 2015
Praise the name of the restaurant I will never open, where cannellini meet garlic and sage, garbanzos meet spinach, borlotti meet stout kale and hang together with roasted tomatoes and bacon. Praise the way beans wait in glass jars in the cabinet, patient and imminent, prepared for the someday that just might come tonight. I soaked black-eyed peas all day, then gave them three minutes in the pressure cooker. In the pan they joined the deep deep green of spinach and chard. A little salt, a lot of garlic, and a flurry of lemon zested over the pan. Praise the freshness of spring. Praise earthiness, simplicity, the drizzle of olive oil over the top. Praise that first bite, when I said, “I could eat nothing else all my life.”
April 2, 2015
Praise the Swiss chard, as long as my arm, its stalks bright and rainbowed in red, yellow, green, its leaves fanning boldly from the baskets. Praise the people who came by to gush at them, to ask their name, as they sat on my office table displacing books and papers and one more manila file. Praise these simple images of abundance. Praise deep green and light green and feathery cress that peppers the tongue. Praise farmers and soil and hands that cut leaves from the ground so that we may eat, so that we may revel in the promise of a new season, so that we may imagine the many things we will cook.
April 1, 2015