Friday, May 25, 2012

celebrating 33 years, savoring meals for one, and learning new lessons

It's no secret that I seriously, utterly love food. I can spend time thinking about it, reading about it, shopping for it, cooking and experimenting with it, and finally eating it. I even dream about it. One night, I dreamed I was back home and planning the menu for a dinner party in our garden - the setting of many, many dinners with family and friends. I miss this place, so carefully tended by my late grandparents.

So it was only appropriate the I celebrated 33 years with some seriously good food. Although I firmly believe that we should celebrate with good food every day as best we can, birthdays are a cause to up the ante, right?

Typically on a weekday I just have a simple breakfast of tea, and a piece of sprouted grain toast with butter and jam. But yesterday, I craved a heartier breakfast, with some polenta as the base. Usually this would be a weekend brunch... but why not on a Thursday?

birthday breakfast

So. Creamy polenta cooked in vegetable broth and milk, with grated pecorino Romano mixed in. Cremini mushrooms and Swiss chard sauteed in olive oil and garlic, leftover from the previous night's dinner. Then topped with a poached egg (I think I've realized that I can top just about anything with a poached egg), freshly grated pecorino Romano and cracked black pepper. A douse of bright green, fruity-yet-peppery extra virgin olive oil to finish.

I was so full I thought I wouldn't make it to my 11 am yoga class a couple of hours later.

Thankfully I did make it though, because there ended up being only one other student in the class - so it was a semi-private class and I got lots of individual assistance from the instructor. A birthday yoga treat.

I debated whether to get a pedicure or not, then decided against it. In favor of more food, of course. Thankfully I had some errands to do after yoga, to walk off my big breakfast and also to replenish some staples we need at home after our trip (essentials like toothpaste and TP - not so fun shopping, but required).

long noodles for long life! (as our tradition goes)

Lunch was linguine cacio e pepe. Despite having been used to cooking pasta for a crowd when I was back home and the designated pasta cook for my big family, I have now discovered the pleasure of cooking pasta for one. It's up there with the tea-for-one ritual.

Waiting for water to boil, salting it, dropping the pasta in, swirling it after a minute to make sure it doesn't stick. Five minutes into cooking the pasta: toasting the freshly ground black pepper in a skillet (to release the fragrant oils - I learned that I end up needing less pepper for this dish when I do it this way, yet I still taste the heat in the final result). Saving about a cup of the starchy pasta cooking water, to make the pan sauce. Draining the pasta just shy of al dente, adding it to a skillet with the pepper. Then dropping the butter into the skillet, letting the heat of the pasta melt the butter. Over medium heat so the pasta continues to cook gently, stirring and lifting the pasta with tongs to coat each strand with the butter. Mixing in a small cupped-palm-full of freshly grated pecorino Romano and parmigiano reggiano. Adding only enough  pasta water to loosen the pasta a bit so that it's not clumpy. The silky noodles are transferred to a favorite pasta bowl. I sat down at the table to enjoy my linguine for one, looking out onto the great big tree outside, all lush and green. For a moment I was transported to a trattoria in Rome, imagining that I were enjoying this quintessential Roman dish alfresco. Yet at the same time I was grounded in where I was in the present moment - savoring the meal I had made for myself.


This is such a humble pasta dish, but it's elegant in its simplicity. Sure it's got butter - but how else would you make it?

(Don't worry, I don't love butter quite as much as Paula Deen.)

I have to say I do enjoy my own company as much as time with my loved ones. Birthdays, while memorable celebrated with others, are also a time to pause in solitude. I went back to a phrase I had been reflecting on:  

Surrender to grace.

Something I want to practice in the years ahead.

It's like surrendering to child's pose in a yoga asana practice. It's a simple pose to do, yet a difficult one to actually practice.

But surrendering in this sense doesn't mean admitting to weakness.

I remember the times I was in limbo right before a big decision or transition. Does excessive worrying improve the outcome or increase my chances at getting the results I want? No. So, after doing everything I can, in the end, I need to let go - to surrender to grace - and have faith.

A lesson for my 33rd year. 

Later: a detailed account of last night's birthday dinner. 

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1 comment:

Anne said...

that brunch is making me drool!

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