*Blogger’s note: I originally pulled this post down because I thought it a little too raw and personal. And it is. But here’s what I’ve come to believe: it’s just a version of the truth that doesn’t portray my behavior in the best possible light, to be sure, but ultimately is just a part of the whole. And that greater whole is complicated and sometimes loving and fun and sometimes petty and mean just the same, and that’s A-OK with me. This was just how I was dealing, incredibly poorly I might add, with my own expectations of the timeline. I hope you enjoy, even if you think I’m a total ingrate. ---mm
If I thought I tripped into a pothole when I turned 39, then I plummeted full-force into an Everest-style crevasse starting a few short months before I summited to 40. I cannot tell you how crazy I became. Like so crazy that I pitched an absolute hissy fit when I found out my whole family was going to celebrate my niece’s ninth birthday but had no plan to acknowledge mine, this year that I would officially stop being Peter Pan and become Peter Pan-fried. Yes, I was jealous of a nine year old. Trust me, I’m aware (and, sadly, was also even aware at the time) of just how terrible I was behaving, but in the interest of really spilling the pettiest of the petty details, I’d like to set the scene:
Mom, the Tiny Dancer, calls on my cell to clear some dates with me for Christmas (both my niece and I have birthdays close to the holiday). I start whining about why is it that just because I don’t have kids or a husband or a real job that I’m always the one who gets told what to do rather than be asked what works for me. And then I devolve, Lord of the Flies-style: Why don’t I have a husband that would throw me a fortieth birthday party or who would take me on a trip to celebrate or buy me some silly over the top car like a Range Rover, or why don’t I have a job that would be lucrative enough that I could pay for my own giant I-wanted-a-sweet-sixteen-but-didn’t-have-one-and-I’ll-be-damned-if-I-don’t-get-my-Molly-Ringwald-moment-even-if-I-am-forty-effing-years-old party? What about meeeeeeeeeeeeee?!
And then I started hyperventilating as I shame-spiraled into angry self pity. “I have to go,” I yelled in a huff to my nothing but loving and concerned mom, “I’m going to start crying and I just got eyelash extensions and the glue is going to melt if I do and then I’ll really be upset. And I’m at the drive thru at Chick-Fil-A, goodbye!”
I did enjoy my chicken nuggets (apologies to my LGBT friends, but I am wholly powerless against their tender goodness), but I am total chicken shit. And an absolute asshole to boot.
Before we go any further, I must mention yet again that I KNOW I was a monster. I truly felt bad about being so horrible, but it was like I was planked, face down and ass-up, on a black cloud above myself for two months, powerless to affect or control my own mouth in any possible way.
If you’re a girl who grew up like I did and have managed to make it to almost 40 without ever having had a wedding, you probably think that your 40th birthday party should be one. Because, let’s face it, you may never have one (isn’t there a greater chance of being attacked by terrorists) and even if you do, at some point the idea of a big, couture white dress and a gigantic matrimonial party becomes a little ridiculous. I would certainly feel a little silly asking my dad to shell out 10K for a dress at this point in my life, should anyone ever be crazy enough to ask me to marry them. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t want it, and if I can slip that in right under the wire in the shape of an awesome party, why not?
Well, I continued to get/be even more unpalatable over Christmas in Dallas and excused myself to the bathroom no less than a dozen times to cry from the awful pressure I had put both on myself and on all the people I love to acknowledge the truth of what I was really feeling about turning 40-- that I had disappointed myself and everyone else by extension by not achieving any one of the many life moments I should have by that time. It was pathetic and terrible and it wouldn’t have been made any better even if I had gotten that elusive Range Rover. Though I would look really good in it.
I had wanted an event that celebrated parts of my life that I haven’t made it to yet (if the word “to” even makes sense here), for better or for worse, and instead hosted my very own pity party.
And I had another really good cry in the car with my mom, poor Mom, on our drive back to Houston from Dallas, nine days before I would actually turn forty, back here in LA with my friends. And for some insane reason that I have yet to understand, (maybe it was because my family proved they would always love me no matter what, since I’d been about as evil and selfish as a person could be and they were nothing but kind and loving, or maybe it was an intervention of a benevolent God that was just simply tired of my bitching and moaning) the black cloud dissipated. And I felt relief. Divine relief. Complete resignation reached only through a puddle of self loathing tears.
And now I even feel better about not having any of the life markers, too-- I’m excited for what the future holds: maybe love, maybe a kid(s), maybe a mass produced line of jewelry that sells in Nordstrom, maybe a chain of soup stands, maybe a grand adventure or three. Maybe not. But who knows, really, anyway? I just don’t feel like things are or are not happening TO me anymore, but that I’m just kind of standing a little more stilly with stuff happening all around me, and it’s really quite nice. So, after all that wasted energy and those sad lost moments of selfishness and lost perspective, I feel so lucky to be forty. To have made it this far. To have such great love with my friends and family and to feel some vague sense of purpose, small though it may be. It’s been quite a ride so far.
But I hate cliché almost as much as I hate sentimentality, so I’m going to move on to the soup I made when my mom and I were together over Thanksgiving. Because it was amazing, even if it sounds kind of strange.
Yes, I’m talking about a pear soup with blue cheese and pancetta. It sounds sweet, but it is actually something other than that-- savory, distantly sweet and slightly acidic all at the same time. A soup of contradiction and fullness!
Here is the recipe from food52:
5 ounces pancetta, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes (around 1/2 inch)
1 medium-small carrot, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon maple syrup
5 pears - I used bartlett - peeled, cored, and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 cups mildly flavored vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup creme fraiche
crumbled blue cheese (a creamy, potent raw milk one is best, if you can get it) for serving
salt and ground white pepper to taste
- In a large soup pot, fry the pancetta bits until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain.
- Pour off all but one Tablespoon of the fat in the pot (you don't want to use all of it because then it will overpower the pear), and add in the butter. Heat over medium until foaming. Then, stir in the onion, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft. You basically want the onion to sweat and soften without browning.
- Stir in the garlic, potato, and carrot, cover again. Turn the heat to medium and cook another 10 minutes. Then, add in the maple syrup, pear, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, thyme, sage and nutmeg. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes to get the pear all coated with the syrup and other flavors.
- Add in the broth, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook, covered, until the potatoes and pears are soft, about 15 minutes.
- Blend in batches until smooth. Then return the blended soup to the pot and stir in the creme fraiche. Taste and add salt and white pepper to taste.
- Serve with the pancetta bits and blue cheese for sprinkling on top.
I really loved this soup, and I think my mom enjoyed it, too, but you never know with her. She would tell me I was awesome if I were on death row. Or if I cried my stupid eyelash extensions off my face. She’s always understood the place in me where all of the seemingly contradictory ingredients meet. The bold ones, the subtle ones, the fun and the notsomuch.
The rest of this meal included homemade white truffle potato chips; crostini with mission fig, red onion and ricotta; a salad of winter greens with apple, egg and pecorino with a pomegranate vinaigrette and my mom’s Italian cream cake.
I suppose it would be really easy to somehow blame my bad behavior on my mom, because that’s what spoiled brats do, right, blame their parents for their own shortcomings? I really wish I could, but I absolutely cannot. I mean, seriously, I can only blame her for loving me enough to come out for a visit despite my sour demeanor, and for sharing that complicated, contradictory bowl of soup with me.
PS: I promise to start writing more often and with a whole lot less ennui. More crazy cat lady, less crazy bitch.
And thank you, friends, for sticking around!
*please see previous post for more pictures of this soup...and of my really lovely mom, too! You know you’re curious.