Tim and I came up to Chicago last Friday, here to spend a week with my family, and in that time, we have already been given so many gifts---at a beautiful wedding shower thrown for us Saturday, in presents for…
A couple Octobers ago, surrounded by golden maple leaves and whistling breezes and the smell of bonfires in barely twilight, I was walking out to my car with a guy from my Travel Writing class. Inhaling deeply, smiling while I did, I kept telling him, in probably five different ways, how much I loved it all—the season’s smells, its temperatures, how the leaves revealed their true colors, hidden from us the rest of the year. He listened, pretty politely I think, and then, when I’d reached a stopping point, he started talking about spring.
I remember how his face changed, how his voice raised when he said green—all the different shades of green! the leaves and the grass and the trees! the newness of it all! I have to say, while I’ve always been an autumn girl: he got me thinking. And a few months later, when the spring he’d been waiting for arrived, I saw it with his eyes.
Well, I hope I’m not jinxing things by saying so, but that last post seems to have worked: it’s looking and feeling more like spring every day! Today I drove with the windows down! Tonight as I’m typing, the birds are chirping! I’ve been hearing about Passover seders on Twitter and from friends, Easter is on Sunday, it’s practically April, after all! So in the spirit of welcoming (i.e., wishing, hoping, begging, pleading) for this new season that has. to. come. eventually, it’s time for a little spring cleaning. These are things I’ve been meaning to tell you, wanting to tell you or just plain am going to tell you. Settle in for a long post, cause that’s what we’ve got (with lots of pictures!).
While it’s true I’m easily persuaded about most things, whether it’s trying cookies without flour, taking trips to new places or realizing I’d been wrong all along about that crazy thing called meatloaf, you could still say there are a few fixed aspects of my nature, ones I don’t expect I’ll ever shake.
It’s hard to imagine a me that didn’t love the sky, for example, who didn’t stare at the clouds or gasp at a golden sunset. Would I still be myself if I didn’t notice the seasons change? I love the way my dad chuckles when he knows he’s wrong, the way my mom only shows her full grin when she’s laughing hard, how my younger brother is a better driver, planner and cook than I am. And really, I’ll always move towards relationships without pretense. That’s just who I am.
Since they say a person is defined by what she really loves, you might as well also know, in that case, that I like fall leaves and fresh fruit and people who sacrifice without expecting anything in return. I want warm sunshine and broad daylight and to spend time with those who know me.
Also, and no less important, there is lemon.
A lot of people say autumn weather pushes them towards the kitchen, towards the warmth of the stove as the sky darkens and the air chills, towards soups and stews and pies filled with apples. One of you even said here recently that this time of year means that the family comes inside together, to be wrapped up and warm, sipping hot cups of tea (I liked that very much).
But can I tell you something? October has had the opposite effect on me. Instead of slowing down to come inside, I’ve gotten busier—busier in a good way, doing fantastic things like celebrating birthdays and touring new neighborhoods and visiting farms and, also, spending an early Sunday morning driving to Indiana a few weekends ago, to meet my beautiful friend Sue, whom I haven’t seen since 2003 (!). Here’s me with her and her perfect 10-month-old daughter that couldn’t be cuter:
We met at Sophia’s House of Pancakes, where, while she waited, Sue told the owner I was sort of a food critic, which meant we not only got treated very, very well, but also that I took a few pictures of the good food we ate to show you later (it only seemed right).
You know, there were over 200 miles between us, each way, and I watched the sun rise over Indiana farms on my drive down, right around the time I realized Greenwood is an hour ahead of Chicago and so I would be pretty late getting there, but, honestly, it was absolutely worth every minute because Sue is just that kind of friend, and it was so good to sit across a table from her, to hear her voice and listen to her laugh and meet her daughter for the first time.
So anyway, please don’t think I’m complaining with this next bit because, I promise, I really do know I’ve been especially blessed lately, but thing is, in the midst of all these good gifts of conversation and travel and food-not-made-by-me, I am having the hardest time getting into the kitchen. If it hadn’t been for another of my old college friends, Elizabeth, who lived with me in the bedbug-infested Unit G of our freshman year and recently reconnected with me on Facebook, I don’t know what I would have done.
I am sorry to say I made several mistakes with this recipe—are you ready for this? To start, I didn’t chop the kale ahead of time, so the pieces were huge when they got tossed with the pasta; also, instead of using the called-for full pound, I just used the bag of kale that came in my CSA, which was a mystery to me in terms of weight, and probably much less than 16 ounces; I was almost out of lemon, so I made do with what was left of some squeezed slices in the fridge; and, when it came time to add the Parmesan, I look back and see now that I was a little stingy.
We’re all friends here, so I’ll just be straight with you: I make silly mistakes like these all the time. It’s not at all uncommon for someone to e-mail me a typo or spelling mistake I’ve posted, for example, and that’s not the sort of thing that inspires confidence in a girl who spends large parts of every day writing and editing words at her work desk.
But it gets worse.
A mistake I am always making, for years now, is something maybe too serious to be called a mistake, something more indicative of a strong character flaw and something that relates to this recipe, or more specifically, an ingredient in this recipe. It’s the same force that was at work when I said, not yet in kindergarten, that I would NEVER like dogs after being chased by some, leading to decades of friends putting their pets away for me; in high school, that I would NEVER live with my parents after college, which is exactly what happened; in college, that I would NEVER think camping sounded fun, although now almost five years later, you won’t find anyone who loves being outside like I do. Though my mind does change, eventually, I can be awfully stubborn in the meantime. It’s ugly.
So it was with kale, that dark and leafy vegetable not unlike spinach, which was not something I grew up eating.
I am so honored to have our first guest post be from the lovely Sara of Sprouted Kitchen! From the first moment I saw her blog, I was hooked. The recipes focus on whole, clean cooking that celebrates the purity and natural flavors of foods, and the photographs by Hugh Forte are beyond breathtaking. Just take a look at what she’s provided below, and you’ll see what I mean—oh, and, do stop over at her amazing site!