I used to spend hours in the kitchen, dancing to music and creating flavors underneath my hands.
Im hoping to return to that state of being, loose and not focused on any particular goal, someday.
But for now, Im growing pretty darned tired.
Little Bean arrives into this world in five weeks. Thats barely longer than a heartbeat, it feels to us. Besides the Chef working away at the restaurant, dancing in his kitchen, we also have a house to clean and organize, baby stuff to buy, a few more cooking classes to teach between us, and the three hundred projects that seem vital but will probably drop by the wayside. Oh, and write a cookbook. Little things.
This year has been quite the whirlwind. Ive been spending time on planes, talking on the radio, cooking in front of people, reading beautiful emails, making appearances, and grinning through it all. Thats after we moved house, planned a wedding, danced in the backyard, and went to Italy for a honeymoon. Whew.
But now, Little Beans insistent kicks, increasing size, and incredible bulges in my belly have slowed me down. As much as I have wanted to slow down before this, nothing forced me to sit. LB has. Im sitting on the couch as I type this, the laptop just below my prodigious belly. Luckily, I can still see the keyboard. Barely.
The Chef took a photograph of me yesterday, after I emerged from the shower, and showed it to me. Look! Youre huge!
Now, normally, this wouldnt be most girls dream, to have the man they love call them huuuuuugge! But I looked at my enormous rounded belly and my eyes gaped. There was the full, ripe belly I always associate with pregnant women. Think of that photograph of Demi Moore when she was pregnant, naked on the cover of Vanity Fair. Thats what I look like now (well, not entirely. The bulge, yes.).Clearly, voluptuously pregnant, no doubt about it.
No wonder I have been so out of breath lately. This explains why I have to ask the Chef to help me tie my shoes.
I love this. I really do.
Sure, Im tired when I wake up from a full nights sleep (and those could be an extinct phenomenon soon). My body only feels light when I am floating in the pool, suspended in water the same way the baby is inside of me. My memory is more spotty than brindled cows on green hillsides.
But I feel as though I am in this protected space, curled up in the patch of sunlight on the worn wooden floor. When I walk down the street, slowly, people look at me knowingly, and smile. No one expects much from a pregnant woman about to give birth. And Im learning not to expect so much of myself, either.
And so, the time in the kitchen is limited, these days.
But Im still enjoying my food, thoroughly. And slowing down, focusing on simple foods, makes me taste everything more fully. Slowing down always allows me to truly taste my life.
Im lucky to be this pregnant on the cusp of summer. Stone fruits are entering the market, finally. Strawberries are rumored to be in the market by this weekend. When the heat rises, no one wants to cook much anyway. And besides, my stomach has shrunk from a baby sitting astride it, kicking with tiny fists. Its all about the snacks now.
Im just focusing on the best ingredients, food in season, small portions, and sensory pleasure. When I think about it, thats not a bad way to live all the rest of the days.
The Chef was so happy last night when I told him we had meatloaf and baked potatoes for dinner. The look on his face as he ate made my entire day. That meal took me about twelve minutes to prepare about as long as I could stand. But we were happy, in bed, at 11:30 at night, chewing and savoring.
After Little Bean is born, and we survive the first few months, I know that elaborate cooking projects, hours in the kitchen, and dancing with new flavors will return. I love it so. Well just include Little Bean in the process.
But for now, the simpler the better. One bite of fruit salad can be enough to fill an entire afternoon with sunshine.
Simple Summer Fruit Salad
I’ll be playing with some variation on this theme for the rest of the summer, I’m sure. Ripe fruits, a dash of something citrus, the lovely fullness of vanilla bean, and some sort of surprising tang, like pomegranate molasses. Stir and mix, slowly, and feel free to add whatever feels right.
The other day, I found a can of coconut water at one of my favorite grocery stores, and so I brought it home. It’s light, barely sweet, so refreshing when cold. When I poured a bit over the fruit, everything seemed to come together more completely. It’s not necessary, by any means, but you might like to try it too.
I make a big bowl of this and then let it marinate in the refrigerator for days. Plopped atop thick yogurt, stirred into waffle batter, smooshed in smoothies, or eaten with a spoon this fruit salad keeps me happy and Little Bean dancing, no matter how I eat it.
1 mango, cored and sliced
1 pint strawberries, tops removed
1 pint raspberries
4 large ripe plums, cored and diced
4 large apricots, cored and diced
1 vanilla bean
2 limes, juiced and zested
1/4 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (or grape must syrup or good balsamic vinegar)
3 tablespoons sugar (vanilla sugar, if you have it)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup crème fraiche
Wash all the fruit. Cut the mango and strawberries into half-inch cubes. Put the cut fruit into your favorite bowl. Add the raspberries, plums, and apricots.
Pour in the coconut water and stir it in with the fruit.
With a small, sharp knife, cut down the center of the vanilla bean, then peel back the skin. Scrape the gritty innards into the bowl. Toss well.
Add the lime juice, lime zest, pomegranate molasses, sugar, and nutmeg to the fruit. Stir gently.
For the fullest taste, allow the fruit salad to marinate in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
Dollop each serving with a large spoonful of crème fraiche and serve.