Matt and I are home after three consecutive weekends of travel and we could not be happier. It’s amazing the things that one finds gratifying after being away for an extended period of time – having our neighbor Robin hold the front door open for us, finding the glass of vinegar we set out to catch the gnats in our kitchen filled with tiny bugs, and smelling the lavender candle in the second bedroom wafting down the hall.
While it’s great to be home, it was also a beautiful weekend. Matt’s brother got married in Chicago. I was a bridesmaid for the first time and I was unsure what to expect. The hours of makeup and hair intimidated me. It was a long day. I was tired and grumpy. But the second the ceremony started, I was overcome with emotion. I walked down the aisle, escorted by my youngest brother-in-law. I felt the gravitational pull of family, the spine-tingling and butterfly-inducing promise of a life-long commitment, and the honor of being so close to someone on one of the happiest days of her life. Plus, the food was delicious, the hotel room was gorgeous, and I danced so hard my legs still hurt.
Matt had to give two speeches this weekend, one at the rehearsal dinner and a second at the reception. He worked through the material several times, we talked out his potential options, and he did an incredible job capturing the humor and sentiment of the weekend. Matt practiced and I listened and in the end, he had a perfectly balanced, short, and sweet toast that touched on all the meaningful moments that defined his relationship with Jon and Jon’s relationship with Carley. Much like Matt, my dad was always the speech giver at family functions. He knew all the right things to say, all the funny stories to touch on, and when to finish the thought with the perfect send off.
The wedding seemed to well up a font of nostalgia for Matt and I. We finished the weekend mini-golfing at the same course we visited in the summer of 2005, when our relationship was new and uncertain and terribly exciting. We had dinner at Kegon, a teppanyaki place near Matt’s parents’ house, another warm and fuzzy memory from the early days. And finally, we ended our stay with a walk through the Chicago Botanical Gardens and brunch at the Eggshell Café. I felt young and in love and terribly happy to be reliving our tentative first dates, knowing how well it all turned out.
So, when we arrived home, I was inspired. I ran to the grocery store and returned with onions, carrots, celery, two cans of white beans, and an overwhelming craving for a recipe I hadn’t made in well over a year. When Matt and I first moved in together, into a beautiful pre-war apartment outside of Inman Square, he bought a cookbook for me. It’s published by the American Heart Association. Matt has always been concerned about heart health because he has a family history of heart disease and in the beginning of our relationship, he tried to wean me off my butter and pasta and pork fat ways. So, this cookbook was the cornerstone of our diet when we lived on Broadway. And tonight’s recipe was one we used to eat at least twice a month. The author recommends serving the beans over rice or orzo, but Matt has always eaten his beans on toast, like we did tonight, which is really the only option.
Greek White Beans from Meals in Minutes by the American Heart Association
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 rib celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 16oz cans great northern beans
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
1 teaspoon ground back pepper
Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Cook celery, carrot, and onion until softened, 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 – 8 minutes, or until heated through.