I won’t talk about the weather anymore. But that’s hard. Because it makes you feel crazy when one day it’s forty degrees and the next eighty-five. When your garden suddenly jumps up crazy wild before your eyes. That happens here. It happens now, I guess, everywhere. Today is almost a year later and it is icy icy cold outside. My feet are almost glued to the worn out icy floor in this pathetic little sun room. This post was written and discarded months ago, but here it is again like another winter, summer, fall, like another outburst of anxiety, fears and tears… But there is one thing I know and that is this: potatoes still make me smile.
It’s difficult not to talk about the weather. There was snow a few weeks ago! Now the daffodils are bright yellow and in bloom all at once. It looks like someone painted the parkways with thick yellow crayons. There are thousands of dandelions where just yesterday it was snowflakes. All the almond trees, apple trees, pear trees, ….. all of them waving their crazy petals in the wind. Ah the wind… the wind is blowing and blowing these days….. the windows were rattling so much yesterday I thought it was creatures trying to get in. The leaf blower demons are back. The screens are still not up. This is such an old-fashioned little house. Sometimes it embarrasses me, how one day it’s fine and the next it is tattered and old. The forsythia, magnolias and even crabs are all parading their wares like gaudy flower girls. All at once. Before you know it the lilac will be blooming and suddenly it’s gone.
Just a week ago the fancy gardening place still had all their Christmas greens, those red sticks, acorns and eucalyptus … Today there were miles of purple and orange tulips. The hyacinth just started blooming because April was cold and snowy, and now it perfumes the garden like Cleopatra’s tomb…. but now they are shriveling up like flies and saying goodbye. Big storm is coming very soon.
I called you today hoping to hear a cheerful voice and instead you told me you had to take 18 new pills and didn’t know how to take them and the doctor was crazy and the pharmacists were crazy and the nurses and therapist and that one doctor especially who discharged you, he sent you home with 18 new pills to take daily without instructions without warnings without knowledge without sympathy without a kind word even. You ranted and ranted so much… I know you are sick… but I couldn’t take it and just hung up.
I called a friend and she said she was sad and depressed because her dog died yesterday. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t have a dog. But I know people love their dogs and so I said sorry and hung up.
I cleaned up the living room again today, after the plumbers came once again to fix the leak in the bathroom. Then afterwards the water came dripping down from the ceiling all over the walls and the paintings and the chairs and the carpet and the floor, dripping into the basement even. They came again and were mad they had to do the work all over again. They threw their tools angrily on the carpet and muttered under their breaths…. They blamed me. Told me I should not fill the bathtub all the way up. They opened up the ceiling and worked for two hours and then went away in a huff without even saying goodbye. And it may be fixed but I am not sure, so I have put nothing back and the house looks like I am moving. I can take a bath but then immediately run down the stairs and run my hands up and down the walls to make sure water is not falling. Even though the walls are dry I rub them over and over again with my hands to make sure……. eyes can be so deceiving……The sump pump finally stopped going off in the front and flooding the sidewalk but the next two days we will have another big storm and it will start all over again. Water everywhere is the way it is now.
The only thing left to do was eat something. There was nothing much in the pantry or fridge. I didn’t feel like running to the store. Thousands of May flies are out… or whatever they are, those white little things like nuclear ash from across the Pacific Ocean. Yes, I remember hearing you say that all of you are being poisoned over there from that explosion in 2011.
There was some pasta left over from the pasta cherry tomato garlic dinner. There was a potato! Parsley. Red pepper flakes. Salt. Fresh ground pepper. Olive oil. Garlic.
I remembered seeing a recipe somewhere in an old “Saveur” for potatoes with pasta and I thought it was strange then. But I love potatoes and can always eat them. I remembered that pizza at that place on Main Street where we went one cold and snowy March. It had a very thin crust almost like a cracker, and paper thin slices of Yukon gold potatoes spread on top. A faint tinge of garlic. Crushed rosemary and pepper and salt. Just a film of melted cheese. How we devoured that pizza years ago sitting in front of the big icy window that winter day…. and watched our friend walking by to meet us… while we were stuffing our faces she slipped and fell on the ice right in front of us…. we were momentarily startled but it was so delicious we just kept eating the potato pizza while she got up alone and dusted herself off. I don’t remember her at all but I still remember the taste of that pizza…….those creamy yellow fleshed potatoes slightly caramelized at the paper thin edges…..
I took that one lonely but beautiful potato out of the straw basket, almost crying with joy to have found it there, alone and smooth skinned, pure and whole, just waiting for me on that cold cold day… like a miner finding gold I felt, like a miner finding gold…… I sautéed it in oil. It was a russet and I cubed it. I was too lazy and tired and depressed to peel it. I might have even left a little dirt on it, maybe a few cobwebs, bits of straw….I stirred for a few minutes and added chopped garlic. Lots of it. Three or four cloves and I would have added more but I was too lazy. Chicken broth would be good… to hasten the cooking and to give it more flavor, but I didn’t have any so I added a little water and covered the pot. The potatoes cooked up. A chopped onion would have been good too but I didn’t have one.. When the potatoes were tender I added red pepper flakes and ground pepper and salt and then mixed it with pasta (spaghetti ) but orecchiete or some other shape would work too…. even those little butterfly bow things. Then I stirred it gently and chopped some parsley…lots.. and sprinkled it on top. I sat down to eat. The potatoes should have been cooked a little more, they were slightly too firm but with a potatoe you can do little harm…. oh it was so earthy, salty, peppery, savory, tasted like someone’s farm… tasted like my mother’s chicken soup even though there was no chicken, tasted like rich black Ukrainian dirt before the wars….. like the potatoes I used to grow back of my garage when this place was new and fresh and clean and good, and all the trees were huge and I was happy. The calm, peaceful, and charming elm lined street when one or two cars went by instead of a highway. I ate those potatoes like a ravenous farm hand, like an 1870’s cowboy, like the starving little match girl.. There were so good, so gentle and so kind… And after I ate every single bite I saw a pool of viscous liquid at the bottom. A pool of garlic, water, salt, potato, pepper flakes and parsley. Mixed in with a handful of tears. And I ate that too.