Monday, August 30, 2010
A little while ago, I was reminiscing about our time in the Netherlands with our Dutch friends, Gaby and Ron. We'd met them while staying at their flat in Amsterdam, and they took it upon themselves to gift us with a drive through Northern Holland one fine afternoon. We spent the day picnicking by tulip fields, having poffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes) and looking for hidden treasures of vintage furniture in 'Rommel Paradises', which is basically the name for overpriced antique shops in the countryside (I still keep calling it 'Rommel's Paradise' by mistake, which makes Husband snicker at the idea of the Nazi officer taking in the country air while antiquing.)
Somewhere in this 3 day span of knowing Gaby and Ron, I'd gotten it into my head that we were dear friends. I'd conveniently forgotten that much of our time spent together was in silence, given the language barrier, the age gap and the general differences in lifestyle. It's safe to say that crickets were heard chirping in both Dutch and English during those long silences. Anyways, I'd sent them updates about our wedding, thinking they cared, and had imagined apartment shares where they'd come stay with us and we'd go stay with them and when our babies were born, we'd send them pictures and a lifelong friendship had been built. So I'd mentioned them fondly again a few weeks ago when Husband broke my illusion by saying "I didn't think they actually liked us that much. I think they thought we were boring."
I was crushed. Boring? Us? Our identity as a couple was thrown into immediate crisis. How could we be boring? We love doing stuff! Husband is hilarious! And I'm delightful...? But all this came into rather serious doubt. Maybe being boring is like being crazy; everyone but you knows it.
I started to think about us as a couple. We do like sitting out on our back deck having beers and talking, or eating at home, preferably in front of a movie or TV on DVD. But we don't like going out to bars, cafes, house parties, concerts, theatre productions, art shows, street fairs or anywhere with crowds or a disproportionate number of hipsters and ironically fashion clad youth. We do like hanging out with other couples or friends one-on-one, but we also start to get tired, fussy and ready for bed at about 10pm. On our honeymoon, we'd spent lots of time mooning over each other, yes, but we'd also spent a considerable amount of time trying to complete jigsaw puzzles and listening to old time radio like 'Fibber McGee and Molly' on the computer.
So it's official then. We're either exceptionally boring, old-before-their-time thirtysomethings, or we're exceptionally youthful, attractive and fun octogenarians.
But it's okay. You know, once you fully embrace the facts, once the light of truth has shone in your eyes, a certain level of acceptance overtakes you. Like, so what if we're boring to other people? We have so much fun together! Like when Husband bought us Yahtzee yesterday;
And I, suffering from a very bad cold, got that very bad cold very drunk on wine and we listened to Bobby Bland and Sam Cooke and played a high-stakes, competitive round. Yahtzee, it seems, brings out my reckless streak, and I threw down boldly, brashly with the devil in the dice. We played until dinnertime, both of us excited for dessert because we'd bought two NEW flavours of ice cream to try. I mean, I ask you. Would a boring couple do all this?
For my dinner, I'd decided to make pasta with a zesty tomato sauce based loosely on a puttanesca. I excitingly chopped up some tomatoes:
I'd daringly cut up a red chili and some green onion and added them all in a bowl:
Thrillingly, I'd cut up some green and black olives and some white onion and softened them in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, though next time, I'd use red wine instead:
Then, with a spectacular vigor, I combined the tomato-chili-onion mixture to the olives:
And once it cooked down to the consistency I wanted, I made some pasta and poured lavish amounts of sauce on the noodles and crumbled some salty feta on top. Oh, it was so divinely good, I had to soak up all the remainders of sauce with the fresh Portuguese bread we'd bought. We watched some Friday Night Lights as we ate and I really, truly didn't care whether we were boring or predictable or a few steps away from taking up shuffleboard.
Because there's something to be said for knowing that you are going through life with someone whose company never fails to delight, challenge or comfort you. There's something grand about being able to talk to your partner about digestive issues and heartaches with equal candor and lack of embarrassment. And there's a great freedom in not caring about being 'cool' anymore, and finding pure joy in just sitting together.
Even if only to watch the grass grow.
Simple, Zesty Tomato Sauce:
6 large tomatoes, chopped
1 red chili, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
a handful of green and black olives each, chopped, (about 3/4 cup total)
juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes, depending on your taste
a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Combine the chopped tomatoes, green onions and red chili in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil and a hearty splash of either red wine or balsamic vinegar over medium heat in a large stock pot or skillet. Add the chopped white onion and the juice of the lemon and cook till softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the mixed olives and cook for about 5 more minutes.
3. Add the tomato mixture to the olives and stir till well combined. Add the red pepper flakes, some salt and fresh ground pepper and cook down till a sauce-like consistency, about 20-30 minutes, over medium-low heat. Once cooked, remove from heat and add the lemon zest and chopped basil. Pour over prepared pasta and sprinkle with the crumbled feta.