Chives, Teens and Lobster Stew
The lilac bushes outside my office window are huge. I wait for this week all year when the perfume of those gorgeous white, pale purple, and burgundy blossoms floods the house. They are the scent of promise, of making it through another long winter, of green, green grass and all the good things that come with this warm spring air.
The peas are coming up and a variety of spring lettuce is almost "mature" enough for a micro salad. All this activity makes me wake earlier this time of year, as if the garden and the outdoors are calling to come out to see all that's happened overnight. I find this time of year thrilling, but also overwhelming. It seems that the number of things to be done in a day has doubled or tripled. It's no longer enough to write articles and test recipes for new cookbooks, keep the house more or less clean, make meals, walk the dog, deal with kids, friends, husband. There is now an entire new "outdoor house" demanding to be weeded, mowed, weed whacked, planted, and loved. Of course, it's not that I resent all these new seedlings and weeds, but there just aren't enough hours in the day. So I let the house get dusty and the newspapers pile up and I choose to pay attention to the garden. After all, it's been asleep and not asked a thing of me for almost six months.
This is also the time of year when both my children are home. Right now they're upstairs in my youngest daughter's bedroom. They are both finishing their junior year (one in high school, the other just home from college in New York City) and, based on the sounds floating down from the bedroom, they actually sound as if they're getting along. This is not always the case. In fact, this is frequently not the case. But today, for reasons that might have to do with the fact that they haven't seen each other in almost five months, they appear genuinely interested in one another. Maybe at almost 18 and almost 21 they have more in common than they used to. They both seem taller and more beautiful to me. Junior year is apparently a time of huge growth. They just seem to like themselves a whole lot more. Not in the obnoxious, Hollywood I'm-so-full-of-myself kind of way, but I can see a new confidence in them both. Isn't that what we all want for our children?
Hard to make out their conversation over the music playing ( I thought they had totally different taste when it came to music?) but now I can hear laughter. It's well worth coming indoors from the garden to hear the sweet sound of my two girls sounding like friends. If I really strain, I can make out talk of movies and new clothes. I'm standing in the kitchen, with a generous handful of chives in my hands, enjoying my harmless eavesdropping. Finally the scent of onion calls and I turn my attention to the chives. They, too, seem heartier and taller than ever - huge, thin stalks with pale purple flowers just beginning to form on top.
These days I use my chives in virtually every meal- in my scrambled eggs and mixed into cream cheese to be spread on bagels and toast in the morning, scattered in salads and mayonnaise for sandwiches, and then sprinkled on roast chicken, sauteed fish, in vinaigrettes, or just about anything I cook for dinner. Last night I was testing recipes for a new cookbook (more on that soon) and sprinkled a handful of fresh chives over a lobster stew and topped it off with a saffron cream. Few things taste quite this good. It's an ode to Maine and our state symbol, to those pungent, gloriously fresh spring chives, and to the growth that spring brings to all.