imagining her future

heirloom tomatoes

Sometimes you catch a glimpse of what your life might be like someday.

This weekend, the Chef’s brother Kevin came into town for a day, on his way to Whistler for an avalanche control conference. His daughter, the Chef’s lovely niece Kelly, drove up from Eugene with her long-time boyfriend James to spend the day with us as well.

Who am I kidding? Really, they were all there to meet Little Bean.

I understand. She’s hard to resist. With her cooing alone she could conquer the world. These soft sounds rush from her lips and we are mesmerized. She smiles and everything stops. If she giggles, we talk about it all day long. And in between those dazzling displays of babyhood, Little Bean furrows her brow when she’s confused by why our mouths are moving and these sounds coming out. She cranes her head to follow the light in the room. She eats, she swings, she sighs with delight when we dance with her, she listens to stories like nobody’s business.

She is, we know, like all babies at nine weeks old.

We don’t care. We think she’s tops.

And so did the Chef’s family. Once Kevin arrived, we spent the day playing pass the baby, from one set of loving arms to the next. Hours passed, in conversation and concentrated staring at that little face, as they do when I’m at home alone with her, all day.

Every evening I look up and think, “Wait, how did it get to be 7 pm again?”

(Between caring for this being I love beyond words, and reading political blogs far too often when she’s asleep, and attempting to write every evening — the Chef and I do have a manuscript due to the publishers at the end of December after all — my days are full full full. Each day feels three minutes long, in the best way.)

And so the day rushed by too fast, once again.

But one of the moments of the morning has stayed with me the most.

James and Kelly are more centered and compassionate, funny and loving, at 25 and 24 than most people in their 40s. They are both incredible athletes — skiing in the winter, trail running the rest of the year — and more fit than I will ever be. And they are both without a stitch of arrogance. If I were their age, I would hate them. They have it so together.

But they both grew up in small towns, in grounded families. They were both taught to respect other people, to listen deeply, to not always assume they are right.

So we’re standing around the kitchen, talking about food. What else? We had just eaten pancakes, with Skagit River bacon, our fingers still sticky from jam. Thick mugs of coffee sat on the table. Little Bean was napping in her swing.

The Chef and I proposed we go to the farmers’ market, even though the rain slated down outside. Kelly and James had just discovered the Saturday market in Eugene, and they spoke about local produce in the tone of the recently converted. We all talked about the joy of developing relationships with farmers, knowing where our meat comes from, and the taste of fresh food. Oh, the taste of a peach just picked that morning.

At this point, James’ face grew soft with remembering. He talked about going out to the garden of his family’s New Hampshire home, and picking green beans and eating them, snapped out of his hand. He recalled the strawberries, the fresh vegetables that made his little-kid mouth water. There was no sense of obligation there. He actively, avidly, loved the food from his parents’ garden.

“And my dad used to make fried green tomatoes,” he said, in this voice filled with longing. He’d dip them in egg, coat them in flour, and fry them up for us.” On top, a dollop of melted cheddar cheese.

That did it. The Chef and I knew what we wanted to make for dinner that night. Along with steelhead salmon, shrimp cocktail, roasted potatoes, and salad, we had to have fried green tomatoes.

There were so many lovely moments from that oh-too-brief visit with the Chef’s family. But it’s that moment that has stayed with me the most. James, in remembering, was no longer in our kitchen. He was walking in his family’s garden, a little kid again, feeling safe and exploring, eating real food and loving his life.

I’ve thought about it for days. That’s the way we’d like Little Bean to look back on her childhood someday.

We have so many hopes for our daughter. We’re trying not to turn them into expectations, because that only creates disappointments. But we can hope.

I hope she never does that nose-dive of self-confidence that seventh-grade girls go through sometimes. I hope she doesn’t pretend to play dumb just to fit in.

I hope she always asks questions, never takes anything at face value, even our opinions, and resists the urge to give in to shiny statements and attack ads.

I hope she learns how to throw a mean curve ball, and leaves the boys amazed with her triples over the third-base line.

