I now have herbs on the window sill, previously the province of aging mothers and English professors with a thing for Emily Bronte. I am stumped by this development. I mean, who am I anymore?
Each time Suzanne comes by, she frisks these plants – the mint, the basil — pats them down as you would a shoplifting suspect. She pulls out the struggling stems and nodes, then spins the plant so the other side gets some sun.
She is part of this cadre of women who look after me, including the two female dogs that keep me in their sights as you would a toddler. For the record, please note that I am a strong and independent man…my bulges have bulges. To this day, never lost a bar fight (though some were draws).
Still, I must cast some sort of needy vibe. I must unconsciously invite these ceremonious acts of pure charity.
Lucy dropped off homemade pickles the other day, and the most-remarkable tomato-cheese tarts (recipe below). These tarts are life-changing. Like the circular saw or Zip-Loc bags, they might change America. I’d even put them right up there with Spanx.
But I digress. Like I said, women watch over me, except for my own lovely daughters, who seem to have a little more faith. It’s groundless, this faith, based on nothing. They sense though, that one day, I must learn to fend for myself; otherwise it will fall to them. Yikes. No one wants that, especially them.
“When we get home from Spain, I’m gonna make Dad tapas exclusively for years,” my daughter Rapunzel group-texted the family from Barcelona.
My takeaway? Rapunzel needs a wedding check.
Smartacus? He looks after me too but there is a chronic imbalance. After freshman year away, he blurted, “Dad, it’s a new and motivated me, you’re gonna be amazed.” Since that moment, Smartacus has put away maybe one dish and littered his room with t-shirts and Coke cans.
One era ends, another begins.
Of all my legal guardians, the one who looks after me the most is the splendid botanist Suzanne, who somehow — a week ago — managed to get cake frosting in her eyelashes.
“Anyone can get too close to a cake,” I assured her.
“It fell right into me,” she explained.
Not so awful, to be tangled on the couch with someone who has cake frosting in her lashes. She’s somewhat attractive to begin with – brings to mind Vermeer’s “Girl With the Pearl Earring.” Now, with this cake frosting, she’s like the Ivory Snow Girl.
I’m very verklempt … my dominant emotion.
Meanwhile, Penny Laine looks after me too, the golden retriever pup with the intellect of a ladybug. But boy, does she have a big heart, and excellent home-protection skills.
Basically, she barks all the time. At first, this annoyed me, till I talked myself into believing that she just really, really cares for our safety.
In Penny Laine’s defense, she has the hearing of a fussy German maestro. She hears voices that aren’t even there. She hears the whispered second-thoughts of wayward angels … she hears aphids making out in the trees.
When it’s quiet, and all those around her are asleep, Penny can hear the malfunctioning heart valve of the burglar about to break into your garage. Obviously, she has pretty good ears and, like I said, no discernable brain.
On some levels, a mindless life must be preferable.
Conversely, White Fang never barks. She’s Russian, so mostly she’s content with her murderous impulses and thoughts of world domination.
So, yeah, it’s still a passive-aggressive-regressive little house, with these beautiful herbs quivering on the sill.
I suppose, more than anything, they are a sign. As football kick-starts our lives, I look forward to the sound of rain on the roof and how – when every other place in the world is dying – LA will finally turn green and alive.
Not a bad life, if you’re into life. And why not? Each day, someone will lose a job, or a lover, or a pet they’ve looked after forever. Someone will face a cancer scare. Someone will lose a dear friend.
Why not be into life?
Listen, if you like pizza, you’ll love Lucy’s tomato tarts. My stomach is the size of a grape, yet I can’t eat enough of them. Please keep Lucy in mind for dog-walking gigs or if you need help with a party. She can do anything.
Meanwhile, here’s her tomato tart recipe, which one day will win the Nobel Prize for garden-based cooking:
1 pie crust (I use Trader Joe’s frozen)
Ripe tomatoes, any combination of type, color, size (about 2/3 cup per tart)
Fresh basil leaves (depending on size, about 4-5 per tart)
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chopped Hatch chilis (optional)
2 cups shredded cheese (I use combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack)
½ cup mayonnaise
Defrost pie crust. Using tart pans as guide, cut 4 circles to fit into tart pans, pinch edges. I use a slightly smaller pan that fits just inside each tart pan, as a kind of inner mold to keep the edges from slipping. I weigh down the smaller tin with clean rocks as pie weights. Bake about 15 minutes at 375 degrees or until edge is lightly brown. Remove from oven, remove pie weights and inner tart pan, allow to cool.
Wash tomatoes. Slice or chop into mixing bowl. You should have enough for about 2/3 cup per tart. I use all types of ripe tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes. Lightly mix in bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add Hatch chilis if desired. If tomatoes are extremely juicy, drain some of the juice before adding chilis. Sprinkle with flour; this helps absorb the juice so they do not become soggy when baking.
In cooled tart crust, add chopped or torn basil leaves on bottom. Spoon in tomato mixture, do not pack. There should be enough tomato mixture to lightly fill to the top of the tart.
Mix shredded cheese in a bowl with mayonnaise. Lightly place a scoop of the cheese mixture on top of tomato mixture in tart. Using a fork, carefully spread the cheese to the edges without packing it.
Place tarts on a baking sheet. Bake tarts in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until cheese is golden brown. Remove from oven. Can be served, hot, warm, or cool, or can be refrigerated and reheated. Best when they are fresh and hot, but they re-heat well.