Fresh Beginnings

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote last, as I had to give myself a grace period with which to focus on everything else that was occupying my brain for the past few weeks. My dinners ranged in complexity from this:

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To this:

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Needless to say, when I am all over the place, my taste buds tend to follow. Some of this “busyness” served a more relaxing, get-away-from-it-all purpose, at least. Last weekend, Katie and I went to a friend’s wedding, which began chaotically after her venue’s ill-planned construction forced her to reschedule the reception from Saturday to Friday. We all scrambled like fish out of water to pile into the car and drive from NYC into jersey on a Friday evening at rush hour. I hate hate hate hate hate traffic, more so because I drive so rarely and tend to do so at inopportune times these days. Panic, rushing and probably the FASTEST I have ever gotten my makeup on/hair straightened/shoes on the right feet ever in my life…and I had a plate of prosciutto and melon in front of me and a full glass of champagne in my frazzled hand. All’s well that ends well, right?

Saturday, we ventured further through Jerz (Katie’s childhood stomping ground) and had an amazing dinner with Katie’s parents at a restaurant in Princeton called Element. My appetizer was savory white asparagus with peanuts, pork loin and meyer lemon and light crunchy greens on top. Tangy, perfectly cooked and refreshing. My entrée was fluke with prosciutto, scallion, apple and lemongrass. It was light and delicate, which I often shy away from because I’m so in love with bold, shockingly intense flavors, but the fish was so buttery and well cooked that I ended up loving it. The scallion added acid and a touch of sweetness, as did the apple. Because the portions weren’t obscene, I actually ordered dessert (this is rare, not a big “sweets” girl), but settled on an awesome baked apple with crème fraiche and tarragon. Katie joked that I had picked the one “healthy-sounding” item on the dessert menu, proving further that I am just a sucker for savory tastes. The wine flowed. As it should…always.

After a night in Philly with friends, we headed for home. I drove more in 2 days than I have probably done in the past 6 months, and it left us both exhausted once we finally stumbled back into Manhattan late Sunday evening and breathed a sigh of comfort as our feet touched the pavement.

Mid-week, I ended up at moms for dinner, after several more days of interviewing for jobs/dressing significantly nicer than usual/acting as polished, professional and intellectual as humanly possible/being totally exhausted from doing said adult-like things. I dragged myself up the 5th floor walkup to be greeted by the smells of colored peppers roasting into garlicky oil, pasta boiling and clams steaming in lime juice and tarragon. Pop goes the wine cork and down goes my tired butt onto the kitchen stool where it stays.

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Mom plops several clams onto my plate, which immediately causes my instinctive seafood-phobic reaction to surface. I used to love steamed clams. As a shrimpy, 60lb 11-year-old, I managed to once consume 50 in a sitting, plus pasta and s’mores in Fire Island, begging for more.

“If I give you more, there won’t be any for your brother” (insert brother screaming, like he’s dying, at the prospect of me eating any of his portion)

Young summers, sweet sea air and salty, empty clamshells flying into the ocean as we tossed them back in handfuls post-dinner (fire island-style recycling).

For some reason though, as I got older, I developed a child-like taste aversion to the things for “texture” reasons. I have no mature way of saying this…clams are slimy, and they chew funny. I actually adore the flavor, and will slurp down a double portion of clam-juice-drenched pasta if it means avoiding the little guys themselves. I feel similarly about mussels, shrimp and generally most seafood short of salmon and lighter-flavored fish. Tonight though, the clam “appetizer” (portion size made this dinner category questionable) smelled extra fragrant and made me brave. Plus, when your mother hands you food, you simply eat it. It’s just how life works in order to maintain homeostasis. Surprisingly, I got past the texture dysfunction (I only got the tiny clams) and loved the pang of the lime juice in lieu of the typical white wine cooking method.

Fresh start, seafood? I’m sorry I have been so distant.

The week ended with the exhilarating surprise of a new job offer, at last!! I will still be in a similar office-style environment, but I am thrilled to be starting fresh…getting a chance to be in a new environment, maybe feel a little bit more challenged in my day-to-day. Be able to breathe again. Looking for a job is like having a second job entirely, and I find astronomical relief in getting my evenings back to myself again. Plus, I have a mini-deep fryer and a beer making kit that I have been seriously neglecting for too many months now…

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