Quick Pickled Vegetables: Marinated Peppers and Pickled Red Onions

“That book bored me,” my mother said, as she handed me a bowl of peppers from the refrigerator.

I paused, trying to figure out if we were talking about the same book. “Fifty Shades of Grey. Really?”

“The writing was terrible. And there are only so many times -”

“Before getting hit by a riding crop repeatedly becomes hilarious?” I joked.

My mother turned her back to me and stood on her tip-toes to open the top cupboard. “Yes,” she replied, retrieving a parcel of tightly wrapped flatbread.  She set it down on the island and started to unravel the packaging.

Impatient from hunger, I grabbed it from her. “I haven’t read it myself, but I can’t believe you thought it was boring,” I said, ripping off the layers of seemingly never ending plastic wrap. “It’s basically porn for bored suburban housewives.”

My mother folded her arms. “Well I’m not one. Your father and I -”

“Jesus, Ma, I really don’t want to talk about your sex life,” I snapped, finally freeing the flatbread.

“Jesus has nothing to do with it!” my father called from the living room.

My mother smirked as she tore off a piece of flatbread and dipped it into the hummus.

I yelled back, “Dad, are you really eavesdropping on a conversation about Fifty Shades of Grey?”

“Your mother said it was boring!”

“Let’s just go back to where I’m adopted,” I muttered, horrified about what the conversation between the two could have entailed.  They did say it was boring after all.

“You’re not adopted!” my mother protested, “You were a product of love.”

“Will you stop!” I said, stabbing a pepper with a fork.  The vinegar marinade splashed onto the granite countertop.

My mother glanced at the spill but didn’t move to clean it up. “We love you very much.”

I folded my piece of flatbread over the pepper, “I know, but that doesn’t mean you need to pull out the easel from the basement and illustrate ‘How You Were Made,’ again.”

“I wasn’t going to do that.”

I sighed.

My mother tore off another piece of flatbread.  She handed it to me and pushed over a different bowl she had taken out of the fridge. “Try it with the pickled onions.  And I promise I won’t bring out the easel.”

I moved my hand towards the bowl.

“Unless you want me to of course.”

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Southwestern Salad with Lime, Cumin and Oregano Dressing

With cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers, cucumbers, black beans, red onion, avocado and tortilla chips


For the past two years, Roo and I would go to a bar near his uncle’s townhouse before climbing Beacon Hill to watch the fireworks.

The first year I may have had too many drinks on an empty stomach; stumbling on seemingly flat cobblestone paths and wondering why the townhouse’s doors were so hard to open.

The second year I learned my lesson and didn’t pass on the appetizers Roo ordered. (While I may have found Jack Williams commentating on the 4th amusing1, most of the guests did not.)

This year the party was canceled, which left Roo and I to debate if we’d go downtown by ourselves or stay home.

“The Fourth is my favorite holiday.”

“Really? Because all this time, I had no idea.”

“Oh stop,” I said, crossing my arms, “you knew.”

“I know. But that doesn’t mean we should go down to the Esplanade at 6 a.m. to fight for a spot, only to suffer from heat stroke by noon.”

“I heard it’s supposed to rain on Wednesday.”

“Even better!”

“Well, what do you want to do, Mr. My-Favorite-Holiday-Is-Christmas-So-I-Shouldn’t-Even-Have-A-Say.”

“One, Christmas is awesome. There are presents, a tree that makes your house smell great, and Irish Coffees to drink in front of the fireplace. And two, we could make our own sangria.”

“I don’t know how a smelly tree can beat fireworks, but you had me at sangria.”

1 Because he acted like he wasn’t wearing pants behind the anchor desk, of course.

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Udon Noodle Salad With Spicy, Peanut Lime Dressing

There are some things you learn about your partner, only when traveling together. For instance, what each other likes to pack for a weekend away.

“Why are there bicycle shorts in here?”

“Why are you snooping in my luggage?” I asked.

“I needed toothpaste.”

“Here,” I said, as I pulled out a tube.

Roo took the toothpaste from my hand, “I still don’t understand why you need bicycle shorts for a wedding.”

“Ok!” I said, turning my back to Roo and shoving the shorts further down the bag, “Ok, you got me….I wear them under my dress.”

“Why?”

“Because Roo, some girls’ thighs rub together and god forbid it’s 100 out and you have sweaty thighs rubbing together. It’s the worst.”

“Oh. Isn’t it supposed to be 97 this weekend?”

I know.

Sometimes you discover that your partner cannot be trusted to drink any fluids while traveling. At all.

“I need to pee.”

“We just stopped ten minutes ago. There is no way you have to go right now.”

“It was the iced coffee.”

“That you drank two hours ago?”

“Yes.”

“Lys, we can’t stop. We have five more hours of driving. If we keep stopping every ten minutes we’ll never get there.”

I crossed my legs, “I read there’s a service area in ten miles.”

“We are not stopping.”

“This is ridiculous!” I said, uncrossing and recrossing my legs again.

