GRATEFULLY // elspeth

A friend told me that when she and her husband were expecting their second child, they asked a nice couple they met at the playground with two kids how much harder it really was. "It can't get much harder, right?" the couple laughed. She moved forward confidently. Then the baby came. The word she now uses to describe how much harder two is than one to friends who ask her is "exponentially." I'm not sure I quite feel this way—going from no baby to rearranging our whole lives around a tiny person's needs and schedules was fairly jarring—but I will say that two is a whole new ball game. I have not accomplished much of anything around here in the past few weeks beyond basic daily necessities: attempt to sleep, attempt to get Sally and Nora to sleep, eat and provide meals, wash the diapers, try to keep Sally from jealousy. Most days we do ok. Other days, mainly the days following nights with both girls waking, are challenging. I am learning to ask for help, to accept it gratefully. It is humbling.

But it's also incredibly nice. I feel lucky to be able to be home for a few months, to be fully present in our daily household rhythms after a summer of chaos and babysitters and longer hours working. I am in the kitchen more than I have been in months; we aren't going out much, and no one's at the restaurants at night anymore working. I am able to focus on what we need—for my reserves, for Nora's milk, for a tired husband, a growing Sally. We are eating well, but simply.

Last night I made a chickpea and chorizo soup inspired by one my mother's friend Julie made us once in Spain. Sally and I roasted a batch of applesauce together (without Nora please Mama, said Sally) with Spartans and Honeycrisps my mother brought down the other afternoon. I soaked the two livers from a chicken my dad cooked while he was here this weekend in milk and breaded and fried them and ate them for lunch yesterday. And for some reason, I can't stop buying and cooking eggplant—mostly roasted, sometimes pan-fried, but always with a generous glug of olive oil and rubbed down with garlic and sea salt. 

The recipe I like best comes from Nigel Slater—from his book The Kitchen Diaries, where he records his daily meals for a year. It's more prose than instruction, and it assumes that the reader knows their way around good ingredients and a kitchen. 

"I slice a couple of eggplant thickly," he writes. "Brush them with olive oil and season their cut sides with black pepper, crushed garlic and crumbled dried oregano, then I bake them on a flat baking sheet in a hot oven till tender and soft. A matter of twenty minutes or so. Whilst the eggplant are still warm, I scatter them with crumbled feta from the Turkish shop down the road, toasted pine nuts and some small, fresh mint leaves from the garden, the pointed variety with no hairs. Then I drizzle the result with more olive oil. Juicy, silky, nutty and warm, it is good, and enough for supper." 

He's making this August 2nd; I've made it at least a dozen times since then. I realize I might be sharing this too late—there were eggplants at the farmers' market last week, but every week I stock up, because I'm not sure when the last morning is they'll appear. I hope they haven't already disappeared.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.