If you asked the average Joe today what he thinks about salad, ten to one he says something about “healthy.” I’m a 1980s baby, a Millennial, a product of the decade marked by thick shoulder pads and Jell-O Pudding Pops…
It happens to me every year. Sometime about the end of June, when our CSA is in full swing and the daylight’s stretching past 8 p.m., I marvel at the sweetness of the season around me, so hot and bright…
On Tuesdays I work at coffee shops with a couple girlfriends who also call their homes their workplaces. It's a good chance to knock social activity and work hours out together (she says, like a true introvert) and one that…
From your comments, I know many of you experience strawberry season a little later than we do here in Tennessee. So if it’s been June instead of May that’s sent you picking strawberries and bringing buckets of them home, listen up. Whether you’ve just made homemade jam or are about to (or if you picked up jam from another source!), have we got a treat for you. You already know about turning strawberry jam into ice cream. You already know how good it is slathered on buttered toast. And maybe you’re like us and have already whipped up this Bon Appétit recipe for baby biscuits baked with circles of jam on top? If so, and you’re looking for yet one more way to put that berry jam to good use: here it is. Just over a week ago, Tim and I discovered yet another beautiful reason to love strawberry preserves—and, boy, let me tell you, it’s show-stopping.
The month of August has been a quiet one for us. Expected guests had to cancel at the last minute, plans changed and, while you’d think this would be the sort of thing to discourage us, in fact, it’s been the opposite. We’ve been dealing with the wide-open weekends of Tim’s homemade pancakes, afternoons spent writing, evening walks in the park, impromptu trips to thrift stores or out for tacos. The weather’s even cooperated, moving from the abrasive 100s to more reasonable upper 80s, making it a little easier to enjoy cooking in the kitchen again. For years, Tim’s told me about his homemade Chinese food, and this August has been his chance to take a few hours in the kitchen to show me. I’ve baked cookies without recipes. We’ve slow-cooked vegetables via Marcella Hazan. And not once, not twice, but three times, we’ve made homemade kefir-soaked spelt pizza crusts, topped by peaches and spinach and goat cheese.
In so many ways, August has been a contrast to the months before it, in which we’ve hosted out-of-town guests or traveled ourselves, and, to make up for the hours we’d be missing, worked double-time beforehand. In the same way that you appreciate your sophomore English teacher so much more because you disliked your freshman one, we’ve been basking in the beauty of this August and its slow, steady schedules.
Most Tuesday nights, we share dinner with Tim’s brother, Nathan, who lives about a mile or two away, in the house where Tim lived before October. Every other week, by the time he arrives, we’re also unpacking our biweekly CSA haul, a tightly packed bushel box of yellow squash and watermelon and sweet corn and tomatoes and so on, which we pick up from the 12 South Farmers Market held late Tuesday afternoons. On one particular week, we’re pulling away from the market, not yet home, when I catch an image on Instagram of a peach-topped pizza. Despite the loot in our back seat, we beeline for the grocery.
At home, we launch into our biweekly routine, Tim slicing up watermelon that we snack on while we divvy up the goods. Meanwhile, I mix together a pizza crust, letting it soak in the warmest spot above our oven.
By the time Nathan arrives, the August sun is lowering, the house enjoying that late-summer twilight that turns everything golden and dim, and two pizzas are in the oven, one on a stone and one on a baking sheet.
That first time is magic: crackery crust, sweet and soft peaches, the tang of goat cheese mixed with drizzles of honey. We eat it on the sofa, piece after piece after piece, the three of us flipping through channels on TV, occasionally interrupting the programming to marvel at the way the crust holds up or the way the edges have a faint hint of Saltine.
When Nathan leaves, it’s barely 8 p.m., so Tim and I clean up the dishes and put away the leftovers and take a drive, headed nowhere in particular, off to enjoy a lazy summer night, with nothing to do. I say to him, This August has been like one long date!, enough that I almost feel guilty!, and he says to me, I know.
Tim and I live in the downstairs of a 1940s-style house; I may have mentioned this before. If you walk into our living room from the front porch, you see built-ins around the fireplace, stuffed with the combined libraries of 20+ years of separate lives: a few textbooks, many novels, the guidebook and accompanying tapes for a ‘How to Speak Italian’ course. For the first few months we lived together, the mantel between these shelves was completely bare; December brought a $5 fresh pine wreath from Aldi, which we left mounted weeks past New Year’s; we finally threw it in the fireplace in February, planning to watch it burn, but it’s still sitting there. In its stead are perched a giant canvas engagement shot, a few framed prints and a wooden letter “M” I spray-painted white in a few Pinterest-driven weeks last winter.
Besides the ottomans and the rug, everything in this living room is either from our previous apartments or hand-built by Tim; that’s true in most of the house. The leather couch: from his old apartment with two other guys. The coffee tables: my former nightstand and Tim’s former filing cabinet. As we usher you through to the dining room, we’ll give you the biographies of the entertainment center (built a few weeks before the wedding), the dining table (finished in those days when I was in Chicago making wedding favors) and the buffet (brought to our house just after we got rid of our first Christmas tree).
