Marilyn Gardner Woods
One day recently, I spent more time in my kitchen than I have collectively over the last six years.
It began around my birthday in May. Each year I make a list of wants/wishes/plans/ideas and/or goals. The length of the list equals my new age; this year’s list is extremely long.
It’s called candling, this routine of mine. I learned this from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a fascinating book by John Koenig recommended to me by my writing pal, Judy Reeves.
According to the author, the book “is a compendium of new words for emotions. Its mission is to shine a light on the fundamental strangeness of being a human being—all the aches, demons, vibes, joys, and urges that are humming in the background of everyday life.”
I dove right in and have reveled in its fabulous weirdness and joy. Words like heartspur, suente, and karanoia are now regulars in my vocabulary. Quite thrilling to incorporate on tenderhooks, an adjective describing the feeling of primal satisfaction of being needed by someone, which makes you feel that much more rooted to the world, even if the roots belong to someone else.
This book is a
to my library.
Back to my morning—three and one-half hours—in the kitchen.
On my birthday candling list #56 is “master a summer dish made from scratch.” This is something I haven’t done in decades.
I decided on a pasta salad.
My big error? I asked Maddie, my next-door granddaughter who happens to the consummate foodie and New York Times recipe master, for suggestions. She sent five. I picked the one with the least amount of ingredients and steps.
The dish—Pasta Salad with Zucchini, Sizzled Scallion, and Parmesan—is chocked full of textures—the bright brilliant tanginess of capers and lemon, jammy caramelized pieces of zucchini, frizzled bits of scallion, little nuggets of parmesan which I have never bought except in the green can, crunchy toasted walnuts, red pepper and multiple herbs.
I counted twenty-three steps; there may have been more.
In the end, my kitchen resembled the aftermath of a steel wrecking ball’s demolition of an abandoned building. Vegetable peelings, smushed paper towels, grease spatters, an assortment of dirty bowls and pans, and a series of utensils which have not been used since I moved into this kitchen six years ago—the vegetable peeler, herb shears, strainer, bright yellow citrus squeezer, garlic press, kitchen scissors, colander, zesting grater, a multitude of measuring cups and spoons, and a never-before-used stainless steel skimmer (for removing the toasted walnuts from the olive oil).
The floor looked like a parade and its confetti had tramped through.
Number fifty-seven on my birthday candling list is “master a winter dish prepared from scratch.”
I may have recuperated by that time.
Turns out, the dish, which I have now served three times, is a rousing success. Tip – increase the amount of walnuts – they are mouthwateringly scrumptious and people tend to get unruly and fight over them in the serving bowl. In case you want to try it - Pasta Salad with Zucchini.