“Well, you’re going aren’t you?” Francis asked after I sheepishly showed him the invitation. One of my dearest friends in the world was turning the big 5-Oh and his family was throwing him a surprise party in his home town of Philadelphia.
“I don’t think so, honey. We don’t really have the money and I hate to take the time away from trying to find work and I don’t want to be away from you and the pets and… um…” I folded up the invitation and hid it in my desk drawer. I stared out the window.
There was a time in my life when I would have been the first guest to RSVP “Yes!”. I used to fly frequently and effortlessly. In fact, I used to dress up to fly, picking out vintage dresses with matching gloves and hats to add an extra bit of glamour to the miraculous world of air travel.
I would hop in a cab, ride out to the airport, and drag my cumbersome but gorgeous antique suitcases through the terminal to the gate. I felt so alive, like I could do anything. It’s amazing, you know. We take air travel for granted these days, but it’s magical. You go from one huge airport room, to a small space on a plane shared with a bunch of strangers, to another big room that’s in a completely different place in the world. Big room/ small room/ big room; everything is different. You don’t do anything either, you just sit there and trust that it’ll happen. I get the physics of it, I know it can be explained, but it is pure magic to me. Big room/ small room/ big room; everything changes.
But I’m scared now. The thrill has disappeared. Draped in an old t-shirt and yoga pants, I’m anxious when I know I’ll be in the security line for an hour or more; I’m flustered when the plane hits a pressure system that makes the cabin shake; I’m paranoid about destinations I’ve never visited before. So much loss of control. So many things to consider. I’d rather just stay at home with my husband and our pets and the internet feeding my frenzied neurosis. We have really soft sheets and a firm mattress. I think I’ll just stay safe in bed for the rest of my life.
I continued to stare out the window. How did everything get so scary?
“Sweetie,” Francis said, with the wide grin that lifts my mood every time I see it, “don’t worry about the small stuff. We’ll figure out the money. Just go and see your friends. It’s important for you.”
I let the warmth of his smile run down into my fingers as I typed “New York” in the destination box of the travel website.
Huh… New York. Going home would unleash a totally different bundle of fears.
I grew up in New York. You can’t take that away from me. It’s a fact. And yet I felt, as stepped off the plane at Kennedy Airport, like someone would say I had surrendered my history when I moved to Portland. Now I was an interloper, a noncitizen, a refugee. Would New York be cruel to me as a result? I braced for the worst.
It’s important to say here that I’ve only been gone for 6 months. Is it possible not that much has changed? Yeah. New York is New York. If you want to conjure up a scenario wherein New York treats you poorly for abandoning it, you can do that pretty easily. But you can also find moments where the amber dusk light splashes onto the cornice of an old building you grew up staring at, and feel like the luckiest person in the world.
I sat in the bandshell of Prospect Park and watched “Les Triplettes of Belleville” with one friend; I went to Yankees Stadium and then Patsy’s Pizza with another. I laughed all the way from New York to a great Philly cheesesteak place with some girlfriends. Then I reminisced and danced all night with Jerry, the birthday boy, who was more shocked by the surprise party than anyone I’ve ever seen. His face lost about 40 years when he walked in and saw us. It was like watching a kid meet Santa for the first time; he was spellbound. It was amazing to celebrate one of the most exceptional people in my life with his loving family and friends.
Then I went to Connecticut to see my parents and my brother and meet his girlfriend. My dad made pasta and I made a sesame and ginger crusted yellowtail tuna salad and a blueberry galette. We cooked and ate and told stories for hours, laughing so hard that I thought our faces might pop.
So many tastes, so many smiles, so many snapshots my mind took of things I don’t often see. Life is incredible, but you have to embrace the fear of the world to figure that out.
Big room, small room, big room; everything’s different.
We decided a few days later to go blueberry picking, as we had years ago when we were just dating. In the spirit of my long-gone dress up days, I wore a nice big red hat. Then I came home and made a galette just for us. I made it with a hazelnut, rosemary crust and a lot of lemon juice. It’s good to be home.
Blueberry and Lemon Galette with Hazelnut Rosemary Crust
- ½ cup finely chopped blanched hazelnuts, preferably pulsed in a food processor
- 1 cup unbleached flour
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon hazelnut extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespooon rosemary, chopped fine
- 3 tablespoons ice water (or 1 tablespoon yogurt and 2 tablespoons water)
- Put the flour and hazelnuts in a bowl and then smush the butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers. Add the cinnamon, extract, salt, sugar and rosemary and continue to smush with your fingers until the dough starts to come together. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, making sure not to overwork the dough. Big clumps of butter are great.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
- 2 cups blueberries
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
- 2 tablespoons of milk for brushing on to crust
- Sugar and more rosemary for sprinkling
- Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for an hour or two.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- On a lightly floured sheet of parchment, roll the galette dough into a 12 inch round and then transfer the dough on the parchment to a baking sheet. Put the blueberry filling in the innermost circle of the dough, leaving a 2- 3 inch border. Fold the dough over the edges of the blueberries and then brush the top crust with milk. Dust with sugar and a little more rosemary, if you like, and place in oven for 35-40 minutes.