We both hope she learns how to love humanity, even when it’s hard to do sometimes.

We have so many hopes. That’s part of what fills the days, isn’t it? The gorgeous attention required to be in the moment with her. And the endless possibilities we can dream for her.

But in an elemental sense, I think what I’d like for her most is that, at 25, she’s as kind and clear as those kids are, and in remembering the food she ate as a child, her face grows soft with remembering.

We really need to learn how to garden.

fried green tomatoes

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

You can’t really call this a recipe. I’m sure everyone has a favorite way of using those green tomatoes that never went red at the end of the summer. But maybe this will just be a reminder to go grab them from your tomato plants bent over from the weight of the season, and make some of these for dinner.

green tomatoes (or orange or red, if you wish), as many as you want to eat
salt and pepper, pinches of each
good olive oil
eggs, beaten
buttermilk (just for proportions, we used 1/4 cup buttermilk to 2 eggs)
P.A.N white cornmeal (the same kind you use for arepas)
grits (we like Anson Mills)
your favorite cheddar cheese (oh, the jalapeno one from Estrella Family creamery)

Turn on the broiler.

Slice the tomatoes (or cut the plum ones in half). Bring a skillet to heat. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Dip each tomato slice in the beaten egg-buttermilk mixture. Dredge the slice in the white cornmeal, and then the grits. Put the slice in the skillet.

Repeat with as many tomatoes as you can fit in the pan.

When you have browned both sides of the tomatoes, put a little cheddar cheese on top of each slice and slide the skillet under the broiler. Watch it closely.

Eat them up. Yum.

42 comments on “imagining her future

  1. House of Jules

    These look fabulous, Shauna. A few weeks ago, my 13-yr old nephew & I roasted about 4 pounds of heirloom & plum tomatoes and they were so amazing. This will have to be the next tomato-y thing I make!
    Jules
    House of Jules

  2. Kitt

    Lovely story.

    I’ll be using this when the first frost threatens and I have to pull all those last green tomatoes off my vines,

  3. Another Outspoken Female

    There is something special about Eugene and the people who make it home. When I went there I thought all of the USA had health food stores on every corner offering up fantastic ready made food and that all Mexican restaurants offered tofu as a side option!

    Glad to hear the weeks just keep getting better for you guys and Lucy.

  4. Gemma

    It’s funny I was reading this and realising that while I can imagine having a baby and having a toddler. I cannot imagine that I will ever be a parent to a teenager, let alone an adult. I guess it comes with age and with the realisation that your beautiful little bundle is no less beautiful but quite a lot larger. I can only imagine that Little Bean will grow into the daughter I would expect to come from two people who are clearly so caring and so giving.

  5. Anna Be

    There are tons of resources out there for back (or front) yard gardening, you probably have a few yourself… one is: kitchengardeners.org

    Not trying to promote any one in particular, just love to see more people growing food and delighting in that!

  6. Gina Perry

    yum — i’ve been thinking about fried green tomatoes lately. i’ve never tried them with melted cheese (or the grits in the batter) but it sounds delicious.

  7. CPE

    From the mother of a daughter who is a freshman in college 3 hours away: Oh, memories and tears … and hopefulness! Your post slammed me backward 18 years to when she was cooing and sighing in my arms. But over the past two years she was transformed by celiac into a miserable teen. (We called her “Surly Girl.”) Of course, we didn’t know it was CD — no GI issues, everyone blamed it on hormones. After thousands of dollars on doctors, psychiatrists, educational testing, etc., “Dr. Google” and I figured it out one remarkable weekend just as she graduated from high school. Two weeks later, blood test and biopsy confirmed, she magically morphed back!!! So now our “Gluten Free Girl” battles for good GF food every day — dorm life, no kitchen, small mountain college town … but a surprisingly accommodating university dining service. And lots of care packages!

    So much love for a daughter and so many hopes and dreams! Thank you for sharing and blessing us with your words.

