I have a lot of feelings about lunch boxes, none of them especially genial. But as this teeny tiny person that I only just recently brought home from the hospital, barely able to utter a “beh” and now able to fill a 2-hour car ride back from a beach house with all the words every uttered (hm, wonder where he gets it) begins kindergarten this week, and will do so with a lunchbox in hand, I’ve realized that the only way to move forward with my grouchy feelings about lunch boxes is to air them here, in this town’s square, and then move on.
I have a long history of spectacular tomato tart failures. There was the one that enchanted me on TV a decade ago, with a parmesan crust, bacon, fine breadcrumbs and roasted garlic, that — several hours of work later — ended up tasting metallic and clashy against the acidic tomatoes. There was the tomato tarte tatin flop from a fancy French chef, for which I have only myself to blame. And two summers ago, there was an heirloom tomato galette, with colors like a rainbow, that fell apart before we ate it. The problem more often than not is a basic one: tomatoes are very wet and tart crusts need to stay fairly dry. But this has never stopped me from trying again, and I’m glad, because it led me to this.
For the last three summers, I have had “fresh corn crepes” on my cooking wish list. I was mesmerized by the idea of mixing roughly chopped kernels of the ridiculously sweet bi-color corn we get around here with eggs, milk, some melted butter and salt and cooking them thin and lacy in a pan. What I didn’t have was a clue of what I’d do with them, you know, besides just eating them. Whenever I thought about them, I fell down a culinary philosophical rabbit hole — Why not just put corn on a plain crepe? Does a recipe require a reason, a bigger purpose? Did this need to be done? Was it going to raise the bar somehow on crepes or was it just cool that you could do it? I have found myself at a handful of restaurants lately that have me questioning all the things I love to do in the kitchen (namely, mixing disparate things to make a new thing I think would be quite delicious) because I felt that they were innovating for the sake of innovating, and not actually making a grander version of anything while they were at it. Oh, you cannot imagine how dull the inside of my head has become. The worst outcome of this was that I never made the crepes, despite still wanting to very much.
We are at the beach this week and even though there was a point when we were trying to pile the toddler, his 55 favorite toys including a full-sized tricycle, me, my 25 kitchen necessities including, apparently, a meat thermometer and the serrated peeler one of you told me about a few weeks ago that I now can’t live without, the beach towels, blankets, umbrellas, sandcastle-shaped bucket, toddler bed bars, a box of groceries and my husband (happy anniversary, baby!) in our little car that we thought we should really just stay home instead, it wasn’t long into our drive onto the North Fork, passing miles of farms, leave-your-money-in-the-box roadside blackberry stands, dilapidated barns, impeccably kept houses, and more grape vines than you could count in your lifetime that we were unwaveringly certain we were back where we were meant to be.
I just realized we are almost halfway through with summer and while I should be totally stoked about this — seeing as we’re melting through our fourth heatwave so far this summer in NYC and given what awesome things are in store for the fall — I am spectacularly bummed as I am just getting used to having an avalanche of delicious summer produce at my disposal and haven’t had time to do half of what I wanted to with it yet. Plus, this guy turns three at the end of the summer and I can’t, I won’t accept it. More time, please! For everything.
I hope you didn’t think I forgot about you this week, or actually hopped on a plane to Mexico, as repeatedly threatened during last week’s taco fest. The truth of where I’ve been is far less interesting and could be roughly summarized as: man, am I a terrible cook this week. However, the week started out promisingly; I nailed a cookbook chicken dish on the first try (that I’d been certain would be no good at all) and brimming with confidence — maybe I should trust all of my cooking instincts! maybe I am good at this? — I decided to make a dish of slow-roasted vegetables that turn out should never have been slow-roasted, unless vegetable leather is your thing. Oops.
I would not say that previous to the last year, we were not taco people. I can think of several carnitas that have brought me nearly to tears (and definitely to tears when they stopped delivering) and we’ve been doing an egg-tortilla thing for years. But at some point in the last six months, I got bit with the taco bug bad and now I can hardly think of anything else to eat. Saturday afternoon and the toddler is napping and suddenly we’re hungry? Black bean tacos! Nothing but a couple zucchini in the produce drawer? Roasted zucchini tacos for dinner! I’m about thisclose to becoming the sort of person who puts peanut butter and jelly on a taco. The taco has become the answer to all questions.