Avery will be one year old on Friday, and it’s got me feeling very reflective. I think back over the past 12 months, and I remember days that felt like they lasted for weeks, and weeks that flashed by in the blink of an eye. I think about how much of the year I spent feeding Avery, and how much that has changed as the year has unfolded. To start, I nursed her for many months, and it was a chore at times and more depleting than I could’ve imagined, but it was also an extreme privilege—one of the most basic, natural things I’ve ever done, but yet something that made me feel incredibly proud.
I think about spooning Avery her first runny bites of oatmeal, the question in her furrowed brow and then the twinkle in her eye. I think about how quickly that oatmeal became pureed fruits and vegetables and then bits of basically everything. I think about how some days Avery would gobble handfuls of something I’d made her, before literally pulling the very same food out of her mouth the next day. But, mostly, I think about how she’s game to try anything, and I hope hope hope she’ll hold on to that quality.
I’ll keep this quick, because, at the moment, there’s a summer to live. There are wading pools to splash in, lemonades to sip, ice creams to scoop, sunsets to watch, and tents to pitch (this weekend! with our infant! wish us luck!). But, of course, one still must eat. And if one can be persuaded to cook indoors, with heat (a tall order—trust me, I get that), it should be something like this recipe, which requires only a brief burst of stovetop heat before a blink-and-you’ll-burn-it pass under the broiler.
Avery and I have a new Friday afternoon tradition, almost too new to warrant that name. But for a few weeks now, after I’m done with work and Avery’s up from her afternoon nap, and before Kevin gets home from work, Avery and I head to a nearby neighborhood farmers’ market. From the street, you can see down to Green Lake in one direction and out to the mountains in the other, but the market is hidden away, tucked back from the street in an empty parking lot. It’s the perfect size—big enough to offer plenty of variety but small enough to feel intimate. And the late Friday afternoon time slot ensures that it’s got a good hum of activity, without becoming overwhelming like the crowded Sunday morning market can sometimes feel.
Best of all, Avery loves it. She’ll lean out of her stroller, craning her neck to peer at the musicians—last week a guitarist by the entrance, plucking out reggae tunes that felt perfect for a Friday afternoon, and a jazz trio at the other end. And I handed her bits of the heel of bread the baker offered us after we bought two bagels (destined for Saturday breakfast), and passed her raspberries from the half-flat I stowed beneath the stroller. In both cases, she quickly reached up her chubby little hand for another, and then another.
One of the worst parts about growing up is the end of Summer Vacation. Summer as an adult is, of course, still wonderful, but the very best parts—the parts with grill smoke and popsicles and fire flies and toes dipped in cold water—get pressed into the margins of day-to-day life. So the Summer Vacation feeling makes only fleeting appearances, during an after-work stroll, say, or a too-brief weekend afternoon spent lakeside.
And that makes it impossible to believe in the Summer Vacation myth that I fell for year after year as a kid: that it’ll never end. That the days will continue to unspool like one Saturday after another for as long as you can imagine. I’d give almost anything to subscribe to that innocent fantasy again.
In some ways, Seattle reminds me of the small town in northern Minnesota where my parents grew up and where my grandparents still live. Their town sits on the edge of Lake Superior, at a place where dozens of rivers empty out into the lake and the shoreline alternates between rocky beach and sheer cliffs. In the summer, there’s plenty of blue and green beauty, and the sun shines warm, but not hot, before an evening chill sets in every night. The same goes for Seattle this June, on the days when it hasn’t been drizzly and gray (today, I’m looking at you).
Tuesday was one of those gorgeous, pleasant days. I sat at my desk, with the sun warm on my face and the breeze floating in through the open window, and thought about northern Minnesota summers and my impending trip to the grocery store to pick up things for dinner.
During the year or two when I wasn’t posting much here, I noticed a change in my cooking. It was less adventurous, which was likely at least in part a byproduct of the general life chaos that also required me to spend less time here. But it wasn’t just that—this site compels me to seek out new and different recipes, and that inspiration is one of my favorite things about having a blog. Without the site prodding me along, I stuck to a stable of tried-and-true recipes.
It wasn’t all bad while I was away, though. I tinkered with and perfected old favorites, and—overall—my cooking was much less recipe-driven. I often found myself cooking based on what was on hand, using the methods that I already knew, and striving for the flavors I know I love. They were straightforward dishes, and I didn’t record the recipes on paper or photograph the final product. Favorites would emerge, and I’d make those dishes over and over, a slow evolution unfolding over time, until they were just right.
I walked to the dry cleaners yesterday, which was a hot, sunny day in Seattle, a city that people say rarely sees the sun and never gets hot, so I may be breaking some kind of let’s-keep-this-our-little-secret Seattle code by even mentioning these pleasant conditions, but I’m new here, and I haven’t totally learned the code just yet. Anyway, a few stray, puffy clouds floated in the broad, blue sky and as I climbed the steep, narrow stairway that cuts a path out of our little neighborhood and out onto the main drag, I turned around to take it all in.
From those stairs, I can see all the way down the hill into Ballard, and, behind it, slices of the sparkling ship canal and the blue and red hulls of the big boats anchored there. I can see the slope up to Queen Anne on the other side of the water, and way off in the distance, I can see the jagged, still-snow-draped Olympics. The latest-blooming flowers (poppies and peonies and roses, at the moment!) edge the sidewalks, and succulents crawl up mossy rock walls. I can hear the bellow of shipping horns and the whisper of the tall, swaying pines, and power lines criss-cross overhead.
Oh, my. Thank you, all of you, for being here, and thank you to the many of you who wrote such seriously nice things in response to my last post. If I felt re-energized and newly-inspired before I wrote that post, well, now I have that big, happy swelling in my chest—the one you get when you know something is right. So, thank you.