15 August, 2007

of friends and family (can you tell them apart?)

Well, even after as sentimental, wonderful and emotional day as I've had today, I do think I can tell people from salad. But telling people you're blood-related to from people you just WISH you were related to... that's another story.

It started this morning with the arrival of Alyssa and Annabelle and Elliot. I know I have to stop whinging about how much I miss Alyssa when I'm in London, because I am very lucky to have such staunch friends as I have there. Lord knows, in the early days I didn't know if I ever would have friends. But even so, nothing stops me from missing the sort of sisterly (only we never bicker, as my sister and I used to when I was a nasty pre-teen) fun of a day with my old friend. And I am the greatest possible fan of her children, the ginger-sprouted Elliot, and Annabelle, the raven-haired show tunes maven. They are much more like cousins to Avery than mere friends, battling over how to include Elliot in games that, on the surface, are more suited to two girls than to two girls plus their mascot.

We had Katz Deli sandwiches! This has become a tradition for our summer reunions at Red Gate Farm (in my book, a good thing has to happen only once in order to become a cherished tradition: life's too short to make things like that ferment, or mature or whatever. Go for it.). Then it was a long gossip session in the sun until John tore himself reluctantly away to pick up his folks at the airport. I have to share Alyssa with my husband, which can be tedious except that it's so nice. Then we girls and Elliot were off to the pool in the brilliant, perfect afternoon sunshine, simply a glorious day more like June than August.

By the time we returned, it was time for them to go back to Manhattan. Hugs all around, with plans to see each other at Christmastime up here, although nothing will EVER top last year's Christmas in London together. Is that what being middle-aged means, having so much of your happiness bound up in remembering things? Not a bad bargain, if so. As always, a terrific wrench to feel the last hug. If only I could take her back in my pocket.

But I had little time to feel sorry for myself, because the phone rang and it was John saying he and his parents were half an hour away! Oh my. A rush to create:

The Perfect Salad
(serves four if hungry)

3 handfuls baby spinach, washed and spun dry
1 handful arugula
2 handfuls sunflower sprouts (delicious!)
1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 cup red cabbage, sliced thin
2 handsful grape tomatoes, halved
2 kirby cucumbers, seeded and sliced thin

Pile all this up in a pretty way, then top generously with:

The Perfect Dressing

3 parts olive oil to 1 part each: lemon juice, mustard, balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves ("hey, need some free thyme?" Joel asks)
sea salt, pepper


This with barbecued Cornish game hens, and some heavenly scalloped corn, was quite a nice summer meal.

Scalloped Corn
(serves six)

8 ears corn, raw and kernels cut off
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, mixed with 3 tbsps melted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a non-stick sprayed glass dish, spread the corn kernels. If you MUST use already-cooked corn (leftovers, say), you may. But I found tonight that it's much better with raw kernels. Top with minced garlic and pour over cream. Scatter breadcrumbs and cover with cheese, then bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. As John said, "If I could, I would mainline that corn." Well, as culinary compliments go, it's odd, but I'll take it.


It's almost a surfeit of delights to have so much family around so close together. I just barely got used to having had my beloved parents and brother here over the weekend, and whoops: here's my husband's family too. How I wish we could see them all, all year round. But the time-honored custom of seeing a car pull up containing John's parents, and hollering like crazy, was honored tonight, in the approaching twilight, and then John and his dad walked the property, making sure it was all still there, and Avery and her grandmother trailed around making perfume and visiting the fairies, and I played around in the kitchen making sure we'd have something to eat, watching them all through the tiny-paned windows of our old farmhouse, thinking how unbelievably wonderful it was. To have family around. Another August at Red Gate Farm, another visit. Top THAT.

But John's dad STILL beat us at Aggravation, no matter how fond we were feeling of him! Ah well, the visit is young...

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