Monday, June 14, 2010

Say peas...and thank you...

At the beginning of this past school year, I was standing near Carly's locker helping her juggle a pile of shelves and books and magnets and mirrors and noticed an unfamiliar face nearby. I heard that a new boy was joining her class and thought "This must be him...I'll say hi and hook him up with a couple of classmates.." Turns out, he was actually a returning student from another class and I had just never met him...but here's the weird thing...

Instead of giving me a bewildered "Who are you and why are you talking to me" look like most awkward thirteen-year-olds would, he smiled right back at me, put out his hand, reached for mine, gave it a firm shake, looked me in the eye and politely introduced adult, no less!

Don't ask me why (and to tell you the truth, I don't even remember this kid's name) but I was completely floored. Big deal...a kid shook my hand...why was I so blown away? Then, it occurred to the words of Ward and June Cleaver, "kids these days!"

Manners...where have they gone? I'm not asking for the moon and stars here, really I'm not. I'm just talking about the basics: please, thank you, hello, good-bye, have-a-nice-day-kind-of-stuff. And God, about giving your seat to an elderly person or opening the door for a lady...or how about a little eye contact and a sincere smile now and then? Where has it gone?

Don't get me wrong...I do believe this behavior still exists...every now and then and, for the most part, at family funerals under the watchful eye of Aunt Gladys. But, here's what I'm looking for: quite simply I want our kids to feel, and enjoy, and cherish and be accountable for their personal connections.

No cell phones here...this is connecting!

It feels that we have somehow silently slipped into a virtual reality where we condone the sad fact that our kids are forming their social skills in a world devoid of touch and tone; where cousins sit at the family table texting their friends while they should be interacting with each other, teasing the "baby in the brood" and bonding through the mutual mockery of Grandpa's ear we did.

The only things bigger than baby Michael's diaper and the bow in my hair were Grandpa Henry's ears.
Guess who I!

If our kids can teach us to program our Bluetooths or use canvas bags at the grocery, don't we owe it to them to share the good stuff that used to be expected of us? And, you know how we're gonna do doing it ourselves!
Dads...when's the last time you pulled out the chair for your wife and nudged your son to do the same for Sister? Moms...when's the last time you closed your cell phone before you reached the grocery checkout so you could be sure to give your clerk a proper "have a nice day?"

Remember this little guy...I think it's time to bring him back. here's my are the three things we're gonna work on this summer to unplug our over-amped connections.

1.) Say please and thank you...sincerely. Until I really made an effort to actually take note, I was shocked how many times my kids just took the Popsicle and ran. It's up to us to grab them by the ear, yank them back to the scene of the crime and give them the gift of stopping for a second to feel and express gratitude.

2.) As my cousin from Texas used to say in her southern drawl, "drive friendly now." I'm going to slow down, get off the phone, talk to my kids in the car, not my automated bank teller, let the other guy into traffic and smile at him when he let's me in...or one better, even when he doesn't.

3.) Simply nice...especially to old folks. Let's face it...I practically am one! I figure if I teach my kids to show good old-fashioned respect for their elders, it just might rub off onto the way they treat each other.

Carly still remembers her weekly visits with Great Grandma Finy (and the cold 7-up Grandma Liz let her buy from the vending machine).

We're going to spend more time with grandmas and grandpas and I'm going to give the kids a nudge to note when Grandpa Don holds Grandma Liz tight around the waist leading her when they dance or when Grandma Alice puts her napkin on her lap at the dinner table and places her fork correctly on her plate when she is finished.
20 years ago at our wedding...and Mom and Dad are still dancing.

Looking back at this manifesto, it's hard to believe I started this post with the intention of sharing a great recipe using "peas.". Guess I had something I wanted to get off my chest! Phew, I feel better now. Let's make some ravioli..

So, the peas in my garden are going crazy right now and are so fun to watch as they grow and change from day to day. Last week, we picked the young shoots right off the vine and ate them whole.

This week, they're plump and tender so we're grabbing them by the handfuls, unzipping their snappy little jackets and tossing the little buggers almost raw into salads and pastas...yum! The heat's officially here though so soon they'll get too fat and starchy to enjoy.

So, I thought I'd find a way to use a heap of them at once. After searching my cookbooks and the Internet for inspiration, I decided on a pea ravioli. I did the mad scientist thing with ingredients I had on hand and, if I don't say so myself, the results were awesome! Here's what I did...

Since I didn't have enough ripe ones ready last week when I was experimenting, I used bagged frozen petite peas...worked great! The dregs of my fridge also produced goat cheese, ricotta, shallot, garlic, and bread crumbs...this should do.

After sauteing the shallots and garlic, I tossed everything into a food processor and mashed it up until it looked like guacamole...

We tasted it and decided that something was missing.... lemon zest! Carly nailed it.

Next, I blobbed a heaping teaspoonful of the concoction onto squares of pasta (OK, I made mine from scratch because I didn't have won ton wrappers but, unless you're into it, go for the convenience and buy the wrappers at any should find them in the fridge section near the tofu).

Place a bowl of water next to your work area and lightly wet the edges of the dough using your finger then fold them like this, pushing out extra air as you go and pressing the edges to seal. Charlie thinks they look like little houses. But, then again, given his line of work, he would.

Carly pulled some fresh chives, oregano and thyme from the garden. I chopped them fine then floated them with some fresh peas in a chicken broth I infused with lemon and garlic.

Next, we gently boiled the ravioli for a few minutes, drained them then slipped them into the broth...light, aromatic, sweet and was crazy good! Charlie liked it too but called the broth "too fast!" Huh? Too fast? "Yah," he said, "It was frustrating trying to chase the ravioli around the bowl as they slipped around in the thin broth!" Give me a break...

He asked for his next plateful to be plain with just butter and cheese. "OK," I said, "as long as you say peas..."

Spring Pea Ravioli in Fast Broth

  • 1 small shallot
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
Pulse in a food processor with:
  • 1 cup of thawed frozen peas or fresh that have been blanched
  • 3 heaping Tbs. goat cheese
  • 2 heaping Tbs. ricotta cheese
  • 1 Tbs. Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbs. bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of a won ton wrapper and fold. Boil gently in water for a few minutes until al dente and serve about 5-6 per person with "fast broth"* or butter and cheese.

Garnish with
  • fresh peas
  • chopped herbs
*1 quart of chicken stock with just a touch of lemon zest and garlic to taste.

Serves about 6 as a first course or light lunch