I have often held the key to happiness, and it is always edible–slightly charred, often crusted with halloumi cheese, and always accompanied by heirloom tomato slices.
I was a foodie at three. How my mother loved to feed me! By four, I had begun to roll my eyes back at the first bite of her dinner, sighing, “Ahhh. Tastes like a rose,” while dramatically running my hand alongside my hair (which was then still silky as burrata). And I meant it. Every time. I still have never met a food I didn’t like.
Steve and I would make different choices in many aspects of our lives, but if you gave us each $500 and said, “Go your separate ways for the day and spend this on whatever you want” (my fantasy life is a rich one), two hours later we’d end up drooling at each other across the table in the first NYC restaurant on our ever-expanding dream list, ordering course one: quinoa lollipops rolled in quince paste and pine nuts, or a roasted chestnut bisque with marsala, nutmeg, and crème fraiche.
Since the storm, though, my best food moments have been much simpler and homier: a juicy grilled cheeseburger, homemade vegetable soup, a warm pie bursting with garden-grown rhubarb and handpicked blueberries. All were gifts, meant to feed our hearts. Our friends know how hard it is for Steve to stay sane in an apartment with three-inch countertops, in which sautéing results in a shitake-scented wardrobe, and where Jerusalem artichokes go to die in a mysteriously murderous refrigerator. And they are aware that for me, it would not be too dramatic to have my post-Sandy life announced in the style of the latest horror flick: “In a WORLD…where Steveo has no access to duck fat or cheesecloth….”
In one of my earliest food memories, I am grinning with baby octopus tentacles tickling my nose and curling down around my chin. My mouth full, I am begging for more. I never dared to dream I would marry a man for whom cooking up charred octopus with saffron-infused avocado and crushed tomatillos is a Tuesday evening afterthought.
It happens to be, at this very moment, time for Tuesday night dinner. Steve pulls another Trader Joe’s frozen pizza from the half-oven. I thank him, though my slice will hardly “taste like a rose.” Surprisingly, neither of us minds at all how the pizza is. After a long, stressful day of work and rebuilding, just this half hour spent together—in beach chairs separated by air mattresses and a center pole—smacks of herbed sugar.
Like all the bowls of ceviche to come.