Something solid and normal

I have been trying not to tell you anything about the wedding this week. I have been trying to put it on a shelf, to sit down squarely, and to write you about something solid and normal, like butternut squash or apple pie or turkey soup. I have daydreamed stories about scalloped potatoes and cranberry crisp and basil-tomato-mozzarella sandwiches, but the trouble is, I haven't been making any of those things. I have been planning and thinking about and going over the wedding again and again—with my mother, with Alex, and with his mother, too.

This weekend was especially taken up by It That Shall Not Be Named. Alex and I went up to Wellesley, where he grew up, for a shower thrown by his mother's friend. My mother came down and my sister and her boyfriend, too, and we got all gussied up in black dresses and blue button downs and orange ties and brown boots and ate a whole heap of good food, including quite a few of Judy Harrington's famous grape jelly meatballs. (It sounds strange, I know, but I swear you have never tasted anything like those things.) And after the wine and the high heels and the hugs and the trash bags of wrapping paper, when all was said and done, we drove home with a ridiculous pile of loot.

We felt sort of like bank robbers on the car ride home, worried about getting out for a sandwich or a bottle of fizzy water or a pit stop lest we return to a rubble of missing dinner plates and broken glass, but we made it back unscathed. And when we did, we realized that no one had warned us about the next part. We realized that we had a rather full house and some very important decisions to make over the next few months about what stays and what goes, and then we took a vote about what to do. My vote was to unpack the car into the guestroom, to pile up the boxes and shut the door and lock it and throw away the key and come back after the whole wedding hoopla is over and do the opening all over again (it would be like Christmas! twice!), but Alex informed me that this was not how things would go. We would unpack the car now, and we would unpack it for real. Meaning that there would be all sorts of unpleasant things involved like cleaning out closets, going through clothes, and throwing backpacks from elementary school away. It seemed like a good way to make a mess of an otherwise perfectly wonderful weekend, but the man was determined.

Luckily for everyone's sanity, we unpacked the dinner plates first. They are Gien, from France, and they make plain, un-buttered toast look like a meal for Cherie Blair. I pulled out a batch a pesto from the freezer, and we made a pot of pasta before the big clean. There were still spiders in the entryway closet and packing peanuts all over the floor, but the plates—our first meal on our very own handpicked china—made it all much more okay. In fact, it made it rather splendid.

I have a feeling that from now on, between the wedding and the husband and the perfectly creamy plates, dinner will make me feel that way every single day.


This pesto, adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, is the one I grew up with, and is one of my all-time favorite sauces. My mother used to make huge batches in the summer to freeze so that we could have homemade pesto all winter long. As a toddler, my sister was famous for finishing her pesto, then promptly placing her oily, green-flecked bowl on her head. She was also famous for going on strike from bathing, but luckily, the two phases didn't overlap much.

3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
3 large cloves garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything in a food processor and give it a whirl. Keep going until the pesto is thick and well-blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Vintage Lizzie said...

LOVE your blog!!!....and the way that you write...the feeling..the mood you create with words!...Quite the gift you have...Just remember...with all the...not to be mentioned word......plans...to breathe...have fun...and savor EVERY moment!..Hugs...Liz

Elspeth said...

Lizzie, thank you---both for the kind words about my blog, and for the encouragement! I do need to remember to savor and breathe all at once. I can't wait!

All the best,

Anonymous said...

I adore your blog but do feel compelled to mention that you are correct about the gifts. Wedding gifts should not be unpacked or used until after the wedding!

Andrea said...

For starters, ignore anonymous - whatever.

Secondly, from the been there done that side of things, definitely do your planning, just don't WORRY about any of the details. There are some pieces that are important to the day and so many details that really don't matter. If you can separate them out, it will be such a relief. I wish I had! :)

Good luck!

Tameson said...

Never mind when you use them. At least you are. I have yet to use my wedding dishes and my hisband and I have been married nearly 20 years. I think my silverware is still in it's box.

Anna said...

i lOVE pesto and this post makes me want to eat some right now. with parmesan cheese on top, just like in your picture....and then turn the bowl upside down on my head and rub it around, just like the good old days!

Elspeth said...

You people amaze me, you know that? I didn't mean to sound so overwhelmed yesterday, but thank you for noticing. And even more than that, thank you for all of the good advice.

For the next five weeks, I will do my absolute best to enjoy every minute of the ride.

Many, many thanks,

Alexandra Grabbe said...

My daughter got married two weeks ago. She and her husband are now going through exactly the same thing, rearranging their kitchen and making space in the basement for replaced items, giving to charity what was in the basement!

This is a very special time, so try not to let yourself get overwhelmed and just enjoy every minute.

I love your blog and listed it with a link from mine this morning.

Elspeth said...


Congratulations to your daughter! You must be thrilled.

Thank you for the good advice, and also for the link. One of these days I will have to get a blogroll started around here!

All the best,


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