Last night our whole family went to a party, and we danced. My oldest daughter danced with her dad. My little son danced with me. The girls danced with each other, and with their brother, and we all danced together. What did you guys do right, asked a friend, and how did you do it? Beats me. I can tell you a lot about where I think I missed the mark as a parent, including several times yesterday afternoon. I can sometimes tell when I have hit the mark, or gotten near it, but even saying that makes me wonder where and what the mark even is. All I can tell you about the dancing is I don’t know how or why it’s possible, but I definitely felt the happiest I have felt in recent memory while it was going on.
This is not going to be a Mother’s Day post. It is also not going to be a Why I Hate Mother’s Day post because there are plenty of good ones about that, and I don’t really hate it, exactly. I don’t think you can take up an I Hate Mother’s Day position while you have little children under your roof whose school hours are occupied in early May with making you little boats and watercolor paintings. It’s unreasonably and unnecessarily confusing, and since life (and one’s mother) are often enough sources of unreasonable levels of confusion that are not elective, I don’t see any reason to opt to confuse my children any more than I unintentionally confuse them already. See? Poor lambs. And unlike you, they are stuck with me.
So this is a post about early May.
Or you can turn a corner and see a crab-apple tree laden with such a profusion of frothy blossoms that it is almost embarrassing to look at. The most gorgeous ones in our life are on the route to school, so I never have time to take a picture of them, but I do, to my daughter’s occasional exasperation, always take the time to thank them, as we whizz past in the hope of making it before the second bell.
The nettles are up.
After the long winter food doldrums, the yard suddenly is full of things to nibble on.
I picked nettles and put them in a frittata.
There are lessons to be learned in picking nettles, if you pay attention. Actually there are more lessons to be learned if you don’t. I don’t really like to wear gloves when I pick nettles, forcing myself to do it carefully and attentively–which works 98% of the time. It is in the 2% where I get schooled.
In the space of about a week, we have gone from barely any nettles up and you can eat the whole thing to an abundance of robust plants whose tenderest tips only are still delicious. They are almost savory on their own, without any salt, and are really friendly to garlic. Blanch them in plenty of boiling water, then drain and chop and sauté in olive oil with some minced garlic and enough salt or tamari or anchovy to make you happy. That became the basis of the frittata above, along with a cubed & fried potato and some feta, but the greens themselves are well worth eating on their own. (The blanching liquid makes a nutritious stock for soup).
Anything I know about why it is good to eat violets and their leaves, and dandelions, and nettles, I learned from Susun Weed, who was to my life as a wild food eater as Laurie Colwin was to my life as a cook. In her Wise Woman Herbal, she writes a kind of character reference for each plant, and try as you may for the rest of your life, dandelions will always speak to you in a kind of guttural French accent once you read it.
My sister once sent me an article about Susun Weed that she has posted on her website, which could lead us into some of the things we might be talking about if we were talking about motherhood here. We might head from there over to Dash & Bella, who always paints a true to life picture, damn your greeting cards and torpedoes. Certainly we would pause by the Laundry Line.
But I really just came to talk about weeds.