This will likely be a very untraditional post. Like everyone else in the world, we’re confined to home for the (un)foreseeable future. When I sit down to write a blog post I often draw inspiration from past experiences, dreams, restaurant meals, what I’ve found in the farmer’s markets or at the grocery stores. But the markets are empty, restaurants are closed, I still have my dreams, and I still find much comfort in the kitchen cooking for my family, maybe more now than before. Cooking with only what we have on hand in the pantry is a bit of a game to me. I took time to organize the kitchen this week, rotating the old with the new. I’ve never liked to waste food, but now, when food seems to be scarce, it’s even more unbearable. I had a few stalks of asparagus in the fridge and half a bag of wild rice in the pantry and so this salad was born. If you don’t have asparagus your could substitute green beans and it would be just as good.
The kids’ school wasn’t prepared for virtual learning, so they have had their spring break extended a week while the school works out the technicalities of conducting online classrooms. I can’t say they’re upset about that. Two weeks ago I was worried about getting hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes to put in their lunch boxes. Today they no longer need hand sanitizer and I’m struggling to find eggs. It’s amazing how quickly everything is evolving and the things we thought we needed last week aren’t what we need today.
Still, Mother Nature marches on. The ground is thawing and I’ve been preparing the garden for spring. Gyms and recreations centers are closed so we take long walks every evening for exercise and, as much as I love being home, a break in the monotony is welcome. Thank goodness we can leave our house to walk the trails that run through our neighborhood. A happy consequence of this quarantine, self-isolation, lockdown, whatever you want to call it, (aside from curbing the spread of this virus and flattening its curve, which is the best thing that will come out of all of this) is that I’ve become reacquainted with all the beautiful wooded areas in our own backyard, and I have met more neighbors out walking their dogs in the last few days than I have in the last 10 years living here. Of course, we keep a safe space between us while we talk. Social distancing, you know.
I look forward to bedtime more than ever these days. I love falling asleep. In my dreams the world seems almost normal again. It isn’t until I wake and realize that there are no kids walking past our house, no school buses or even any traffic on the road out front, that I remember there’s something dark and terribly wrong in the world today.
I’ve noticed the way my children cope with the stress. Connor is focused. Working out, eating like a horse, and trying to pile on muscle to his lanky 13 year old frame. Eva is a dreamer like me. Her dreams have always had a tendency to come true – and not in the romanticized way that girls hope all their dreams might come true. No, she’ll dream, for example, of being lost in a sea of desks only to find that when she gets to school the next morning, the teacher has re-arranged the classroom. Of course, that was before quarantine. Recently, her dreams have taken on a stark, dystopian nature – grotesque and foreboding. And I hear her softly crying from the next room until I go in and comfort her back to sleep.
My dreams often share a similar, divinatory quality. However, instead of being esoteric interpretations of what’s to come, they reflect exact moments in time, which are lost shortly upon waking but are remembered with startling clarity and a sense of déjà vu when the events of the dream occur in real life. Then I will say to myself, “Ah yes, I know how this ends because I’ve lived it once before.” I used to keep a journal next to my bed so that as soon as I woke I could record the dream before it was lost to the sea of consciousness. It was a way to assure myself that I wan’t going crazy. When I became a mother and sleep became scarce and sacred, I quit recording my dreams, but I’ve recently placed a notebook back on my bedside table. Maybe one day I’ll be able to turn these quarantine dreams into a novel.
I hope you are all well, safe and healthy. In an effort to thin crowds, we’ve been advised to only go shopping for food every other week, so for the next few weeks (or months) I’ll be sharing what I’m cooking using pantry and freezer staples, hopefully with some fresh fruit and vegetables thrown in, when I make it to the market. Let’s start with this salad.
Wild Rice and Asparagus Salad
1 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 lb (230g) asparagus, cut into 2-in pieces
5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 TBSP white wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 clove garlic, pressed
fresh parsley, to garnish
Parmesan cheese, to garnish
In a sauce pan with a tight-fitting lid, bring the broth to a boil. Add the rice, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes longer, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Meanwhile, in a large serving bowl whisk together 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, the vinegar and lemon juice. Whisk in the basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir in the onion and garlic. When the rice has finished cooking, stir it into the dressing.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Add the cut asparagus and sauté until tender-crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Add to the rice and stir. Refrigerate the salad for an hour or two, until cold.
Just before serving garnish with fresh parsley and shaved parmesan cheese.