I’ve never been a foodie, but sometimes I taste something that makes me so happy I want to change my life. Take the Caesar dressing I just made. It was the simplest recipe in the world, from The Weekday Vegetarians by Jenny Rosenstrach, made with mayo instead of eggs, and perfectly balanced in its flavors. In fact, it was so delicious I immediately dedicated myself to growing nothing but lettuce from November through April, just to give this dressing a proper and ever-ready vehicle to ride into my mouth.
While I was making the dressing, I watched the oddest little PBS show on my iPad. It’s not so much a show as it is a video blog, and each episode lasts around three minutes. One of the shows was about a woman who works a farm with her husband and sister. She’d recently discovered grilled romaine and was now dedicated to growing an entire garden of romaine so she could grill it all winter long. In the video, she’s shown out in a field of lettuce, and then in a field of chickens, and in both scenes, as well as in the kitchen where she was separating the romaine leaves to be grilled, a young child was with her, gazing upon her work with interest. It was almost like watching a dream–or a scene from a life I once imagined for myself.
Have you ever grilled romaine lettuce? I’d like to give it a try. Clifton and I are talking about doing a winter garden this year, because there’s nothing better than homegrown lettuce (except for homegrown tomatoes, of course). I have to admit, it seems premature to talk about winter gardens, but then I look at the calendar and realize it’s September. September! Christmas is just around the corner.
The older I get, the faster the time flies. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and realize I’m 80.
Okay, to bring this back to earth … Labor Day is looking at us right in the face, and that means it’s back to school time. Sending kids back to college isn’t remotely the same as waking them up for the first day of third grade. Do you miss the excitement of the start of the school year? What was it like when you homeschooled? Was there a clear demarcation between summer and back to school? Were you frolicking in the fields one day and then sitting at the kitchen table doing fractions the next? Did your kids get new clothes for the new school year?
I always looked forward to this time of year when I was a kid, and I definitely counted down the days when I was a mom with kids at home who I was ready to take a break from. But like that dream scene of happy fields of romaine and chickens, going back to school was always different in reality than the way I imagined it would be, both as a kid and as a mom. It was always hotter than the autumnal scenes I envisioned, and it was always much more exhausting. Ah, but those new notebooks and pencils … school supplies never disappoint!
Final question: What kind of lunchbox did you have as a kid? I need to text my older brother and ask him if he had the Road Runner lunchbox and I had the Peanuts (Good Ol’ Charlie Brown!), or if it the other way around. Both of us had milk in our thermoses. I never drank mine, though I’d get a chocolate milk on Fridays when I was allowed to buy lunch at school. Pizza day! I looked forward to it all week.
Oh how I love September! It somehow feels more like the new year than… New Years! When I was kid, we always started school the day after Labor Day and I was so ready for that fresh box of crayons (this was going to be the year that none of them broke!) and brand-new corduroy skirt. School around here now starts in mid-August and decidedly does not feel like fall at all! But September still feels like a fresh start to me. This year is bereft of back-to-school activities since Ben is already back at school. That is a little hard to get used to. Time marches on.
For the few years we homeschooled, I always made it a point that on the first day of public school in our town, we would go on a fun field trip. We visited places like the California Science Center or the KidSpace museum. I always wanted their first day to be fun and special.
I think that for most of my elementary school life, I brought lunch in a plain old brown bag, but I do remember a special Bugaloos lunch box in third grade. And most memorably, how a boy tripped me on the first day of school and the thermos broke. I don’t even think I made it to lunchtime. I can still hear those broken pieces rattling around in the bottom of that thermos. Devastating. His mom did make him come over to apologize and pay for it that night. But alas, the thermos was never replaced and I was back in line for 7-cent milk every day. I always envied kids with thermoses. (By the way, I had a very brief romance with that boy in eighth grade. And he eventually went on to play major league baseball.)
It’s interesting that you’re thinking about a winter garden. I was having similar thoughts. Because I thought we were going to do a major backyard renovation this summer, we didn’t plant a summer garden. Just some tomatoes in pots that were an absolute bust. But we’ve had some success with cool weather gardens filled with nothing but greens in the past. Now you’ve got me thinking about heading out to the garden center to buy a couple packets of lettuce mix. I love those cut-and-come-again varieties. And no, I’ve never had grilled romaine and as a matter of fact, I think I’ll leave that to you!
We just finished the show The Bear and while it does not make me want to work in a restaurant, it does make me want to be a better cook. I dream about whipping up my own salad dressing and making fresh pasta. As a matter of fact, Gary and I have a running list of things to do/places to go on a whiteboard in the kitchen and I recently added “make fresh pasta” to it. In my 20’s I was obsessed with a Food TV show called Biba’s Kitchen. She made fresh pasta on almost every show and it looked so simple! After all, every Italian housewife of a certain generation whipped it up on a nightly basis! So of course, I got myself a pasta roller and really got into it for a while. But, it was bound to fall by the wayside eventually. Somehow that pasta roller has survived many rounds of decluttering and I’m going to dust off my Northern Italian Cooking by Biba Caggiano cookbook and give it a spin. I’ll let you know how it goes.