Every time we visit Chicago, I wonder how long before it stops feeling like home.
And while missing your family at 30 is not as popular as missing them your freshman year (anyone else cry with “Parenthood” last week?), the truth is that I still miss mine. I miss my dad’s tender heart and my mom’s loud giggle and my brother’s ability to find the coolest new places and products everywhere he goes. My dad picks us up from the airport last Wednesday and we don’t stop talking until we’re in his garage, despite a 20-minute detour when we’re so caught up in conversation that we miss our exit; my mom fills the fridge with food she knows we’ll like; my brother sidekicks with us through dinner in Bucktown, shopping in the suburbs, late-night movies and TV. Sometimes the pain of missing them is so strong that the joy of these visits almost gets overshadowed, like I can’t soak it up while awaiting another goodbye—but, for the first time, instead of feeling embarrassed about this attachment, I am realizing: that’s because my family’s pretty great.
The last night we’re in town, we decide to do an outdoor dinner—take a table and chairs to the backyard, cut flowers from the bushes, carry pots and dishes from the kitchen to the basement and through walk-out doors.
My mom slow-cooks some taco meat; Tim and Adam and I bake sprouted tortilla chips and kale chips and pull together a big salad from leftovers in the fridge. There’s sangria filled with peaches and strawberries; we pour water into tall carafes and add slices of lime. And then, just before twilight, we all come around the table and, together, we eat.
Friday night, falling into bed, Tim and I talk about how much we’ve enjoyed the meal—and the people we shared it with.
“It’s so nice to have people who love you,” I say to him.
People in Nashville and people in Chicago, even when they’re spread out.
Family Outdoor Dinner Menu
Friday, September 14
Tacos, with Mom’s taco meat, shredded raw cheddar cheese, a hodgepodge of raw vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, red onion) and baked sprouted corn tortillas brushed with coconut oil
Salad of Romaine lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced peaches, sliced red onions, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and lime juice
A bowl of fresh strawberries
Sangria of one bottle white wine (Pinot grigio), 8 to 12 ounces sparkling water, 1/2 cup honey (shaken with the water to dissolve before adding), one sliced peach, 1 1/2 to 2 cups of quartered strawberries, juice of half a lime
Baby Kale Chips (the star of the meal and the first to be gone)
All measurements are approximations
Organic baby kale, as much as can fit in a large bowl
A few teaspoons of coconut oil, warmed to liquid
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, massage the kale with the coconut oil until it’s all well covered. Add a couple shakes of salt and pepper, then a few teaspoons of crushed red pepper. Toss. Spread kale on baking sheets and place in oven until crispy, 15 to 30 minutes (but keep your eye on them!).