For the last 4 years, I’ve been in a book club with about 5 friends. The members have shifted slightly, with a couple people leaving and returning because of school or other commitments, but the core group has been meeting every few months since spring of 2008. We’ve focused on classic literature for the most part, but have also sprinkled in some sci-fi, current fiction, children’s literature, and will soon add a graphic novel to our list.
I always look forward to our meetings, which combine spirited and sharp but unpretentious discussion of the books with wine, friendly company, and typically some good snacks! Sometimes we meet at a restaurant or café, but more often we meet at someone’s house. The last meeting was at Ian & Michelle’s, and Ian had made profiteroles with caramel sauce; the one before that was at Sarah’s and we had smoky, marinated grilled shrimp and other goodies. See what I mean?
Last weekend it was my turn to host. I wasn’t sure what to make because the meeting was at an odd time of day (1pm); I didn’t know if people would have just eaten lunch, or if I should plan to serve a light lunch. A serendipitous combination of eggs on sale plus a small piece of smoked salmon led me to this combination, a variation on some tuna-stuffed deviled eggs I did last year (those were good, but I have to say these were way better). The eggs were on sale because they were a little older- i.e., perfect for hard-boiling (less fresh eggs are much easier to peel). The salmon was too small a piece to serve on its own, but a perfect size to lend its flavor to the egg filling. Add some crème fraîche, capers and shallot or red onion and you’re in business.
I also put out a salad of equal parts roasted squash and beets dressed with lemon juice, shallots, feta and parsley. Super simple but beautiful to look at, and a great flavor combination, the sharpness of the shallot and lemon balancing the sugar-sweet beets and squash. With a couple other contributions from my guests, it ended up being a nice little spread. Food was noshed, wine and tea were sipped, and art history books were consulted as we tried to find images that corresponded to the culture the book was about (we had read Things Fall Apart, about the Igbo people in Nigeria at the start of colonialism). Continue reading
Hey there. Just a friendly warning, if you’re here for the recipe you may want to scroll down; the following may not be of interest to many of you, and that’s fine, but it’s something I felt I needed to write.
I had a post all written and ready about how my friend had this great sherry-tasting party last month, with all of this amazing Spanish food, lively conversation, etc. but I had this nagging feeling and it just didn’t feel right to post it. Although the party was beyond lovely and I had a great time, the evening was marred by the fact that I completely and totally flaked out on a good friend. I was supposed to text her the address of the party, and even after having said out loud to my brother as we were walking in the building that I needed to do just that, a few seconds later I was distracted by a conversation and the thought left my mind. I then proceeded to leave my phone in my coat pocket in the bedroom all night, so I didn’t hear any of my friend’s calls or texts. To make matters worse, she had already driven over 20 miles and was in a bar nearby awaiting contact from me.
Of course, as soon as we walked out of the building to leave the party, it triggered the memory that I was supposed to have contacted her, but by then it was too late. I called and offered frantic apologies, but the damage was done. Of course she felt, as I would have, that it was simply unimportant to me and that my other friends had taken precedence. I was so frustrated- how to explain that that was not the case; that I just hadn’t “pictured” her at the party (she decided to go at the last minute) so it didn’t seem “off” that she wasn’t there? Although it was the truth, it sounded like a lame excuse even to me.
I’ve been doing some research lately to try to understand why my mind works the way it does and why I’m often frustrated by my forgetfulness, inability to be organized or to accomplish certain tasks. I came across the following and it was like reading a summary of my life story: frequently losing things, trouble completing routine or mundane tasks, academic underachiever, short temper, low stress threshold and several other characteristics that were uncomfortably familiar.
These are some of the manifestations of a certain type of ADD. Now, I haven’t been officially diagnosed, but based on a laundry list of symptoms which I won’t bore you with here, it’s exceedingly probable that this is the explanation to years and years of figuratively banging my head against a wall wondering why I couldn’t seem to be motivated to accomplish as much as my peers of similar intelligence and education, why my house is frequently a mess, and why I feel disproportionately stressed out by life’s day-to-day tasks. Apparently it’s common for the condition to go undiagnosed in high-functioning girls/women, because they often don’t exhibit the hyperactivity and disruptive behavior that boys do. Because the hyperactive form of ADHD is so much more prevalent in the general discourse, I never knew that there were different types and it never occurred to me that it could be an explanation.
I couldn’t help but get emotional reading the list of symptoms and feeling this overwhelming sense of recognition, after literally decades of feeling that something was “wrong” with me but not knowing what (Am I just lazy? Why is it so hard for me to be organized? etc). Even my blog posts, which I enjoy, often take me two to three weeks after the fact before I am able to post them, and those of you who are regular readers have probably noticed that I often sound harried or overwhelmed even though I don’t have any kids and have a lifestyle with (relatively) few responsibilities.
Lest this post be a total drag, I did want to share with you this most excellent recipe for Spanish-style deviled eggs that I took to the sherry party. Just about everyone likes deviled eggs, and a couple people at the party said these were the best they’d ever had. They come from a colorful and well-put-together cookbook called The New Spanish Table, and although they’re no more difficult to make than any other deviled eggs, they pack a lot more flavor thanks to the inclusion of tuna and some other goodies.
2011 is going to be a huge year for me with the new house and the wedding, so I’m hoping that getting better informed about this condition will allow me to better manage these seemingly monumental events and enjoy them rather than feel freaked out and stressed. Wish me luck. As for you, I wish you all the best of holidays, and a healthy and happy New Year!
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved lengthwise (I recommend making one or two extra in case you have a couple that don’t peel cleanly)
1 6-oz can tuna in olive oil, tuna drained and flaked
2 Tbs capers, rinsed and drained
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 small or half a large shallot, minced (about 1 heaping Tbs)
2 Tbs mayonnaise
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
piquillo or roasted pepper, cut into thin strips for garnish
handful of chopped parsley
Mash the yolks well in a bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, shallot and capers until well incorporated. I like to mix the tuna in at the very end so it retains a bit more of its texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound as much of the filling as possible into the halved egg whites (you may have a bit left over). Garnish each egg with strips of pepper, and scatter the plate with the chopped parsley.