  8. Anonymous

    MMM. Shauna-I first tasted fried green tomatos when I live in Spain (late 1960’s). A native taught my mom how to make them and I have just loved them ever since. I like your idea of adding the corn grits for a bit of crunch and textrue. Thanks, Monica

  9. jbeach

    Wonderful post, thank you. Sweet, memorable, lingering words.

    It’s so wonderful to read your blog and memoir and be inspired to create beautiful food for a dear friend who’s GF. Last week, I proudly baked my first GF baked good for her – a fresh peach cake, tweaked by yours truly to include ½ cornmeal, ½ GF flour, organic vanilla yogurt for liquid, and local maple syrup to sweeten. Mmmm. Next I will tackle GF carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting!

  10. Jenn

    My sons are now teenagers. While they do not live with me full-time, I see in them the eating habits and desires that were ingrained when they were little. I don’t think too many 15 year old boys love asparagus. I hope that when they are young men out in the world, they remember the meals with their Mum with fondness.

    My daughter is ten. Boy is she ten. All that seventh grade madness seems to have started early. Too early. She already tried the dumbing down thing so she wouldn’t get teased. We had a long talk and so far, so good.

  11. Melissa

    Yum, is the correct word to use for these little beauties. I think I’m going to go look for some green tomatoes right now.

    I love the way you talk about Little Bean, you can tell what a true blessing she has been in your life.

  12. Wheatless Foodie

    Your beautifully written post has (again) transported me back 19 years to my daughter’s baby days. We started growing vegies the next year with our helpful toddler and found the task to be addictive. Now I’ll know what to do with those green tomatoes. For a yummy zucchini recipe: http://www.wheatlessfoodie.blogspot.com.

  13. Karen

    My daughter and I are both gluten intolerant. We discovered it about a year and a half ago, when I was 55 and she was 33.

    I love this post and miss those days with my children, when they were so tiny and everything they did was amazing.

    My favorite memory of my own daughter was the day when she was about three years old, and I looked out to see her perched in the tree outside the kitchen window, with a piece of broccoli in one hand, and a green onion, with dirt still on it, in the other, happily munching away, both “stolen” from my garden. It was rare for me to get food to the table from that little patch of earth, but how could I complain if my children were eating the freshest vegetables in town?

  14. La Niña

    Fried green tomatoes were a staple when I lived in Georgia for fifteen years. I have a recipe that calls for them topped with crab meat! (and we are going crabbing today– it’s the last weekend of crabbing for the year in Puget Sound…)

    but– I wanted to tell you that I discovered a great new way to deal with an abundance of tomatoes–

    I picked 93 of our black plum tomatoes a couple of days ago. (there are still at least 100 on the plants) In the past I’ve slow roasted them, canned them, and cut them into quarters and dried them. This time, however, I decided to turn them into fruit roll, or fruit leather, as some folks call it. I simmered them over low heat with our basil, and then ran them through the food mill. I ladled the puree onto greased plastic sleeves and processed them in my food dehydrators. Voilá! About 8 hours later I had a wonderful tomato-basil roll to save all winter, savor on sandwiches, over eggs, wrapped around cheese or meat…

    I think I may try it with the green tomatoes if the rest don’t start blushing soon.

    Roll out the green tomato carpet!

  15. Sho

    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! Now I know what to use for breadcrumbs: P.A.N. precooked cornmeal and grits.

    Fried green tomatoes makes me think of the movie by the same name.

    ~Shoshannah

  16. Karla

    Wish I had eaten at your house that night. Looks delicious!!!! I’ve used goat cheese with fried green tomatoes too.

  17. another mother

    Dearest Lucy,
    Here is the future I am imagining for you…robust health of body, mind, and soul. An educational system which nurtures your innate talents, teaches you how to learn, and gently guides you according to your own internal compass…
    A government of human beings with visionary hearts, minds, and souls who can look into the future and see that a healthy planet filled with healthy people is what true wealth is. A government who can lead by diplomatic means to turn the world towards the light and away from darkness. I wish you a lifetime of organic foods, alternative energies, clean air, and clean water. I wish for you healthy nontoxic environments where ever you go and where ever you live. And I wish you a heart filled with love and laughter. These are the wishes and prayers I have for you and all of our children.

