I'll be running away from home in the next few weeks. Yup, just like when I was six or seven and had decided that I was going to move into the oak tree in the front yard next to the Crepe Myrtles. I brought my most important possessions with me: my favorite headband, my "Grease" t-shirt with John Travolta decal (or as my dad called him, "Johnny Revolting") and some sort of stick for hunting birds or squirrels, though I was more interested in befriending them than in killing them, but a runaway gal's gotta eat. Also, if you look in the upper right corner of the photographic evidence of this moment, you'll see there is what appears to be a tambourine. I think I thought I could earn money by performing Linda McCartney-style musical routines from the tree. In this my upcoming new version of a runaway adventure, my treehouse will be a fifth floor walk up in the East Village and I'll be bringing my knives and leaving my headbands at home (my Bangs-Not-Botox make a headband wholly unnecessary). And John Travolta won't be an iron-on on my shirt, but probably will be in a bathhouse getting an erotic massage in Chelsea. Oh how life has changed in 33-34 years!
Hopefully I'll have some funny kitchen tales from my three weeks away from home, and I fully intend to bore you endlessly with iPhone photos and tales of accidentally grating my fingers along with the parmesan cheese, so do stay posted for the live blogging of my kitchen humbling.
But until then I'm teenager sitting in the Pacific Palisades. And nothing, absolutely nothing, brings on feelings of finite mortality quite like being responsible for a now-almost-grown-but-still-kind-of-useless human being that you've known since he was two. Well, that and the RadioLab meditations on death and dying that I heard on my way over to his parents' house on Sunday. And the fact that I'm forty and I'm so untethered that I'm even available and desperate enough to housesit for someone else. I'm clearly the Jerri Blank of the 90272.
Even before I got to the beautiful house with a pool (yes, I'm caring for a kid, but I'm so totally also getting a tan), before I even left the parking lot of my loft for this quick two week detour, I was already feeling anxious and a little sad. You see, I've been whining and complaining about how static my life is for some time. I've continued to tell people that something, anything needs to happen because I've been just wasting energy and I'm tired of it, but of course I've also been working hard to sustain every bit of habit in life. The thing is, change and habit don't coexist, seeing as how habits try and control the variables of the day to day making sure that change doesn't take place, and change's sole purpose is to introduce new variables altogether. Our tendencies as human beings seem to view this change as chaos and destruction, when in reality it is just the opposite, and a necessary creative force. You've got to knock stuff down to rebuild it.
When I made the executive decision to run away from home this time, I knew that temporarily changing my venue and taking a month long internship in a restaurant in New York would be a scary, huge leap-- because I'm not only likely to screw up in that kitchen, I'm guaranteed to screw up in that kitchen. And no one likes a screw up (or a fat actress, as it turns out), least of all me, Countess of the Continual Screw Up tribe. Sure enough, as soon as I simply made the decision to change, the floodgates poured open and my good friends asked me if I would be available for the teenager sitting job, which is actually more like "Operation Keep Our Kid Out of Jail for Two Weeks". I had to say yes, because if I've learned anything it's that if you ask for change, you have to accept it across all areas and see what happens or risk getting a karmic beat-down. And, I needed a tan.
But I digress.
I was feeling very sad when I left my parking lot, and I realized I am pre-grieving. Yes, I'm saying goodbye to old habits and I'm really going to miss them (I heart you, ridiculously trashy TV, and you, too, staying in pajamas all day) but I shouldn't. I need to grow up and own my shit, exactly the "advice" (read: imperative instructions) I gave to my teenage ward when he completely screwed up and dragged me into it (in the interest of his privacy I won't spill the details, but FYI I found out I'd totally be the bad cop parent if I ever have children and that frazzled adults sometimes curse at kids when they're really, really pissed off). How can I tell someone that if they want to succeed and be treated like an adult, then they have to act like one if I still think of myself as an 18 year old? And why, exactly, would ANYONE think I have any kind of authority on anything, anyway?
I'm a 40 year old having an 18 year old's garden variety existential crisis, but that is coming to an end. Today I make sure that the person I've been charged to take care of doesn't disappear into a cloud of weed smoke or drink and drive (Don't even think of getting thrown in jail, because I don't have the money to bail you out) and tomorrow (OK, in twelve days) I pack my knives and start over at the bottom of the food chain like I should have done two decades ago.
And this afternoon I'm going to paint on my bikini, make a Bellini and sun myself on this city's Riviera because I can and because my legs are very, very pale and can be seen, much like the Great Wall of China, from outer space.
Yesterday I noticed that the fig tree by the pool is starting to produce some fruit and it reminded me of an appetizer I made a few months back that I wish I had to snack on today, a mission fig and red onion bruschetta with ricotta. It would be a perfect, grown up thing for me to munch on while I'm acting as prison warden of the Pacific Palisades.
Bon Appetit, January 2009
1/2 cup dried black Mission figs, stemmed, halved
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved through core, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick strips
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
coarse kosher salt
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
1 teaspoon heavy whipping cream
coarse kosher salt
8 1-inch-thick slices ciabatta bread (about 4 1/2x2 inches)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Place figs in small bowl. Pour 1 cup boiling water over; let soak 45 minutes.
Drain figs; place in small saucepan. Add wine and next 3 ingredients; bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer until figs are tender and liquid is syrupy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add vinegar; cook 1 minute longer. Remove pan from heat; cool.
Melt butter with oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until beginning to soften and brown, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low; add vinegar and sugar, then sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Stir until vinegar has almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Cool.
do ahead Figs and onion mixture can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Whisk ricotta, 1 tablespoon oil, and cream in medium bowl until fluffy. Season with coarse salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler. Drizzle ciabatta with some olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Broil bread on both sides until toasted. Transfer to serving plate.
Spread 2 tablespoons ricotta mixture on each bread slice. Spoon glazed figs with some of syrup over; top with onion mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan and oregano. Drizzle with oil and serve immediately.
I'm probably going to be in mourning for my lost extended childhood for a while, but I hope you'll be entertained by the inevitable stories of my getting my sea legs. I think I'm as prepared as I can be for the big fuckups that are to come, though I was advised to buy a pair of clogs, and there is exactly no way in hell that is going to happen. I'm entirely too vain to wear clogs. Ever. I'm going to let/ force my teenager to pick out a pair of colorful sneakers instead. Because sometimes adults still want to be with the cool kids.
Have a great weekend and...