“i confess. i am greedy. i think i deserve to be seen
for what I am: a boundless, burning wick.
a minor chord.”
There is a memory from about ten years ago that I always seem to float back to. I was nearing the final year of high school and there was this eagerness in my chest that was nearly overwhelming. I remember the way the feeling used to lick at my chest, heaving in these waves that would envelope me, only to leave an even larger emptiness in their wake. It was this notion that starting out on my own was going to somehow unleash new potential and set some grand and internal plan into motion, one that I couldn’t fathom but could only feel.
It was dark and I was in the neighboring town of 900 people with the friend who would be my second prom date. We were sitting on the swings a block from her house, dragging the toes of our shoes through the wood chips below and I told her about this feeling. Is it true? Am I weird for having it or even more so for believing it? Or does everyone have this feeling and it is only those who hold on to it that actually change the world? Patty took me seriously and told me that she felt her own version of it—an idea of community and togetherness that was larger than her.
We talked for a long time about what it meant to have this hope and certainty about tackling the world at our age. It was all predicated on stepping outside of our small towns to see what else is out there. We didn’t have the knowledge or backgrounds yet to understand that we were recognizing our own privilege, talking through the responsibility to acknowledge it, and use it in ways that assist others.
I look back on it now and wonder if I’ve lived up to that ideal. Confidence doesn’t seem so easy anymore. It is fleeting, ethereal, somehow external in a way that it never was when I was younger. It crops up in the strangest of places and peters out just as quickly as it blows in.
I think of Patty now and how she has grown into a fiercely unapologetic woman. I’ve seen her fight for love and battle the pull of a rational brain over an emotional heart. Once, while living in Boston, she sent me an e-mail about how tired she was of riding the bus where no one speaks to each other and everyone looks at their phones; how she just wanted to run into an old lady who knows her and to maybe see a nice tree every now and again. How a few years after that, I met her then fiancé, a joyous man who makes her slow dance in the living room even when she doesn’t want to. How they got married in her childhood backyard, surrounded by nice trees. How she and Gavin spend their days together when for years they could only dream of it. And now, how her belly grows with a child that will be so welcomed in this world, a child who has family one block away, three blocks away, and on two other continents entirely. How nearly half the world will be awaiting their arrival with open arms.
There is so much more to be done in both our stories, so many more of our plans to come to fruition. Patty has always had a knack for finding pleasure in the everyday things. She is the slight turn near the corner of a mouth, always two steps ahead. I look at her and feel so much hope that maybe one day, when I am ready to start my own family, I can show the same confidence she does, the same confidence that has been with us ever since that night on the swings.
As we move into the spring and root around for fresh starts and new beginnings, I am working to remind myself of who I once was. To tap in to some of that potential and to remember that it has not left me. A few weeks ago, I needed a dish that could say it all for me. A dish that had been meticulously planned, but appeared effortless in that way only certain cooks can pull off, so I went to Julia Turshen’s Small Victories. Spring pea, leek, and herb soup called to me—stock made from leek tops and herb stems, the brightness of mint poking through and then cut by crème fraiche. I only added some crisped pancetta for a bit of crunch and extra body. Indeed, I left the kitchen feeling victorious, having harnessed some of that fickle, funny confidence.
Spring Pea, Leek, and Herb Soup
Adapted from Julia Turshen’s Small Victories
2 large leeks, cut lengthwise and washed
Handful of mint sprigs, stems and leaves separated
Handful of parsley, stems and leaves separated
Handful of basil sprigs, stems and leaves separated
6 c. water
3 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 ½ c. frozen peas
3 oz thinly sliced pancetta
Roughly chop the leeks and place the dark green tops into a large dutch oven. Set the light green and white parts of the leeks aside. Add all of the herb stems to the dutch oven, cover with the water, and add 1 1/2 t. salt. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once rolling, lower heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out the solids and throw them away, setting vegetable stock aside in a new pot or bowl.
Wipe out the dutch oven. Over medium heat, melt the butter and add the light green and white parts of the leeks with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 10 minutes until the leeks have softened, without letting them brown. Add your peas and the vegetable stock, keeping in mind that some grit from the leeks may have settled on the bottom of the bowl. Turn off heat and let cool slightly.
While the mixture is cooling, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. Place slices of the pancetta in an even layer throughout the pan and let cook until brown and crispy all over, 6-8 minutes. Set aside to a paper towel lined plate.
Once the soup has cooled a bit, add the herbs and puree until smooth with an immersion blender or normal blender. If using the latter, be sure to blend in batches as hot soup expands and can make a big, scary mess. Season to taste with salt.
Either reheat the soup or place in the refrigerator to cool if served cold (check seasonings again as cold food often needs more). Portion into bowls and top with crumbled pancetta, a spoonful of crème fraiche, and chopped chives.