“Are you really saying that by not stopping at a rest area, because we just stopped at one ten minutes ago, is ridiculous?”

“I really need to pee.”

And sometimes, you learn that your partner does not have the same opinion as for what counts as snacks for a road trip.

“So what did you bring for food?”

“I packed a super yummy udon noodle salad.”

“Wait, what?”

“Don’t worry. I packed real forks.”

“How am I supposed to eat that? While driving.

“I see you drive with one hand all the time!” I replied, taking the tupperware container out of the cooler.

“It’s a noodle salad. A salad you once described as super slurpy.”

“That’s what makes it so good!”

“Lys, how am I supposed to eat a super slurpy noodle salad while driving?”

I stopped shaking the ziploc bag filled with dressing and looked at Roo, “More for me I guess.”

“Why do I feel like this was your plan all along?”

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Baked Baby Artichokes with Crunchy Scallion Breadcrumbs

“Hello Monkey! Hello Stink!” Roo said as he walked into the apartment.

“You will not believe what happened in yoga today,” I said, calling out from the kitchen.

Roo dropped his messenger bag on the floor and took off his shoes, “What happened?”

“There was a girl,” I paused, “moaning.”

Roo laughed, “Sounds hot.”

“No! No it was terrible.” I said, ripping the outer artichoke leaves off in frustration.  “It was like I was trapped in a porno movie.”

“It couldn’t have been that bad.”

“It was!” I said, dipping another artichoke into the acidulated water. I removed it and gave it a good shake. “It was so distracting,” I continued, grabbing and ripping the leaves off. “Shit!”

“What’s wrong?”

“I stabbed myself with a thorn.”

Roo came into the kitchen and gently took my hand into his. He looked down at the tip of my ring finger and then back up at me. “You’ll live.”

“I know. I’m just…” I said, taking back my hand, “I couldn’t relax.”

“Maybe you just misheard her.”

“How can I mishear -” I started, then proceeded to moan as I heard in class.

“Like I said, sounds hot.”

“You cannot be serious.”

“Since when did you get all uptight about yoga? Isn’t it about being connected with your true self or something?”

“Perhaps. But my true self isn’t someone who listens to a porn track for 90 minutes.”

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Rosemary Polenta with Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes

I sighed and closed my laptop. “I just ordered $400 worth of shoes.”

“WHAT?!”

“I need a new pair of shoes for the wedding we’re going to. I can’t wear any of the ones I own.”

“Why not?”

“You know why. Stinkee got to them.”

Roo laughed, “They’re not that bad. No one will notice.”

“There are chunks missing! I can’t go to the wedding, looking like I anxiously gnawed on my shoes the whole car ride down.”

“It does make a great story.”

I didn’t laugh. “Listen, I’m planning on returning all but one pair.”

“Ok.”

Three days later

“So…I’m not returning any of the shoes.”

“Lys, you can’t keep them. You said it yourself, it’s $400 worth of shoes.”

I looked up from the floor, hugging the ripped open box, “I like them all. I didn’t think I would, but I do.”

“I’m going to say it again, it’s $400 worth of shoes.”

I started pulling out pairs of strappy heels, creamy colored pumps, then a set of ruby peep toes for good measure. “Look at them! Who knew I had such good taste!”

“Lys, you wear leggings and a t-shirt to work everyday. How are you going to wear those on the train? Never mind the bus.”

“I could do it.”

“How are you going to afford your share of groceries?”

I looked away, “We could totally still eat well.”

“What, what will we eat besides ramen noodles and canned fruit cocktail the whole month?”

“Polenta.” I replied, still feeling Roo’s eyes still on me. “Polenta with roasted veg. Super affordable and delicious.”

“Yes, I love polenta, but the shoes. We’re trying to save up for a house, remember?”

“But what good is a house when there are no cute shoes to wear walking around it?”

“This from the  girl who makes everyone take off their shoes upon entering.”

“Polenta, Roo. And cute shoes. It’s a win win,” I replied, and began carefully putting my children new shoes back into their own boxes.

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Oven Roasted Tomatoes

I’ve been holding onto some news.

What took me so long to tell you?

Well…I forgot what Roo said when he asked.

I’m a horrible fiancé.

It wasn’t until last night that I mustered the courage to ask Roo what happened.  I wanted to know more than what I had been telling my friends,”he laughed, then I laughed, and I said ‘Yes.” Because, really? Even a friend doesn’t want to hear an engagement story like that.

“I was going to write up that I we got engaged.”

“Oh. You haven’t done that yet?”

“Not yet.  It’s just that,” I paused. ” I kinda forgot what you said.”

Roo smiled, “Did you blackout from overwhelming emotion?”

“Perhaps. I remember you joking, saying that I had to take my sunglasses off so you could see me cry.”

“And you didn’t!”

“I know! Are you disappointed?”

“Not really.”

“I do remember somethings. Sitting on the bench with you, watching the rowers go by on the Charles…wondering aloud if those girls from Wellesley College actually started in Wellesley and paddled down to Boston -”

“Wellesley girls? That’s what you remember?”