  18. JKM

    We had a garden during most of my growing up years and I loved it. I loved summer dinners that were comprised mostly of fresh veggies from the garden. Those memories inpsired me to plant my first garden this past summer and it was a great source of joy… I miss it already, unil next summer that is. Oh, by the way, I had no idea what I was doing when I planted it and it turned out great (and I learned a lot).

  19. katie stone

    we have LOADS of heirlooms that haven’t yet ripened…i was fearing it was our subpar gardening skills, but many have told me this is normal for this season. out of sheer impatience, i have had fried green tomatoes for breakfast (and lunch some days) almost every morning for the last week. they are amazing!

    i am so happy for you and your bliss. congrats, shauna. i look forward to reading your posts every week.

  20. Sarcastic Celiac

    I’ve been having that same “we really need to learn how to garden” thought lately.

    If you do end up learning how to garden, please let us in on your secrets. My parents had a garden when I was growing up, but the green thumb apparently falls very far away from the tree…

    Funny how the farmers’ markets here in my area of farm country are actually pretty sad, at least in my town itself. Your descriptions of what you see there make me green!

  21. Cate

    I love how we’re able to pass down food memories through our actions to our kids. The other night, Nicholas came into my bedroom with a small bowl in his hands. “What do you have?” I asked. “Grapes and Gorgonzola,” he said, as if it was the most normal thing in the world for a six year old to eat. And for him? It is. Ask him a favorite memory from this summer, and he’ll tell you it was when his friends slept over the night before his birthday and they woke up and dug for worms for the compost bin. Last week, he took leftovers from a Greek Pasta Salad recipe I made for dinner to school. At lunch, all his fellow first graders craned their heads to see what he had, and made fun of him. He didn’t care. I love that. One girl sitting next to him actually asked for the recipe so her mom could make it. Love that too. Ok, now I have to go look at him sleep … even now, six years later, that urge never goes away.

  22. sarahk

    Mmm. A coworker brought me a big bag of green tomatoes from her garden a couple of weeks ago (at my begging), and I made heaping helpings of fried green tomatoes two nights in a row. They don’t need extras like cheese or ketchup (yes! I know people who actually think they need ketchup! They need help.). They are wonderful undressed.

    Try frying them in extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil (Nutiva’s my favorite), and you will just die. I use coconut oil for any fried foods, and fried food has never tasted better. When I switched to it for my chimichangas… just MMM.

  23. Jennifer

    I agree 100%!! I look back so fondly on the few years that my family grew strawberries in the flower beds of our subdivision home, or squished zucchini plants in between shrubbery. I can’t wait to share the joy of picking our own food with my children! My brand-new husband and I have been tending an increasingly larger garden each year, in hopes of being able to feed our own babies in just a few years more.

  24. mare

    It was actually my desire for fried green tomatoes that lead me back to kitchen gardening and I’m working to reinsitute mine for next season.

    I just wanted to thank Anna Be for the suggested garden site. It looks good — not too basic or advanced and general knowledge.

    Great stuff comes from comments!

  25. smallbluebird

    “The gorgeous attention required to be in the moment with her.” Wow, what a beautiful line. I believe it is my favorite blog sentence for this week! Thank you.

  26. Amelia

    I always drool over all the pictures of food. Everything looks so tasty! I’m stuck eating college food, which is limiting to the average person, much less another gluten-free girl. But I’ll have you know that I’ve been reading your book and have made it my winter break project to try out all the recipes in my home kitchen, while educating the rest of my family on celiac disease. You’ve given me such a positive outlook on everything, thanks to your optimistic writing. I had a bit of a crisis when I had to cope (diagnosed a week before my freshmen year of college). So thank you. A lot.

  27. Lady McClellan

    I’m so happy for you guys!

    Next year when I can afford it again I’m taking my parents to Impromptu — its still the best meal out I’ve every had.

