From the Kitchen – Random Happy Thoughts
We arrived for our annual ferry ride J.I.T. Just in time. Beyond being an inventory control strategy for increasing both efficiency and working capital, J.I.T. is a truism that has defined my life. Chasing the school bus back in the day, studying for exams throughout, negotiating deals, the dinner rush … almost always properly prepared, just in time. Of course, I could be more like the person riding shotgun who will remain nameless for the sake of harmony in the home. She would be more of an I.T. That’s “Island Time,” if you get my drift. (I just made that up.)
Deadlines and commitments. Take this column. Though I had weeks to plan since the last one, an email from my editor-boss as I headed out of town, followed by a text for the second year in a row, reminded me of the deadline that was poised to pass before my napping eyes, beneath my sandy feet.
Every summer, for something like 40 years, we vacation in “My Happy Place” — so named on a cutesy pillow in a cutesy-saying-type gift store like so many found in cute vacation townships like Vineyard Haven.
Me: “But I am on vacation.” He: “Take another week then.” And … just in time.
Having traveled from Lowell to Woods Hole, painstakingly through Boston rush hour to make the boat, we drove directly off the ferry, “hangry” for the pizza place opposite the dock — a welcome slice of a vacation now underway.
(Somewhat random side note #1: If you are like me, always seeking great pizza, get to Pig Tale in Nashua, N.H. — a new restaurant opened by former employees. I wouldn’t use the word great if I didn’t mean great, even for friends. Have the pork belly, too. Excellent.)
The first morning of vacation began with a wake and bake chocolate chip cookie and a trip to the West Tisbury Farmers Market. Shades and sandals on, a sunny day, and another happy place. I love farmers and meeting the people who grow the food as much as the growing re-evolution in our industry and communities to support local initiatives, farmers, neighborhoods and at-risk children. I love that so many are committed to a healthier, more wholesome (and chemical- and lobbyist-free) way to deliver food to our tables. I know I need to be better. It sure is a whole lot easier when on vacation, surrounded by a community entrenched in sustainability. We returned to our cabin with (repurposed) bags full of the good stuff, from many farms, including a wheel of local cheese and grass-fed beef — because, let’s face it, this whole kale thing? What the …
(Somewhat random side note #2: If you, like so many, are really busy but wish to be more active in protecting our future food quality, while supporting your community, please visit our friends in Lowell at MillCityGrows.org — a great organization and resource. According to co-director Lydia Sisson: “A healthy curiosity is a great way to learn about local causes and how [we all] can be part of change.”)
The following day, ankle deep in the finest Lake Tashmoo silt, happy as what we were digging, I got to thinking how I tend to have many happy places. I am happy in my restaurants, generally. Actually, in most restaurants — though I do choose carefully. I am happy in the kitchen — in an amped-up, adrenaline-rich kind of way. I am happy in bed. (Biting lip, resisting the urge to take this any further.) I love the sun and, of course, the water. Pools, lakes and hot tubs are great, but I would choose the salty, churning sea every time. The nephews and I twisted our way to a couple dozen clams — littlenecks and quahogs — just enough to shuck a few raw while the rest steamed for the spaghetti and white clam sauce we would make together — our recipe calling for lots of farm-fresh tomatoes, leeks, garlic and basil, and handfuls of corn off the cob!
Fishing is next on the agenda, with visions of striped bass and tenacious bluefish on the line as we head to Chappaquiddick, which was previously an island but is now a peninsula! True story. It’s a big-storms-create-changing-topography sort of thing. How cool is that? You’re an island. You’re a peninsula. You’re an island. You’re a peninsula. Storms make me happy. And one of the best things about fishing? High tide is “an estimated 8 a.m.” Estimated! Just in time, all but guaranteed!