“No! There’s more! I remember you getting down on one knee, removing the ring from your wallet – which was so sneaky by the way – and,” I laughed, “I remember saying ‘No’ as a joke.”

“But what I actually said to you -”

“Something about being a better man?”

“Yes. I said you make me a better man, even when you’re away, and I would be honored if you spend the rest of your life with me.”

“Oh. No wonder I blacked out.”

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Buckwheat (Soba) Noodle Salad with Chili Lime Dressing

“Did you ever have rules when you were first dating someone?”

“No. No, I don’t think so.”

“Really? Because I feel like all girls have rules. Especially when we’re younger, in our 20s.”

“Like what?”

I paused, wondering if I should tell Roo all the ridiculous ‘rules’ my friends and I had while in undergrad. “Well…” I decided to start off slow, “Never display any sort of bodily function in front of them, like burp or fart.”

“Right, because girls don’t poop.”

“Yes.  And we also don’t cry while looking in the mirror.”

Roo nodded as he scooped up a piece of broccoli with his fork.

“Also, don’t laugh so hard that you snort or God forbid fart.”

“Didn’t you once -”

“No.”

“When we were walking back from Thai Red Pepper -”

I grabbed a napkin to blot my mouth, “No. That never happened.”

Roo stifled a laugh, “Ok, what else?”

“Don’t sleep with someone before the third date,” I replied, half focused on getting a few sunflower seeds onto the tines of my fork, “And if you do sleep with that person -”

“After the third date of course.”

I smiled, “Yes.  If you sleep with that person you must wake up before they do so you can freshen up.”

“Like get rid of swamp mouth?”

“And that oily mess you call your face, yes.”

“Well, what about dinner? You went from talking to that person to sleeping with them. Makes me think you were a bit -”

“Hey! Hey now. Alright, dinner. Well, never order noodles because no one wants to see you slurp and sputter sauce everywhere.”

Roo raised an eyebrow.

“I know, I know. They were ridiculous.”

“No, it’s not that.”

“What?”

“That last bite you took of soba. I think you got some dressing on your shirt.”

I glanced down to see a giant stain on my right breast.  It looked like I was lactating.  “Great. See? This is why we have rules.”

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Massaged Kale Salad with Mango, Avocado, Cranberries and Toasted Cashews

“I think you’re worried that I’m going to fall of the wagon while you’re in Japan.”

I looked up from my salad, mid-chew, mouth too full to reply.  Roo timed this intervention just right.

“You just seem stressed about leaving next week.”  Roo continued.

Swallowing the last bit of kale, “Well, I’m not worried.”

“You’re not.”

“No, you were never really on the wagon full-time anyway.”

“What are you talking about?  I’m eating this delicious kale salad; a sentence I never thought would ever leave my mouth.  I mean, I’m eating kale. And liking it.”

I put down my fork, “Burger King receipt.”

“What?”

“A Burger King receipt. You left it on the center console.”

“Oh that…that was just snack I got on the way to my mother’s house.”

“A Whopper is a snack?”

“Correction, it was a Whopper Jr.

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Baked Gnocchi Alla Puttanesca (Kinda)

Sometimes when I have to make a first impression I freak out.  Just a little.

In protest, I put off getting ready till the last minute.  And when I can’t any longer, I run around the apartment with such fervor you’d think it was on fire.  Hair thrown into a sumo bun, trying on clothes that never seem to fit me the way I want and wondering why I just don’t invest in spanx already.

I get wound up.  I start…to sweat.  Especially when I’m freaking out in the bathroom because the light is too dim to actually see my face to put makeup on.

“Stop it Lys.  Seriously, stop sweating.  STOP. IT.”

“Are you having a breakdown?” Roo calls out from the living room.  He’s already dressed, shoes on and car keys in hand.  He’s been ready for thirty minutes.

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Talking to yourself while looking at yourself in the mirror stops underarm perspiration.”

“I don’t think it -”

“It’s a thing!”

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Mushroom Soup

“Someone fell on me on the train today.”

“So they knocked into you? Doesn’t that happen all the time?”

“No. Someone fell on. to. me.  I was on the ground face up, with them on top of me.”

“What?”

“He was too busy eating a delicious looking lemon poppy seed cake out of one hand and a drinking a coffee out of the other to hold the rail.”

“Well obviously it was because of his delicious looking cake. I mean, lemon poppy seed? Screw. that. rail.”

“Really?”

Roo looks up from his iPad, “Are you ok babe?”

“I cried.”

“Cried and didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought?”

“No, this isn’t an episode of HIMYM on what makes a Real New Yorker. This is real life. ”

“Meaning -”

“The anger cry.”

“I know that cry. It’s kind of…confusing.”

“Yes, a snotty nosed, yelling to getoffofme, anger cry occurred as soon as I realized he was on top of me…And that he was still holding his coffee and cake.”

“Not a drop spilled?”

“Not a single drop.”

“He must have gone to UMass.”

“So not the point Roo. So not the point.”

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