    I wanted to let you know that Madame K’s in Ballard, a nice little pizza joint, does have pizza on a wheat free crust. I just allergic to wheat so trace amounts don’t bother me (much) so you’d have to ask about trace contact. However, the waitress was not merely happy to tell me about the wheat free crust, she was thrilled about it! It was an opportunity to serve me. And it was great pizza too!

  28. Gluten free Kay

    All us kids worked in our little vegetable garden while growing up. The “kindergarden” crop was carrots. We all started there, making our first rows, spreading the seeds, thinning the baby plants.

    Radishes offer a quicker payoff, and can be seeded as soon a March in some areas. Carrots require a long growing season.

    For a small home garden, I recommend pole beans. Vertical plants take less ground. You can run strings up to your downspout on any sunny corner of your house.

    When I win the lottery (any day now!) and have more leisure time, I’ll come visit and help you start your garden. I spent my whole summer growing and preserving the vegetables I’ll eat until next summer. It was a wonderful summer!

  29. Janel

    thank you for this recipe!! it brings back memories of my childhood in north carolina. all throughout my childhood, my mom was a healthy cook when most families were eating everything out of boxes in the 1970s.

    one of my all-time faves are fried green tomatoes. once a year, right around my birthday at the end of august, she’s fry green tomatoes and okra. it was the only meal she fried all year long, but it was always worth the wait. both the tomatoes and okra came out of my dad’s garden. what a treat!

    i can’t wait to find some green tomatoes and try your recipe for them.

    we never ate them with cheddar cheese on top. we had them with butter on white bread. it was also the only time that white bread ever was allowed in our house :)

    thanks for the memories! you’re so right that we are lucky to have them and we should pass on our love of food to our kids.

  30. Susan Burroughs

    Thank you so much for sharing your self and your food with us!

    If you are ever in the Bay Area, Chef Shana Everhart is my dear friend and a talented sweetheart. She cooks at Soluna, and she kindly accomodates me with some of the best food in SF–that happens to be GF!

    Your stories about your love and family give me hope that it can happen.

    Thanks again,

    Susan gfprods.blogspot.com

  31. Kinderhook

    I just voted for you — you’ve been nominated for Best Food Blog. Did you know? Rock the vote, Shauna!

  32. Hannah

    Just letting you know how much I enjoy your blog. Following you in your pregnancy was fun, since my husband and I had our first baby almost exactly one week after you. He also had some problems in the first few weeks and we ended up going to a bigger children’s hospital for him to have surgery. It really does make you stop and realize how joyful a midnight feeding and poopy diaper at home can be. It puts everything in perspective. Thanks for sharing your life. My husband has Celiac, and I’m always interested in your food suggestions, as well.

    Hannah

  33. Bex

    Growing a garden is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child! Not only will she learn a million wonderful things, but she will (as you’ve seen with James) have the fondest memories of all aspects of it. I vividly remember straddling freshly planted potato hills as a toddler, playing in the dirt. And later, hiding in the corn stalks and sampling corn on the cob raw, just to see what it would taste like. (For some reason, kids are more open to trying foods they’ve watched grow.) Now that I’m an adult, I appreciate the food I grow so much more. It has elevated the cooking and the eating of it!

  34. J.J. Killins

    just found your blog shauna! just had my son diagonsed with peanut/milk/wheat allergies (not necessarily gluten yet — he’s 6 months) — and have a question. i seem to find conflicting anwers to the whole oat question…are oats wheat-free by nature or do i have to go the extra mile and get bob’s? now, this is for me…which he’s getting through breastmilk…not for him directly. also, have you discovered a wheat-free cheerio??

  35. Heather

    Oh gosh, I ended up over here because a dear friend of mine just shared that she is going gluten-free, so I wanted to send her a link to some good blogs and the name of yours was careening around in my head, but oh, it’s been so nice to visit and I had no idea that I’d fall down a rabbit hole for two hours and read all about your life the the Chef and the Bean and do a little crying for good measure along the way.

    All to say: thank you. And when you get that garden in, let me know if I can help…

    Warmly,

    H

  36. LIFE in POTS

    Our son is turning 9 months in a few weeks.…you summed up what I would like him to have and to be.