It is the bittersweet season. The maples are shyly streaked with red, dinnertime needs candles again, the grape smell is everywhere, and the kids are gone, gone, gone. Some of you have emailed to say that you’re thinking of me, remembering how hard September is. Thank you for that—for knowing me so well, for so long. For feeling this with me.
|I think this is technically called foreshadowing.|
Ben started middle school at the performing arts charter school nearby. I know I often forget to tell you things like that—like what’s actually happening around here. It must sometimes feels like one of those Look Again! books, with a close-up so close you don’t even know what it is: you thought it was the uneven parallel bars but really it turned out to be a katydid’s antennae.
I write a lot about the heart-flapping thrill when that fat toddler hand reached up to take mine, that same heart-flapping thrill ten years later when it’s a happy middle schooler’s gangly paw reaching out, but maybe you don’t know where we’re actually going, or what it is that’s actually going on.
Exposition is, perhaps, not my real strength. But it always seems like what we have in common, you and I, is that hand in ours—more than the personal details of whether or not Michael and I are married, whether or not we drive an elderly Subaru wagon with its saggy engine dragging along the ground like an automotive representation of my bosom, whether or not we have sent our kids to private elementary school, whether or not I have done various sleazy things to pay for that school (less pole dancing than eyeshadow-for-sale writing, don’t worry). But then you don’t always know what’s going on.
|My tea was a little dry, but otherwise I heartily recommend the Yum-Yum Castle Restaurant.|
So: Ben is starting middle school at the performing arts charter school. It’s going to be so great, it is, you can just tell by the positive energy of the kids, the smiles and guitars and piercings and frantic hugging all around. I just drove him to school in the rain, and we had to listen to Aretha Franklin singing “Rock Steady”—but really loud, so that Ben can pick out the piano part he needs to learn. Not bad, as far as homework goes. But part of one day last week was hard for him and oh, I am about as thick-skinned as a soap bubble. I think about that thing everybody talks about—“helicopter parenting.” That’s not me. I’m more like “velociraptor parenting” crossed with “retired submarine” parenting. I don’t care if the kids make the ski team or play the violin or go to college, and I’m too busy lying on the couch with a beer to hover around pressuringly—but if you interfere with their happiness, I will come at you with claws and teeth and furious, scaly, flapping tail. At least in my imagination I will.
|Maybe a puffball that doubles as an airbag will help!|
I am, in sum, happy, optimistic, and a little raw. I was renewing my library card over the phone, and the circulation guy was looking at my account, and he said, “Oh, while I’ve got you, I’m seeing that Why Women Have Sex is overdue. Are you ready to return it?” “Not yet,” I said, and he said, “Okay, okay… Why Women Have Sex. It doesn’t look like anyone else has requested it, so you can go ahead and keep it, Why Women Have Sex. If you still need it.” And when I laughed and said, “It’s something I’m writing a piece about for work,” he said, serious, “I’m sure it is.” That’s the kind of week I’m having.
|I am not recommending that you fry it in butter and eat it. It's a mushroom, for God's sake, and could be poisonous.|
Here’s a recipe that makes a perfect, nourishing, easy, unpoisonous back-to-school supper: a rich, unctuous, wildly herbal pasta dish that takes a handful of walnuts and turns them into a divine, lilac-hued cream sauce. My kids love this dish, scout’s honor.
But first, three free-thrills recommendations:
1) The customer reviews of the “BIC Cristal for Her Ball Pen” renew my faith in humanity—and in the fact that the roots of feminism run deep and funny. "Someone has answered my gentle prayers and FINALLY designed a pen that I can use all month long! I use it when I'm swimming, riding a horse, walking on the beach and doing yoga. It's comfortable, leak-proof, non-slip and it makes me feel so feminine and pretty!"
2) I challenge you to watch this and not end up saying “Don’t. Punch. Our car.” a hundred times a day. Also, I challenge you not to binge-watch the rest of them. Episode 4 is our current favorite. (Thanks, Launa. You owe me a million hours of my life.)
3) This song makes me cry. (OMG. Did I link to it last September too? I hope not.)
Pasta with Red Beans and Walnut Sauce
This is based on Red Beans with Walnut Sauce from the incredibly useful Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
My girlfriend Deobrah Madison adds scallions and walnut oil; I add marjoram and pasta. If you don't have or like all these herbs, use an equal amount of herbs you have or like. Crunchy,
buttery breadcrumbs would be great on top.
1 pound whole-wheat pasta shapes (I like bionaturae chiocciole, which I actually do buy from amazon in packages of 6!)
½ cup walnut pieces
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil (or walnut oil!)
Pinch of cayenne
3 cups cooked kidney beans (or two cans, drained)
3 tablespoons each finely chopped parsley and cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped marjoram
Put a large pot of water on for the pasta and salt it heavily (it should taste as salty as the sea).
Make the walnut sauce: whir together the walnuts and garlic in a food processor, then add the vinegar, oil, black pepper, cayenne, and ¾ teaspoon of kosher salt. Drizzle in 3 or 4 tablespoons of water (or use bean-cooking water, if you cooked them yourself—but don’t bother with the canned liquid) and process until you make a smooth, creamy sauce. Taste it for salt and vinegar, and add more of either if it’s not perfectly balanced.
Meanwhile, cook and drain the pasta and heat the beans a little bit in the microwave or a small pot.