I’ve lost Julia Child twice this year. I finally found her hiding behind the couch. I made sure to pack her with me to Maine. I haven’t found Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom yet but that’s okay. I’ll get back to him. I never thought I’d have the habit of losing books in the house. It feels like an act of heresy or that I’m just a bad reader, one that is not fully committed or monogamous with a novel. I’m happy that I’ve lost My Life in France for some periods though. I return to it slowly now. It’s too wonderful to leave. Perhaps this is why I flung it behind the couch in a fit of dazed ecstasy. With questions like “I knew that drowning my sorrows in wine and bouillabaisse would only make things worse. What to do?” how could I not be charmed?
Paella is a summer tradition for my family. My mom would always host an elaborate birthday party for my dad in August. We set up a long white picnic table and eat outside, overlooking the bay. This year the tide was out so my nephew and a few boys walked across the mudflats to collect crabs and shells. For the thirty years we’ve done this, it’s never rained on the day. Tradition is a powerful thing.
I’m not sure where my mother got this paella recipe. The cards are over 20 years old. Although it’s not listed in the ingredients above, I add 1/2 a pound of scallops with the shrimp and 4 lobsters, boiled in bay water or beer and then picked over to put in the paella during the final moments. This year I saved some of the lobster heads, cleaned them up and propped them in the paella pan.
Me, who could pluck, flame, empty, and cut up a whole chicken in twelve minutes flat!…Me, the Supreme Mistress of mayonnaise, hollandaise, cassoulets, choucroutes, blanquettes de veau….me, alas!
Me who brings the lobster home.