AT HOME, CURRENTLY READING OLIVE KITTERIDGE, BY ELIZABETH STROUT
In tidying up piles of paperwork, I ran across a recipe that I intended to preserve to the blog last summer. That it became my favorite summertime meal… should, I suppose, lead to shame in my not sharing it sooner. Especially since my fondness for it grew out-of-bounds, in that I once served it for supper last autumn, too.
But it was during the season of spring that I first tasted something similar to it. A warm spring day in Palacios, Texas, that carried with it a hint of coolness from the nearby ocean. I was part of a group of women on spiritual retreat that day, being treated to a picnic lunch catered by a small but lovely Lake Jackson restaurant, called Cafe Annice. The pasta salad, I remember, was served with slices of crusty French bread with pesto-flavored butter… and for dessert, a Texas-sized brownie.
That picnic reminds me of a packet of letters I feasted upon at the close of the retreat. Some came from friends, a few from co-workers, with most from family. All of them, without fail, expressed gratitude or love for me, in one way or another.
Included in the packet were letters from my parents. One from each. A big deal, since neither was in the habit of writing… or comfortable in expressing love. But write they did. Dad recorded the way he felt on the day I was born, at the moment when I was first placed in his arms. The way he expressed his thoughts on paper… the particular way he told that story… was so uniquely, Dad… that the letter itself helps preserve, for me, the sound of his gravely voice.
Funny how I don’t recall Mom’s message as clearly. Though I do remember how she closed her short note by passing on some bit of by-the-way family or community news that she thought I’d be interested in knowing. Mom avoided mushy. She always said we knew how she felt about us. And since her actions spoke in place in words, I suppose she was right.
I’ve thought about Mom off and on all day. Partly because it snowed and Mom always enjoyed watching a pretty snowfall. But also, because it’s her birthday. Had she lived, she would have been eighty. Which seems impossible… about as impossible as the fact that I possess a letter from her at all, one that I’m fairly certain I was disappointed with because of its brevity when first opened. But today I’m glad. I’m glad that she kept her words short and to the point. Had she done otherwise, that letter wouldn’t feel nearly so true to her spirit.
So tonight, I write in memory of Mom. I write without shame in not sharing this recipe sooner. There is a time for everything… and a season for every activity under the heavens… so the Bible says. In this spirit of wisdom, maybe last year just wasn’t my season for writing. And maybe when my retreat sponsor contacted my mother on the eve of my long ago retreat, that single letter became her season to write one.
Some things, of course, are not bound by a season. God. Love. Wisdom. Small things, too. This simple pasta salad, for one. Cause it may be winter, but it’s on tonight’s menu.
Chicken Caesar Pasta SaladServes 2 1.5 cups of grilled chicken breast, cut in bite-size chunks or strips (grill in advance (freeze and thaw) or purchased grilled chicken strips in freezer section of grocery store) 1.5 cups penne pasta, cooked al dente (about 3 ounces uncooked) 1 cup thinly sliced romaine lettuce 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, bite-size — whole or halved 1/2 cup (or more!) red grapes, sliced in half 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil 1/4 cup chopped green onions 1 small garlic clove, minced 1/4 cup (or more) of Caesar Dressing (I use Marie’s) 1/8 cup fresh parsley 1/4 cup of fresh Parmesan Cheese, grated 1/2 cup of home-made croûtons (see below) Fresh grounded black pepper — to taste
Combined all ingredients in a large bowl — toss well to evenly coat.
2 slices of French bread, cubed
Approx. 2 Tbsp butter
garlic salt to taste
Sauté bread cubes in butter and garlic salt in a skillet over medium heat until toasted.