Saturday, July 23, 2011

Birthday Gazpacho

It's July 23rd, and for anyone following the news, it's extremely hot here in the Northeast!  The grass is browning, my peas are dying, and we've fashioned a tarp over the chicken run to provide a little shade.  At least the sunflowers seem to be loving it.  And, truly, I love it too.  I wish my peas were hanging in there a little better, but it makes me happy to feel the humidity soaking in to my skin.

Also, being July 23rd, for anyone who knows me personally, it's my birthday! And, on this sweltering afternoon, Chad and I are taking our four kids and our two "host-kids" from Spain to Yankee stadium to drench ourselves in solar heat in the nosebleeds.  We'll dine handsomely on cotton candy and nacho chips with cheese sauce.  Did you know that the qualification for cheese at Yankee stadium is that it needs to be orange-colored?  Well, if you're gonna do junk food, might as well go all the way, I think.

This is all a round-about way to say that the weather, my birthday, and the fact that we won't be home today to have an official meal meant that we made last night into a Spanish birthday fiesta.  Julia and Isa, who are teenagers and have never cooked at all before, took it upon themselves to make Gazpacho and Tortilla - their favorite traditional foods from home.  They even used Isa's grandmother's recipe for the Gazpacho!
(Julia and Isa peeling tomatoes for Gazpacho de Abuelita)

While the tomatoes in my garden have yet to ripen (at least they're growing, though, right?), I was able to find bright and juicy hot-house tomatoes at the Westport Farmer's Market.  And, after pointing out where to find the other ingredients and kitchen tools, I puttered around while other people actually cooked for me!  What a birthday indeed - I didn't know what to do with myself!

I swept the great room, set the table with the good dishes, and poured iced tea from the old plastic pitcher into a decent glass one.  I listened to Isa flutter on the phone in Castiliano - the language of Spain - to her grandmother.  I learned that one does not need to blanch tomatoes in order to peel them, nor remove the seeds before processing.
(ready to puree the tomatoes, with cucumber and green bell peppers)

I learned, too, that "Tortilla" in Spain is not a flat, round piece of bread in which to stuff burrito filling and guacamole.  Rather, it is a thick potato-egg omelet, slowly cooked over low heat.  Thus, when I grabbed a bit of sidewalk chalk to write "Julia and Isa's Menu" on the framed slate by the kitchen table, it was necessary to distinguish today's Tortilla from the more common American Tex-Mex version. It got the intended laugh from the chefs, so I was pleased.
(Tortilla on the stove and the birthday menu)

Chad, endlessly finishing up some email in his office at the front of the house, did eventually join us to pour the remainder of the Gazpacho directly into his bowl and literally like his plate clean of the Tortilla. A little bread with olives and red peppers baked in, and it was, hands down, the most delightful meal of the summer.  We all felt as light in our hearts as the soup tasted light on our tongues.  We laughed as we invented silly nicknames for each other in Spanish.
(Chad really did like his plate, a slice of Tortilla)

Today, I collect another year of life.  Tomorrow, my kids go off to camp.  On Tuesday, Julia and Isa board a bus to JFK airport and on home to Spain.  Even Chad will be away on business next week.  The heat will dissipate back to a normal range, allowing my poor peas to recover.  And me? I'll get done all the work I've put off in favor of play-time with my enormous summer family.  Some needed personal time is in order, I must admit.  But, right now I have a loving husband at home (who, by the way picked up for me a crazy-gorgeous blouse we noticed while window shopping on our last date and had a charm made with my newest puppy's name on it for my favorite bracelet), the six most wonderful children, and a home with animals and foods and a lawn like carpet to play on.  I have baseball, too.

Today, I am thankful for another birthday, another year, another moment of this life that is mine and glorious.  I wish to remember this feeling the next time I am blue, or exasperated, or bent on self-criticism.

And, I am thankful for Isa and Julia.  In keeping with the theme of Wishful Thanking Farm, I am thankful for Gazpacho and Tortilla, which are already family favorites.  But, mostly I am thankful just to have had this month with two amazing girls who have trusted me to care for them, and shared their experience, generosity, culture, and hearts with me.  My so-called "host-daughters" have a permanent place here, and I wish for the opportunity to visit them, too, one day.
(my host-daughters, Isa and Julia, preparing one of the best birthday gifts ever.)

Oh, and I wish for a Yankee win!

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