Saturday, August 3, 2013
Last week at this time, we were on an island for a favorite component of our summer. Una Vaca Asada. Our friends Henry and April always throw a huge party at which they roast a pig; this year, the pig was replaced by a steer. Henry is Cuban, and apparently, it’s what Cubans do when they get together. His parents fly out from Florida, siblings travel up from California, and I think even some cousins come from far and wide. A fire was started when the sun came up, and coals burned low and slow under the steer all afternoon; a forklift was used to rotate it every so often. A garland of red and yellow peppers festooned the edge of the embers. The smell of the sizzling meat made us weak-kneed. A Cuban band played, wine flowed freely. Once the food was ready, plates were piled high with the juicy, succulent meat and vegetables roasted to perfection. People sat scattered in lawn chairs and at tables and on blankets on the grass. After we ate, the boys disappeared with a football, a Frisbee and the other kids. Alexi and I danced together as the late afternoon turned to evening and then to night.
I heard on the radio that we had the driest July on record in 50 years. We turned the corner into August, and had our first drizzly day of summer yesterday. It got to me; I found myself carb loading all day. As I set the breakfast table, I remembered we had batter left over from Abbott’s birthday waffles, and felt gladder than I had since I’d woken up to the rain. I fired up the waffle iron, and we ate huge, yeasty Belgian waffles covered with peaches and blueberries and syrup in contented silence. The rain was relentless all morning, putting an early stop to the game of laser tag the boys tried to play. I made tomato sandwiches, using up the last of the heirloom tomatoes I bought last weekend at the farmers market. We felt better for having eaten those sandwiches, and the boys tried again with the tag. Hours later, we ate an early dinner of leftovers. We’d had pizza at Delancey, Abbott’s favorite restaurant, on his birthday, the day before. We each have distinct preferences, so we always get our own pizzas, and have our own leftovers. Abbott has cheese; Cal, proscuitto; Alexi, crimini mushrooms with proscuitto. I have the special; last night, padron peppers.
A friend asked me if it feels like eleven years have passed since I became a mother. I told her, in some ways no, and in some ways yes. I remember my earlier life with Alexi, before Abbott was born, but through a veil, dimly. I don't know how we got so lucky as to have Abbott born into our family. He adds so much to our lives every day.
I met Henry, host of last Saturday’s party, because I had to. He became my oncologist in 1998, and we developed a friendship. I’m sure I owe some part of my survival, which resulted in Abbott, and then Cal, to his decision-making about my medical care. I am inexpressibly glad to be celebrating Abbott's eleventh birthday.
Yesterday’s rain is gone. I’m snacking on a bowl of blackberries I picked in the yard, sun-warmed and jammy, feeling gratitude for the past week that was as gloriously ordinary as it was big.
One large tomato, preferably heirloom
Coarse sea salt
Mayonnaise, preferably Best Foods/Hellman’s
4 slices hearty white bread
Cut the tomato into thick slices. Toast the bread, then liberally spread mayonnaise on each slice. Put two or three tomato slices on two pieces of the bread, and sprinkle with the sea salt. Top with the remaining slices of bread.
Yield: 2 sandwiches