Tuesday, September 15, 2015
One of the best things about August was sitting in the backseat of my brother’s car. My infant niece, Danette, takes after her cousin Abbott when he was a baby: she hates the car. My sister-in-law, Kristen, is just like I was as a new mother; she frets about whether Danette will remember all the crying she does in her carseat. I told her that I thought she would remember the emotional content, if anything, which was that her mother was right there beside her. Kristen and I would sit on either side of her while my brother drove, and Danette would shower us with magnificent expressions, letting us know how she felt. Talking is really overrated. She would hold the tip of my index finger tightly in one of her fists; one of Kristen’s, in the other.
My brother moved to Nashville to attend law school at Vanderbilt, and he never left. It suits him. His wife, Kristen, grew up there, and during my visit a few weeks ago, her parents invited us all over for dinner. Kristen and Leon made food to bring with us; they both love to cook, and compete for who gets to do it, now that there is a baby in the mix who needs caring for. Leon made an apple crisp, and Kristen made a bean salad.
At Kristen’s family’s farm, where she lived her whole life until she went to college, I sat on the porch drinking iced tea while Kristen nursed the baby. Her mother showed me photographs of Kristen as a baby, looking just as Danette does, she’d said. I nodded in agreement. Some time later, Kristen’s dad pointed out the picture of himself as a boy that hung above the mantle, willing me to see the similarities between his younger self and Danette. I smiled at him from where I sat on the couch, holding her. “I see the resemblance,” I’d said, drawing her sleeping form closer to me.
When all the food was ready, the others filled their plates. I continued to hold the baby, listening to the song of the cicadas and the occasional snort from one of the horses in the pasture. I had all the time in the world to eat, but only another 48 hours with her.
Kristen’s Bean Salad
After I tried this, I daydreamed about it for the next two weeks, until I was back in my own kitchen and could make it myself.
6 slices bacon
3 15.5-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
kosher salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Crumble, and set aside.
Toss together the beans, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and mustard. Season with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving, to give the flavors a chance to blend. Just before serving, add the chives and bacon.
Yield: 8 servings