For the first time in weeks, Matt and I are sitting quietly at home on a Saturday enjoying lunch together. I love these days, when our pace slows down and the stress melts away and we can sit cross-legged on the living room floor and happily eat our midday meal. Today we ate potato salad, full of crunchy fresh vegetables and tossed with a mustard vinaigrette.
Growing up, we ate a lot of potatoes – mashed with extra butter and chicken broth, cut paper thin and doused with Lawry’s seasoning before being oven-fried, or roasted in a cast iron skillet with olive oil and a healthy serving of salt. But everyone’s favorite potato dish was only served once a year at Chanukah time, when mom put me to work peeling potatoes over the kitchen sink. It took me over an hour, peeling potato after potato and watching the skins fall away in a long spiral into the stainless steel basin. One year, I neglected to run the disposal between potato peelings and when I finally tried to flip the switch the sink filled with murky brown and starchy water that refused to drain. Mom spent the rest of the evening plunging and fiddling under the sink. The disposal motor never worked well again. But it was worth these trials to get to the end result, golden brown and crisply fried potato latkes, salty, hot, and dangerously addictive. Whenever my mom’s dad visited, he always requested her latkes. He called them potato pancakes because he could never quite wrap his head around the Jewish words and traditions that his daughter adopted. But he loved latkes and would have been perfectly content eating nothing but latkes for the duration of his visit. Continue reading →
Tonight we’re eating meatballs. I went through an obsessive meatball phase in early spring, when the weather was still cool and dinner required something warm and satisfying. Now that summer is winding down, it seemed like the appropriate time to bring the meatballs back. I love this time of year. Not late summer in particular, but that little window between seasons when the weather starts to change. I’ve always liked those transitional times more than any season itself. This morning the air was cool and dry and scentless, bringing back memories of standing in the front yard in my favorite plaid dress while mom took my picture before the first day of school. I was that child who got excited to buy new pencils and notebooks and rulers and always eagerly anticipated the start of the school year. Continue reading →
Tuesday was a rough morning. I woke up at 2am and never fell back asleep. I managed to slog through my 5am run, but by the time I got in the shower, whatever autopilot I had been functioning on turned off and I forgot my usual order of operations. First I turned off the water before I had even touched the soap. Once I turned the water back on, I managed to soap up my washcloth and scrub myself down not once, but twice, because at some point in the interim I forgot that I had already done it.
When my dad was near the end of his life, he had a similar habit of repeating tasks over and over again. He would spend twenty minutes in front of the bathroom mirror brushing his teeth obsessively three times in a row. The cancer had spread to his brain and it gave him a strange type of short term amnesia. It made him confused and threw him off balance. It also created a strange childlike fascination wth very simple things, like the veins on the back of his hands. My mom used to ask me to follow him up the stairs in case he fell and he would whine at me, “Sarah, stop it,” while I hovered a step behind him with my arms out as if he were a toddler who had just learned to walk. It sounds awful and it was, but it was also fascinating, watching the power that every little brain cell has to alter our behavior, control our thoughts, and ultimately change the very core of who we are. Continue reading →
We just returned from another weekend away, but this time I really wasn’t ready to come home. For the past four years, we’ve been going to Ocean City with my best friend Jeremy, his wife Sara, and for the first time this year, their cherubic son Jackson. We spent lazy hours on the beach, in the pool, drinking beers in the hot tub, and eating family dinners on our deck. It’s always difficult to leave the beach, that magical edge of the world where no one wears a watch and only your appetite and the tides dictate your schedule. But this year it was particularly bittersweet, because Jeremy and Sara and Jackson are moving to Florida in two months and this will likely be our last annual trip to Ocean City. Continue reading →
Wednesday night we’re having dinner at our downstairs neighbors’ apartment (have I mentioned how much I love our building?) and I offered to bring dessert. I have a habit of baking chocolate desserts, partly because Matt and I are both chocoholics and partly because I have several absurdly easy and insanely delicious chocolate dessert recipes in my repertoire. And yet, I feel very strongly that summer desserts should be fruit-based; it just seems seasonally appropriate. All summer long in Maine, my mother made fruit pies with whatever berry was in season: strawberry rhubarb pie, blueberry pie, and (if we were really ambitious and went out to pick wild berries) tri-berry pie. I know mom’s pie crust recipe by heart, but I could never match a Janice pie. They are magazine cover pies and I just don’t have her magic touch or the patience to acquire it, so I am making a plum crunch instead. Continue reading →