On Sunday I read an entire book cover to cover. It was a cooking memoir, not terribly substantial in length, but as someone in a near monogamous relationship with audio books, it was quite the weekend scandal. When halfway through the day I realized this was an entirely possible feat, I committed myself to the task in earnest, reading at the edge of Gus’s bath and as I made my way from room to room. I scratched my scrolling media itch with a few paragraphs every time I started to pick up my phone, and, of course, I did little else other than read. Then, at the end of the day, I had a finished book in my lap- a book I had been eyeing at my secondhand bookstore for months and that I had finally gotten in my hands through an inter-library loan for a whole $2 postage.
The day it came in, I picked it up from my local branch semi-sure I would return it without having made a real dent in it. (It’s a source of personal shame that I am a well-meaning library patron with really terrible completion rates. Now you know and can judge me appropriately.) But then I read a whole book in the span of a day, something I haven’t done since the great Hunger Games Binge of Fall 2011. It isn’t something I can imagine pulling off regularly now that I know I can! - I have a family I like to look in the eyes and spring is thumbing its nose at the snowy forecast - but the experience did get me thinking, about how much energy I put where and how I go about making those decisions. A whole book in a day! What magic! Also of importance: how many of my hours am I bungling while calling out no time! no time! no time! ..?
At one point on Sunday I briefly re-entered the family atmosphere to sort seeds and loosely plan the garden with Craig. After last year's abysmal yields we have decided to very dutifully stay the course of Focused and Manageable. Craig consented to only one variety of watermelon while I laid down my multi-year fava bean bullheadedness. Then we enabled our shared inclination to grow all-the-squash-pests-be-damned. You are familiar with this variety, yes..? Our meeting ended with the shortest seed order list to date. Two items, potatoes and rutabagas, the first a given and the second a new addition thanks to a Deborah Madison recipe we’ve been enjoying lately with lentils and a red wine sauce. Oh, I am looking forward to the practical garden of 2017 with it’s wild and crazy experimental rutabaga crop! I really do think this year will be good, though my working theory is that the garden will always look its best in February, safe in the mind and dressed exclusively in hope.
As we plot our way into our fifth (!!) growing season here, we’ve finally entered the acceptance stage of trying and failing to do it all. Some manage it but we can’t (or don’t want to?), and that’s the short story of how heads of lettuce and rows of beets were unceremoniously culled from this year’s garden. The more we build our homestead the more I realize for us it isn’t so much about creating a life absent of needs beyond what our land and hands can provide, but rather cultivating a deep understanding of our choices and their impacts- environmentally, bodily, spiritually. Last summer I looked at my son and wondered what we owed him in this life he didn’t choose. I saw him spending too much of his time nipping at the heels of his parents’ never ending to do list and it felt terrible. Even then I was moved to ask about the hours I was bungling. This year I’m moving into the sun ready and grateful to lean on friends who do what they do spectacularly and humanely, as I would hope to do myself were I a do-it-all type. I really am going to plant that sunflower house for Gus this year. There’s time, there’s time, there’s time.
WINTER SALAD WITH CITRUS, FETA + PISTACHIOS
adapted ever so slightly from Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg
I made this salad yesterday while a blizzard slid in sideways and the boys alternated between sledding and snowshoeing. Some might have thought it more practical to get the evening's pot roast simmering but they didn't say so outrightly and I shared my plate to make just-in-case amends. Marriage! (Also: Parenting! Because I offered up the leftover citrus juice swirled together in a jelly jar for the little one whose dinner was still a bit off.)
You know, I think the thing about this salad is that you can't skimp on the feta. It isn't pretty or tasty to scrooge away your dairy, particularly your salty dairy when working with unsalted pistachios, citrus, and winter greens. And for taste's sake, don't use the above picture as a guide. I took that before I added enough feta and made all the winter salad difference. In absence of champagne vinegar, as the original recipe calls for, I used kombucha. Fire cider, ACV or even balsamic would be fine substitutions as well. And if your husband's godfathers left you a bottle of lemon infused olive oil in their annual fall pantry clean out before their snowbird flight to the BVIs: use it.
Fair warning about this recipe: it has a real sort it out yourself quality when it comes to quantities. The dressing should dress about 4 salads, and using a handful of unsalted pistachios and the un-juiced other half of the grapefruit I used for the dressing, I was able to make a nice personal salad. Enjoy the free-form nature of a salad with few rules (aside from do not skimp on the feta).
1 tablespoon kombucha (or alternative vinegar)
1/8 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 garlic clove, microplaned
pinch of salt
twist of cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup lemon infused olive oil (or olive oil of your choice)
radicchio, thinly sliced
unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
Add all dressing ingredients to a lidded jar and shake vigorously until thoroughly combined.
Plate salad with all ingredients. Dress to taste.