Stories

shrimpspaghetti.jpgA friend who is a good cook complains, "I'm too busy to cook. I get home from work and tell my family let's go out or order in."

Personally I feel the same way. I'm very happy when I open the refrigerator and see take out containers filled with Vietnamese lemon grass chicken, broken rice and bbq pork chops with pickled cabbage.

But sooner or later I hunger for a home cooked meal. I crave freshly prepared comfort food. Most of the time I don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I want an easy to make meal. Salads are easy to make, but so are pastas.

At our farmers market, one of the vendors has a good supply of fish. Just recently he started carrying shelled, deveined shrimp, big fat ones. I bought a couple of pounds for an easy to make Sunday dinner. Sauteed and tossed with pasta, they are delicious.

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fireflies.jpgAhhh….end of summer.  Shooting stars spark August skies, like fireflies surprised my nights back East. When I was little, lightening bugs against a celestial backdrop made me micro, shuddering first at the size of the universe and how my life’s light merely flickers for a second in it, like theirs. Then I’d go macro and wonder if the teensy fireflies looked at humans and felt submicroscopic by comparison. Or were they far better off than girls like me losing sleep over such things. Fireflies never scared me; thoughts of my mortality did.

Ahh…quiet mornings with brilliant L.A. light….confluence of houseflies who found their way in through portals left open by window washers now stud clean glass seeking the sun. Fury overcoming fear, I attack, slap happy with my swatter. Now it’s hard to see out the cleaned windows around their drying corpses smearing the glass. Maybe one should only wash windows in winter.

Ahh…summer greenery caresses my cottage…and cobwebs decorated with gnat carcasses and teensy leaves line every corner in which they can be hitched.  Talented Daddy Long Legs lurk unseen between the eaves waiting to ensnare me in their astounding webs, or scare a scream out of me as they lurk in my bathtub. Why do they scare me so?

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willie-nelsons-greatest-hits.jpgLet’s be real, here. People who grow up like I did are not often country music fans. Aside from my mother’s odd taste for the sounds of the Grand Old Opry (acquired during her years at Wellesley, no doubt) I knew no country music unless it was from one of those “Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits” ads that ran constantly on our local CBS station. Well, sometimes I caught a little bit of “Hee Haw” if no one changed the channel in time. Suffice it to say that “another somebody done somebody wrong song” was never my music of choice.

I like irony, subtly, and a literary lyric. Like my tea, I tend to like my music un-sweet, unless the sweetness is only one of many layers and has no cloying quality. There was a kind of song that made me queasy from the time I was very small:  ”Baby, I’m a want you,” and “Cherish” come to mind. Well, and that other kind; the kind where a dog dies and is carried out to sea, or someone (or something) named “Wildfire” is apparently lost. There was a kind of broad, needy, whiny quality about those songs, and that Ick Factor seemed to exist in every country song I heard. “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain?” Seriously?!

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growth_chart_girl_web.jpg“Do you see this chart, Lynne? This is your height-weight percentile chart.  And do you see where you are? You’re waaaaaay up here. Waaay past the 90th percentile. Do you see that? How would you like a shot to suck all the fat away?”

Ok. So Dr. Salvo didn’t sound quite that evil, but it’s not too far off.  To this day, whenever I hear the word “percentile,” no matter the context, I cringe a little, remembering the good doctor showing me my elevated, childhood status on the red-lined chart.  And why did it have to be red?  As if being a chubby little kid were cause for dire emergency.

He really did ask me if I wanted a shot that would “suck all the fat away.” At the time I remember shuddering and saying no, needle-phobic as most little kids are.  Then, down the road a little bit, in my pubescence, I remember regretting telling him I didn’t want the shot. What if he really did have one? What if I could have saved myself all this pain? All this praying at night that I’d wake up thin?

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In August I love to drink fresh lime juice in the evening. If you keep the mixture on the tart side, the zing from the thing is so intense you won’t need to add alcohol. But a drop of rum or vodka never hurt anyone. Here’s my recipe for two:

limecooler.jpgSummer Lime Cooler

1 stalk lemongrass*
2 Thai basil leaves
2 mint leaves
1 kaffir lime leaf
1 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup super fine sugar (honey also works), or 1/2 cup if you are a lightweight
Lots of crushed or shaved ice
Tonic Water

Cook lemongrass stalk at 300°F for 20 minutes. Cut 2 inches off the stout end of the lemongrass and 1 inch off the slender end. Roughly chop lemongrass.

Put lemongrass, basil, mint, kaffir lime leaf, lime juice, and sugar in blender. Blend. Let sit for 20 minutes or more. Blend again. Mix with 1 cup tonic water, after all the blending. Pour through a fine sieve into a little pitcher. Pour over into cocktail glasses with lots of ice. Have more ice on hand to add while drinking.

*If it’s too much trouble to find lemongrass or if you are too lazy, substitute an inch of fresh ginger, roughly chopped.

Laurie Winer is an editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books.