It’s a small and cozy two-bedroom, just the sort of place you’d think of when you think young newlyweds. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm, with beat-up hardwood floors, painted but paneled walls, white crown molding and natural light brought in through lots of windows—at least one in every room.
While you’re sitting at the table, we might tell you how last summer when we toured apartments, this place was last in the long line of possibilities we looked through and, by far, the best. I’d kept a list back then, with all the things we’d hoped for in our future home: an extra bedroom, a garage, windows in the bathroom and kitchen. This place had every one. And sometimes, still, we can’t believe we live here.
After we hand you your plates, piled high with baby spinach and roasted peaches and goat cheese, we might whisper that we’d stay forever if it weren’t for the smell of smoke filling our bathroom lately or the strange phenomenon we witnessed when our neighbor removed items from our trash can and took them to his backyard (!), or the growing desire we both have to plant a garden and, to watch it grow.
We talk to you from the kitchen, a white, 100-square-foot galley-style space with gray laminate countertops and a floor our landlord laid before we moved in (chosen primarily, we think, because it’s the cheapest kind they sell at Home Depot). There’s a white stone bowl with red tomatoes to the left of the sink and a handful of peaches set beside it.
Tim and I cooked together when we lived in different states and would visit for quick weekends; we cooked together when we lived in Nashville in different houses and traded dinners at his place or mine; but now, in this little house, we cook together constantly, swapping tasks and sharing chores for every meal.
I wipe down the counters one last time before we join you at the table, and Tim reaches into the fridge, past spinach and Pecorino and yesterday’s zucchini fritters, to grab the water pitcher, which, we apologize, is for some reason, the only drink we have on hand today.
Around the table, sitting at mismatched chairs beneath a vintage glass chandelier with cobwebs on it, we look at our plates, like we do most nights, and they’re as colorful and full as any from a five-star salad course in town.
With you, we give thanks. Because if any part of our simple, newlywedding life is mature and adult-like and settled, it’s not our careers or our furniture or our savings plans—in truth, we’re more likely to buy extra produce than new stocks—sitting before the spread before us, enjoying it with you, we know, it’s this, the way we eat.
Back when I was keeping regular office hours, breakfast was always tough. I don’t know why it was easy to prepare lunch the night before but then over and over again forget about breakfast, but it was. There were months of quick grabs on the way out the door—a muffin, some leftovers, cookies whenever they were around. (Of course.)
And honestly, even though nowadays I’m most likely still in my pajamas past 10 AM (and you’d assume that such a fact would imply leisurely gourmet breakfasts), I’ll just be honest: in actuality, the biggest thing that’s saved me is the smoothie.
See, sometime last year—around the same time that all kinds of other changes were happening—I started making smoothies. I had made them before (a certain blueberry-orange-banana one made its appearance around here just weeks before my diet change), but this was different.
There were bags and bags of frozen fruit, for starters, blended in all kinds of new combinations. In the beginning, it was strawberries, bananas and raw milk. Maybe with cocoa powder added, maybe with yogurt or kefir if I were out of milk. Strawberries turned to blueberries turned to mixed berries and back again. Sometimes there were mangoes or kiwi or pineapple added in. At some point I started adding raw eggs for protein. And a few times, I tried greens like kale—but it wasn’t until this year that greens became a staple, thanks to a few experiences of intensely green shakes (as inspired by the nutritional research and consultation being done by these guys). I felt my tastebuds changing and grew to really want vegetables in my smoothies, too.
Then there was one more thing: last month, when Tim and I went to visit my family for a few days, my dad surprised me with the perfect gift:
a brand-new Vitamix
(I know, I know, but I told you, he is crazy generous).
I almost cried.
So I tell you all that to say, or to explain, that somewhere along the line I became someone who has a smoothie every. single. morning. Like many changes, it happened gradually, naturally, the way changes often do, but when I look back, I’m kind of awed by how different things look.
You know, it’s like the way that you stand your kid against the wall and mark his height each year or, you water your tomato bush every day but then suddenly notice it’s bloomed!. Sometimes it’s not until the looking back that we see change best.
There is always fruit:
and a few big leaves of greens (kale, collards, chard):
with liquids—milk or kefir/yogurt with water:
then I throw in some cod liver oil for Omega 3s (you won’t taste it anyway, and it’s easier than trying to remember to take a spoonful every day) or a few probiotics:
The possibilities are endless, so things never get boring. And the particular version I bring you today is the one I made Sunday, filled with the flavor of fresh peaches (which were $0.69 a pound last week) and the grassy kick of greens. The name’s a little hokey, but the taste—and the nutritional value—definitely isn’t. Peaches N’ Greens: now that’s a good breakfast.