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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Do you know what I did today?

I’ll tell you: anything I wanted.

I wouldn’t call it an indulgent day. Any day that includes “wash bed sheets” as one of its most satisfying moments can’t rightly qualify as indulgent, but it was satisfying nonetheless.

Ralph and I decided a week ago that we were going to take this weekend off. Where “off” means “someone will probably work anyway but we don’t have to.”

Post-app-launch, we didn’t so much deserve it as need it.

Knowing that, I slept quite well last night, and stayed in bed until 9AM when I rolled out and into my coat to go to the Farmers Market. It was 18° and I didn’t really need anything that warranted rolling out into the cold, but I do love the Farmers Market, and there has to be one heck of a bad day brewing for me to skip it.

I think it was at that moment, as I pulled on sweatpants over my yoga pants, that I decided my day – and word – would be all about me.

Not selfish me, not expecting anyone to do anything for me, just… not anything else in particular.

Thus on the Day of Me we went to the Farmers Market. I bought a stack of peppers even though I didn’t need them because honestly, are there many things more gorgeous than a crate full of multi-colored peppers? Red, green, yellow, orange, purple.

There are a few things I will come home with a bucket of every time, then repent later as I make up meals around them. Peppers are one. Tomatoes are another.

Can you EVEN buy a tomato at the grocery store ever again after you feast your eyes and palate on the rich greens, reds and browns of freshly picked heirloom tomatoes? They come in the most un-tomato-y shapes, and they taste as different from a store bought tomato as a filet mignon from a hearty slice of cardboard box.

I usually end up with a lot of tomatoes.

Other things that should never be allowed in a grocery store again: strawberries. It’s several months away, but when strawberry season hits I quite literally come home with a gallon bucket of them every week. Sometimes two.

The Farmers Market has spoiled me.

It made sense, then, that on the Day of Me, we went and basically bought whatever things can still be grown in Tennessee in January. It’s a surprising lot, actually. Tons of greens, spinach and chard and arugula. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes. In a pinch there are always freshly made donuts and goat cheese fudge (oh heck, yeah).

So… where was I?

Right. Me.

Also bacon. I mean, you can’t even imagine bacon until you’ve had it farm fresh.

I may have a thing about food.

Which means that naturally, on the Day of Me, I had to cook. Given my propensity for disaster, one might suspect I’d order takeout more often. But I love to cook, unless I don’t have time and there is an app project to do and all I can swing is a grilled cheese and some Brussels sprouts. Don’t judge.

Today I made granola. I hate store bought granola. But I love the homemade kind with the exact right amount of honey and brown sugar and a big bucket-worthy amount of nuts, the good kind, like cashews and pecans and pignoli.

I also made more quiche crust, for the next lunch misadventure.

I almost… almost thought about trying chocolate chip cookies again but oddly enough, I didn’t even want them. For a second I didn’t even feel like Me.

I made roasted red peppers, then decided to put them into a potato omelet for dinner.

A potato omelet is one of the few family recipes that I can actually make. The women in my family were (and are) fantastic cooks. They could whip up anything from nothing and make you want more. The thing is, they didn’t follow recipes. They just put in a little of this and a little of that. About so much salt. Then you cook it until it looks done.

My grandmother made the best meatballs. Even my mother couldn’t match her. In fact, we wouldn’t eat my mother’s meatballs because they were quite not very good at all. (My mother does, however, make my favorite eggplant parm on earth.)

This was how my grandmother made meatballs:

Ground beef. Three or four eggs. This much grated parmesan. Enough breadcrumbs, with a sprinkle of water added – not to soak them, just to get them a bit damp. Some seasoning, maybe a few shakes. And black pepper. Lots, and lots of black pepper. It was the distinguishing factor when it came to grandma’s meatballs.

Also, when she was done seasoning them she handed a spoonful of raw meatball to my grandfather who tasted it and always said, “More pepper.”

I could never bring myself to taste raw meatball to be sure it had the right amount of seasoning, so I cook a teeny marble sized meatball and hand it to Ralph. He always says, “Good.” He is very easy to please.

The other family thing I make is tomato sauce. Nobody’s recipe, because there was none. Just the same things I saw everyone else use. Besides, Aunt Rosie always made The. Best. sauce and nobody could hold a candle to her. You didn’t even try.

And potato omelet.

