01 August, 2007

nostalgia in Dutchess County

Oh, these kids did have an awfully good time together today at our friends' Chris and Marla's country house in New York State. How far back do we go? Let's see, I met Marla way back in 1991 when we first lived in London, and John kept coming home from the office singing the praises of this GIRL, Marla, how cool she was, how she was so funny and so smart and how much I would like her (ha! my newlywed heart frowned, I bet!). Finally I said, "Why don't you just bring this paragon home and let's see how much I LIKE her," and of course... she walked in, and I fell in love at first sight. "Would you like a drink?" I asked, and she said, in her inimitable Arkansas (by way of Baton Rouge) drawl, "You know, ya'll, I'd love a beer, but forget the glass, I don't need it." Love at first sight.

Until I met her boyfriend, Chris, at which point I had to seriously ask myself which one I was in love with. But in the end, we didn't have to decide, because by the extraordinary occasional felicity of things in general, all four of us were in love. With being in our 20s, with London, with the three of them being cool investment bankers and my being... their adoring slave! I was a nice harmless almost-PhD in art history, happily bumbling around thinking about arcane things and vaguely feeding us all. The trips we took to Belgo to stuff ourselves with mussels, to the Cotswolds to walk the fields and drink Scotch and share endless jokes, the silly shopping trips and enormous parties and late night discussions of our futures (they would all be illustrious, we thought). Then there was our move to Russia, and then their move to Russia, and our move back to New York, and finally their move back to New York. And my unforgettable trip with Chris to "hand model" his engagement ring for Marla, their blowout wedding in New Orleans... our midnight phone call from the hospital to tell them Avery had been born and their visit, hours later, with a silver flask engraved "Mom" filled with Russian vodka for my first post-pregnancy clinking of glasses! Then their little boy, and their little girl... and... so many years later finds us all, as Marla said today in disbelief: "we're the parents, now." Sure enough.

A gorgeous day, THE most gorgeous day of the year, we all thought, having a lovely lunch at their farmhouse surrounded by gardens and specially planted beds of perennials, and a flagstone swimming pool! Could anything be more perfect.

Grape Hollow Farm Ratatouille
(serves four)

3 tbsps olive oil
1 eggplant, cut small, soaked in salted water for 1 hour
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
chopped red and green pepper
chopped jalapeno, cayenne and habanero peppers to taste for hotness
1 red onion, minced
two handfuls heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
splash red wine vinegar
fresh thyme, basil, rosemary, sage to taste, chopped
salt and pepper

Saute eggplant and zucchini for 5 minutes, then add garlic and peppers, and onions, and saute till soft. Add tomatoes, lemon juice and vinegar and cook down, then at last minute add herbs and season to taste.

Chris served this to us room temperature, having had it hot the night before. He assures us that any leftovers (ha!) would be delicious under a bed of shredded cheese and baked.

Ah, well, tomorrow will see us celebrating Jane's two-half birthday. And in the meantime I've got to tell you about painting the fence! And the ultimate salmon sauce... and lobster roll, and... my day with my best friend Alyssa, and our nostalgic afternoon in Tribeca! Well, there's plenty to tell you about. Summer is going by much too fast.

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