It is finally spring around here.
This may have been the mildest winter in Seattle history, weather-wise, but it was a long one in this house. I’ve written about that here before. No need to repeat.
The sun is out now. It might have been cold these past few weeks (37° at night, Seattle? Really?), but the sun has been shining. We’re funny in this area. As soon as the temperature rises above 58°, we throw off our sweaters and bare our skin to the sun. At the first hint of warmth, it’s time for a picnic.
My new friend Tamiko came over last week, with her two darling daughters. When Lu saw them through the front window, as they were walking up our driveway, she threw her hands into the air, jittered them around in excitement, and started giggling. She loves these girls, who are in turns serious and silly, tickling each other and reading on our couch. Whenever they come over, she is clearly jazzed.
So am I.
After all, we hung out in the backyard, in the sunshine. There were floral print dresses, food-smeared faces, paper crowns, spins on the tricycle, baby plants to pat and try not to crush in the garden, giggles, stories, twirling around with arms straight out while looking up at the sky….
…and there were bubbles. Bubbles bouncing, floating, popping and toppling all over themselves.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Tamiko, “but when bubbles are around kids, it always seems like magic.”
Yes, the magic of adults remembering to relax and allow themselves to be as mesmerized by that lone bubble rising toward the top of the trees as the almost-two-year-olds were.
I hope there are lots of bubbles this summer.
Plus, the lilac tree was in bloom.
Last year, when this lilac tree was in full bloom, we were in the hospital with Lu for her surgery. By the time we came home, we had missed most of the blooms.
This year, we are here.
The food was simple. Tamiko brought over a big bunch of thick asparagus stalks, grown in Washington State. This time of year, we eat asparagus every single day: roasted, blanched, eaten raw in salads. I cannot get enough of this vegetable that tastes like verdant green. Tamiko suggested a frittata. We had eggs. I pulled out the cast iron skillet, some leftover Mizithra, the salt and pepper, the smoked paprika, and started cooking.
When the frittata was firm and golden, the roasted asparagus bursting out of the surface, I ran it out to the back deck to take photographs. It looked good. I liked the colors. Besides, I have learned if you want to let hot food cool for little mouths, take a few rounds of photographs.
We divvied up the frittata and handed every child a hunk of it. They all stood, munching, not moving for the first time all afternoon.
“Hey!” I joked to Tamiko. “I think I have my next blog post.”
On the way home, her oldest daughter said to Tamiko of me, “She makes good recipes.”
I’ve rarely heard higher praise.
I thought I might just write this up, and leave it here. A sweet story of spring, a recipe for roasted asparagus frittata with smoked paprika. That’s enough, right?
Except, that when I started to write this, I remembered: I have a frittata recipe on this site already. Mildly concerned that it might be an asparagus fritatta I had a vague memory of spring vegetables I went on the search. And found this.
I wrote this piece about a spring vegetable frittata in June of 2006. Almost four years ago, now. Really, about four lifetimes ago. I wrote about a picnic I had with my favorite senior writing class, a group of students so talented and hilarious that I wanted to say my own farewells before graduation.
Those students are about to graduate college now.
I wrote about teaching and shared stories and little moments in the classroom that would stay with me forever.
I haven’t taught in a high school classroom since.
I wrote about the little secret I had been keeping: I had just been signed by a literary agent.
She and I talked yesterday about my third book, the one that was due at the end of August (ack!), the one she negotiated for me to be moved to next spring instead (whew). I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had with that wonderful woman since I signed with her. Perhaps there will be hundreds more over the years, because I intend to keep writing books for the rest of my life.
I hinted at another secret, one I would tell soon after. I had just met Danny.
We talk nostalgically now about those early days, when we lost sleep because we just couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Now, we lose sleep because of this darling daughter of ours, a being in our lives we hoped for but didn’t dare to dream before we met. That’s her up there, munching on her frittata. She eats with joy.
