Monthly Archives: June 2013

Meditation for the Greatest Generation

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” Lewis Grizzard

One day my mother phoned a number of her old, long-distance friends and every one of them was in some point of transition to a retirement home. One was already settled, a block from the water’s edge in Juno Beach, Florida.

“But how can this be?” she cried, “When just a few years ago I was only sixteen!”

My parents are presently caught up in their own such move. My mother is subject to purging moods where she would get rid of everything and run like her house was on fire. Whereas Dad would have it that they just not go, and fights it every step of the way.

I arrived on the scene and found a sofa missing and the living room rug rolled up but rug pad down, in a house that was still on the market. I was at a crossroads: assist them in packing or restage their house for showing? Or both.

It is important that family help. Mom and Dad had hired a lady, “a down-sizing expert” she called herself, who came and helped herself to things. She combed through their drawers and closets and went off with—well, they are not quite sure what she went off with or where it all went. A Cardinal Cushing Consignment Shop was mentioned, and I have every intention to go there to look for a silver salad utensil that I had expressed interest in. It was perfect for serving a dish we adore in my home, Insalata Caprese (sliced fresh buffalo mozzeralla, sliced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, seasoned with salt, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil or balsalmic vinegar or both).

My mother and I have done this dance before–she wanted a debutante and what she got was a hippie. There were visits home from college where my blue jeans would magically disappear in the laundry, after all the time invested to soften them, before manufacturers ever dreamed of stone-washing. So I became accustomed then to walking down to The Child and Family Services Thrift Shop in town, combing the racks for my blue jeans and buying them back. I would do this again for that silver utensil.

Which brings me to the tomato. I have a friend who just this week packed up all her belongings and moved from Seattle to San Diego for the tomatoes. Well, there were other factors on her list, but tomatoes, she tells me, were in the top three. I can understand that. I had an aunt who once said of the caprese salad, “I could live on this!” She was the one who introduced me to caprese, and I must say there has never been a more delicious, or more simple, salad since.

I would like to tell my parents it’s not all about the big things in life, like the move, but rather, the little things, such as vine-ripened tomatoes.

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Reign of Water

What is the phenomena when something you love in life, rises up and knocks you down? I recently had that experience returning from a writing workshop in Tuscany where we were forever outdoors, well fed, enjoying wine, morning, noon, and night, basking in and absorbing all the natural and artistic beauty, and giving back by way of writing. If I were to design a heaven for myself, this might be it.

My intention in coming home, was good. Something along the lines of I will just try to bring it all back with me. I saw no reason for it to end. I still had my Tuscan magazine piece to finish, and if possible, I would like to feel as inspired here as I did there.

And so upon landing, as soon as I had unpacked all my notes and books and recipes, I flung open the doors of our house and made every effort to turn our little English Tudor in Seattle into an Italian Villa. By slow-cooking our meals, braising beef, veal, pork or lamb, my husband and I would embrace eating and drinking with the same daily seriousness as the Tuscans. And the wine would continue to pour….

That first night I made Balsamic-Glazed Short Ribs, which smelled divine all day but in the end was too rich a dish for us, too late at night. And the wine, whatever happened to the wine, so pure in Italy? I am not the first to suggest that one can drink quite well in Europe with no adverse effect, but come home and…. Well, I suspect additives and preservatives to meet the requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration. I know everyone is currently bent out of shape over privacy issues with NSA, but personally I am much more concerned about this.

In other words, I tried to bring the Tuscan lifestyle home and it didn’t translate. Instead, a perfect storm ensued: the wine hit, food poisoning, and dehydration…. And for what I would describe as a week, though my husband says it was just days, I lay about trying to get some water into me, drop by drop.

I had all that time to think about water.

Where my mind was not allowed to go, however, was to food and drink.

So I thought of a handful of friends who have stopped drinking over the years. You know who you are, I love you, and thank you. You pulled me through and showed me where to go if I ever got out of the trouble I was in.

I may change my mind oneday, but right now I’m pretty passionate. I want to let this gentle “Reign of Water” run its course—and see where it goes. Perhaps it will be my most productive and prolific period yet.

I’ll toast my water goblet to that.

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