Potato, onion, eggs, “this much” parmesan and that’s it. It’s deceptively hard to get right. But Aunt Sally was queen of the potato omelet. She had a billion year old cast iron pan that she used so much she wore a hole in the bottom (true) and a knack for cooking potatoes. Don’t ask me or anyone else in the family how she did it.

Her daughter, my cousin Carol, tried for many years to get it the same as her mother. My cousin Carol is an amazing cook. If you show up to her house unannounced and uninvited on a Tuesday afternoon, she will have a cocktail in your hands in 14 seconds, a table full of meat, vegetables, pasta and homemade bread by dinnertime, and everything from frittatas to cinnamon rolls baked by the time you get out of bed in the morning. Plus mimosas.

What she will not do, however, is wreck the kitchen, spill the milk and show up to dinner with flour in her ear. I have no idea how she does it.

She also figured out how to approximate her mother’s potato omelet. The secret, she revealed to us not long ago, is “a lot of glugs.”

For the potato omelet to be the potato omelet, you first have to cook the potatoes and onions in olive oil. How much olive oil? Enough so that when you tip the bottle to pour it into the pan, it goes, “glug, glug, glug.”

The trick is that once you think you have enough glugs, you need more.

This is true. It is also why we have no family recipes and why I spend an hour every day on the Peloton.

My potato omelet had a lot of glugs tonight, and I even added some roasted red peppers, which was the only other ingredient Aunt Sally allowed. It wasn’t her omelet, but it was pretty darn good.

Why am I talking about this on the Day of Me? Because it makes me happy to think about. It makes me happy to remember and to share it with anyone who might stop by. It makes me happy to be part of a history that included black pepper and people who fed you love every time they saw you.

I thought about these people today on the Day of Me, because ultimately they are all part of me. This version of me doesn’t exist without them.

Other things I did on the Day of Me:

Finished cleaning out the office closet. Not romantic, but so satisfying. I cleared off an entire shelf of space. When my brother comes to visit in a week he will be able to stay in the office/guest room and have a place to put his clothes that is not the floor. Of course, everything that was on that shelf is in the middle of the hallway waiting to go to Goodwill, but it’s something.

Cooked my ginger bitters. After two weeks of steeping, it was time to cook them down. I’m really enjoying making bitters. So far I have apple cinnamon, maple black walnut, and a house blend.

Lit candles. I light candles almost every day but Ralph usually blows them out after a bit. He has this thing about “wasting candles”, when they have burned so long you don’t notice the smell, or when you’re not sitting in the room with them. Still, it feels nice to walk into a room with burning candles. So as many times as Ralph blew out candles today, I lit them plus one.

Put on my January lights. During December they were Christmas lights but they make me so happy that I am just keeping them there indefinitely. They are draped haphazardly across our college-dorm shelves and my desk, and I love how pretty they look.

Had a glass of wine. I made burgers to go with the potato omelet, and poured red wine into a fat, round glass that my friend Kaarina sent me for Christmas. They are supposed to be whiskey glasses but I find they make exceptional wine tumblers. They also remind me that I have a friend who knows me well enough and thinks about me often enough to send me whiskey glasses for Christmas. On the Day of Me, I spent some time being grateful.

Played Destiny. Well, not really “played”, rather ,”looked up how to play” for Ralph. He loves this game, and I love the time we spend sitting on the couch on our days off, him shooting bad guys and me looking up tips and hints on how to use weapons to defeat them.

In case you were wondering, I also sang a little Mama Mia today.

Oh, and I wrote this. I had nothing profound to say, not much in the way of a story, but it made me very happy to write it. When I first started this blog back in 2013, my thought was mostly about, “How do I tell a story interesting or meaningful enough that someone will want to read it?” So my writing stalled.

But now, on the Day and during the Year of Me, it doesn’t really matter who thinks what. I know mostly no people will care about my Aunt Sally, or the flour in my ear, but I also know that the people who do care matter to ME.

I’m not always the best friend or sister or wife or daughter or person or molecule on earth, but sometimes, if I can share a memory, or a story, or a sentence that makes someone laugh, think, remember, care… then there really is a reason to exist.

My Day of Me ended up being a lot of thinking about other people, because in the end, that’s who I am. And I love every second, and every word of it, every day.

Photo: my best replica of Aunt Sally’s potato omelet.