Reading that post again, one I honestly had almost forgotten, I was struck by the memory of that June 2006 frittata. I didn’t make it. Danny made it for me. I stood by the stove and watched what he did and took notes in my little book. I wrote up the recipe on the site and called it mine.
Now, I’m sort of horrified by the way I wrote that recipe. (And the length of that post. My goodness I used to write really long entries here.) More than that, I’m struck by this: when I made that frittata last week, I didn’t open up a book or call Danny for advice. I turned on the stove, roasted the asparagus, threw a bunch of eggs in a bowl and beat them, pinched in some salt and pepper, slapped the skillet around on the stove, threw it in the oven and called it done.
Every single part of my life has changed in the past four years. Truly. This may be a small part, but it feels important: I cook now. I cook like I’m breathing, like I’m picking up Lu when she falls down and cries, like I kiss Danny when he walks through the door at night, like I write. Cooking has become part of me, part of my muscle memory.
I love cooking far more than I did four years ago.
My friend Tamiko is a writer. She hasn’t known that clearly for many years. She has been dwelling in academia (she teaches at the same university I attended, the same university where my father teaches), teaching literature and language, and raising her daughters. However, just this year, she has discovered something beating in her that needs to be heard.
As she and I have talked, over Twitter and on my couch, it seems that she has grown more clear that she wants to write. I’ve watched her happiness grow wider these past few months. She doesn’t know where it’s going yet, but she just started a blog, which she calls Kiku Girl. (She gave me permission to share this fledgling with you.) She’s a phenomenal writer. She’s finding her way through her words, through assignments to herself and pointed memories.
I’d like to invite you to meet Tamiko. But I’d also like to urge you to find that something beating in you that needs to be heard. It’s in there, whatever it is.
When I started writing here, five years ago this month, I wrote out of urgency, a pulse that pushed me toward stories and sentences. I didn’t know how to write recipes. I wrote too much. I had no idea who was reading. I certainly never expected to meet my husband, my agent, my writing career, my daughter, and my life because of this site.
You just never know. I certainly don’t. And when life feels narrow and too strictured, like it did at times this winter, I’ll remind myself of how much can change from one frittata to another.
Roasted Asparagus Frittata
1 bunch fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 cup grated Mizithra (or a milder cheese like Parmesan works fine too)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Preparing to cook. Preheat the oven to 400°. Pull out your largest cast-iron skillet (or sauté pan). Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper until they are frothy. Be ready. This goes fast.
Pan-roasting the asparagus. Snap each stalk of asparagus at the point on the woody stem where the stalk wants to break. (Trust me. It will feel obvious.) Set aside the woody bits for an asparagus stock, if you want. Cut each stalk into large slices, about 1-inch long.
Set the cast-iron skillet over high heat. Pour in the oil. Add the asparagus stalks to the hot oil. As the asparagus heats, it might spit a bit. Wait and let it cook for a minute. Push the skillet around on the burner to toss the asparagus and force it to change positions. (If the thought of this scares you, it’s also perfectly fine to use a spatula in the skillet.) When the asparagus has turned bright green, it’s time to beat the eggs.
Making the frittata. Pour the beaten eggs over the roasted asparagus into the pan. Tilt the pan around on the burner to allow the runny eggs to run around the pan and fill in the empty spaces.
When it looks as though the eggs have started to set, lift the edge closest to you, gently, up from its place, with a thin rubber spatula. Lift up the skillet to tilt it toward you and allow the uncooked egg to run underneath. Place the skillet on the burner again and swirl it gently to distribute the egg. Cook the eggs for forty seconds or so, continuing to lift and tilt until the egg on top is no longer runny.
Sprinkle the Mizithra cheese and smoked paprika over the surface of the frittata. Slide it into the oven. Bake the frittata until it is firm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Watch it closely.
Gently, guide the rubber spatula around the outside edges of the frittata to loosen it. If you want, you can now flip over the frittata onto a waiting plate for a lovely presentation. Or, if you’re at a picnic like we were, put the cast-iron skillet on the deck when it has cooled, bring a knife and some small plates, and dig in.