Over the holidays, I (finally!) made it home to my parents’ house for a solid twenty days. It was fantastic to be back in the Bay Area, surrounded by mountains and water every-which-way I looked. No offense to the Jersey folks – the shore is very beautiful – but I like a little sudden elevation with my ocean. Not to mention the food! I’m a glutton when in California. Sourdough baguette, good wine, Zachary’s deep-dish pizza, fresh artichokes and Brussels sprouts from the Sonoma Coast…
Speaking of Brussels sprouts, I’ve been noticing a disturbing web-wide trend of disparaging these heroic vegetables. (Carolyn Jewel, I am looking at you! Yes, I saw that interview!) While driving along the coast, I obtained two stalks of Brussels sprouts and they changed my world. I am here to tell you that said stalks are 1) fun to wave like wands; 2) ideal for bopping people atop the head; 3) DELICIOUS. I now issue a dare to all the haters:
1. You get some Brussels sprouts and slice them into thirds.
2. You put them into a bowl and add a whole lot of olive oil, salt, and chopped raw garlic.
3. You mix it all up.
4. You toss the contents onto a tinfoil-covered pan and cook it for twenty to twenty-five minutes at 400-425 degrees, depending on your oven.
5. When the sprouts look nicely browned on top, you remove the pan and you eat the sprouts with sour cream.
6. Then you come back and talk to me about how you like Brussels sprouts!
* Disclaimer: If you steam the sprouts, all bets are off. I cannot argue with the awfulness of steamed Brussels sprouts.
I am one of those curious children who truly enjoys being at home with my parents, doing nothing. Indeed, if left to my own devices, I would have been shamefully content to spend all twenty days of my break sitting on my parents’ couch, egg nog (AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS) to my left, sourdough bread and e-reader to my right, mainlining various World War II-themed miniseries. Winds of War and War and Remembrance? So fantastic! (Apart from the whole miscasting thing. Robert Mitchum is a fantastic actor, but he was 65 at the time the first series was shot, playing a character who’s supposed to be 39 or 40. As a result, a romance that thrilled me in the book began to seem rather…icky…on-screen.)
But the Lad, AKA my partner in crime, was out in California to meet the parents. And he insisted we Do Stuff. Which, you know, sounded reasonable.
So off we went to the aquarium in Monterey, where I ogled a great many jellyfish, cuttle-fish, octopuses (nope, it doesn’t pluralize to octopi, apparently. This bums me out for obscure reasons. I guess I like the idea of a Latinate sea creature), sharks, and otters. I return to you with a discovery: the underwater world is twice as weird as anything ever shown to me in Star Trek: The Next Generation (a formative influence).
The aquarium experience also got me thinking about how wonder is such a devalued feeling in adult life. As a child, so many things are new and strange, but once we grow up and settle into jobs and learn the art of juggling bills and various other responsibilities, we tend to forget to take time to search for the strange and unexpected. I certainly forget how rejuvenating it can be to encounter something you knew absolutely nothing about. Sea horses, for instance—did you know they could look like this?
At the aquarium, I felt like a wide-eyed kid as I walked through those rooms, and I left feeling younger and lighter, somehow.
The other wondrous highlight of my holiday was The Secret River, by Kate Grenville. This is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction that conjures 18th century London and Australia with vivid, gripping immediacy. I highly recommend it to the historical fiction fans out there!
All right, I feel a wee bit bad having posted and said not a word about writing. Suffice it to say that A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal is off my desk, into production, and features a heroine who’s my favorite yet. (How amusing: I feel slightly bad admitting that…as though Lydia and Emma and Gwen et al might take offense. Ha!) I’ll be sure to speak more of ALLiS in my next post. In the meantime, please attend to your Brussels sprouts!