On this Tuesday-that-feels-like-a Monday, I woke up before 6 a.m. — and a full 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off (at 5:40 a.m., if you must know). Routed from strange dreams and already anticipating my first cup of coffee, I stayed in bed for those extra few minutes feeling the cool air come through the screen and listening to the peacocks wail away from somewhere up the street, Though I do not much like waking up so very early, there is something to be said for drowsing a-bed for a bit before the press of the day propels you into action — and I will say it: the quiet soft gloom of a room, birds beginning their morning songs in the redwood trees outside, flowers brushing against the window — this is the time for extending dreams and putting off the slip-side of the week. It is almost worth setting the alarm early-for, just for those few moments.
Peacocks in Sebastopol are a funny thing: they are not, of course, native to Western Sonoma County; Southern Asia is more their locale. And yet spring and summers throughout my childhood were marked by their somewhat eerie, strange calls that sounded all ’round my neighborhood and environs (who knows why they were, and still are, kept — as pets? For eggs?). When I go home for long weekends now (or just any weekend) I still hear them sometimes and then it is suddenly summer: for whatever reason, that particular sound makes catch hold of that nearly forgotten, end-of-school feeling of June, the summer spilling ahead empty with promise.
Which, oh yeah: It’s June now.
June is a big month in my small corner of the universe: there is yet another trip to the East Coast — New England this time, to the green mountains of Vermont first, and then up and over to Maine, for a party and a wedding and an enormous amount of baking (did I mention I am baking the wedding cake/s for my brother’s upcoming nuptials? Oh, I did not? And that the two, three-tiered behemoths must serve about 120 people? And that I’ve not baked a 12-inch round cake before? Oh, I did not? Hm.). These are all wonderful things but a little bit they make me want to draw out those early-morning moments, just to catch my breath in advance.
For it is all coming so very fast I can hardly believe it. I know the next few weeks will tumble past in a blind rush and soon I’ll be back here reporting on how beautiful my brother and almost-sister-in-law looked, that small joy in visiting again the house my dad lived in when he was in high school, the slightly panicky moments before stacking all those cake layers … Oh and then it will be summer, true, with California’s golden hills and brown rivers and still, hot afternoons meant only for kayak trips or soft serve ice cream cones flowing ahead before me … Oh and then it will be late summer full of fat, heavy tomatoes to be turned into sauce or salads or simply to eat … Oh and then it will be fall, my favorite season in San Francisco, with ripe apples and marathon-running and blue-white October …
Oh but wait (I tell myself): Slow down. Today is just the first day of the month. I must not — and in truth, do not want to — wish time away, no matter how anxious I am to get into the kitchen and, darn it, get to baking already. There are still English peas to be had at the farmers markets, recipes to test, blueberry jam to imagine. Right now is all very about to
— one of the very best feelings ever, and I’d like to just savor it. My haze of fatigue aside I am fairly well able to taste this moment right now. And I find it tastes pretty good.
Still, on this Tuesday-that-feels-like-a-Monday when I am feeling a little shell-shocked from that early wake-up, a bit nostalgic for childhood and the bare, shining stretch that was once summer vacation, and more than slightly exhausted from 1) a 10-mile run on Sunday and 2) a mile swim yesterday (but all of it was so worth it), I am ready to call uncle and go to bed early, to slow down, to take it easy, just for tonight. I will go home to throw some laundry in the washer and catch up on the mail. And I will make my favorite, quick, go-to comfort food dinner before I then throw myself into my delicious and longed-for bed.
This dinner, it is quick. It is indeed my favorite. And I hope, with a try-out, it will become one of your quick and favorite go-to dinners, too.
What you do is: make some udon noodles. Meanwhile, you saute some garlic in olive oil, then some sliced shitaake mushrooms, then a handful of spinach, as much or as little as you like. Maybe add a little water or vegetable broth or tofu or whatever. A splash of soy sauce, a sprinkle of sesame seeds Then drain the noodles and mix it all up together and slurp it down hot and salty and delicious.
I didn’t say it was complicated. I certainly didn’t say it was fancy. But I do indeed promise — in fact, I swear — that it is utterly delicious. Especially on a Tuesday-that-feels-like-a-Monday — slowing down recommended though not required.
Shiitake-Spinach Udon, for one
1 bunch udon, prepared according to package directions
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
5-6 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1-2 cups spinach
options: sesame seeds, tamari, cubed tofu, etc.
While udon cooks, saute the garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes then add the mushrooms. Reduce heat to low, then simmer (with a splash of water if needed) until mushrooms are soft. Add spinach and stir well until wilted. Season with soy sauce and additions if desired.
Drain udon and toss with vegetables. Devour.