I spend so much energy on my to-do lists and my tidying and my fretting about The Next Thing that I far too often fail to see the forest for the trees. For years now I have wanted to construct a different, idealized life for myself; one that would be simpler and, simultaneously, more fulfilling. A life that found me doing what I really want to be doing, where I really want to be doing it and with whom I really want to be doing it. And really, who wouldn't really want that stuff?
So here I am, almost forty years old, and less than six months ago I jumped off the high dive. I left my career and my friends and my home of most of my adult life to get back to it. To what I really wanted. But you know this.
What we really, really want. Funny thing. That's the hardest part, isn't it? Getting to the nut of it all, and figuring that out. It seems as though it would, it should, be the the easiest part. And for some it is. And then it's just a matter of aiming for the target, right?
But what if you should have turned right when you turned left? What if you choose to do this and you chose that instead? What if?! And therein lies the rub. Right there is why so often we end up doing what it is that we do (instead of where our major in college was to take us) and who we end up doing it with (instead of 'the one that got away'). Why, sometimes, our lives, our careers, our partners, find us rather than the other way around. And we can call it destiny. Fate. Something beyond our control, beyond our power.
Maybe I do or maybe I don't but I'd like to think I have a little more control over my past, present and future than to chalk it up to fate, destiny, 'shit happens' or 'c'est la vie' (which makes perfect sense coming from a consummate control freak). And that's why I'm right here, right now. I'm in Richmond, Virginia with Fred. We're having a baby girl this summer. I see my family and my Paz lots and lots. I'm eating, cooking and writing about food – and getting paid to do it. And I have to say that all of these things exist because I wanted them and I focused and worked to that end. And still, had Chris and I not had that conversation about 'that thing called a blog' six and a half years ago, there's a very, very good chance I wouldn't be here, doing this - writing this. With Fred. Had I turned right instead of left.
In my fifth grade yearbook, everyone in my class stated what they wanted to be when they grew up. I said Artist. So maybe all these years I've been staying the course. Hard to say.
One of the things I have always really wanted was to be in a creatively collaborative relationship with my significant other (think Frida and Diego, Anais and Henry, Virginia and Vita, or my favorites, Lillian and Dashiell) . Call it fate, call it destiny, call it finally locating that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I definitely have found a true partner in both the intimate and creative spheres. There is no doubt Fred's photography has elevated this blog exponentially. And though, while we work together we squabble like two Tweens over a strand of Justin Bieber's hair, what we create is beauty and that makes me beam with pride and accomplishment.
Well, we have taken it all a step further. We have made it official and are expanding from just F for Food with a real deal food photography and styling business: Fred + Elliott Food Styling & Photography. And I'm unveiling the curtain here. The website is up, the business cards are printed and the phone line is active (we just love the design done for us by A for Adventure). We are ready. I keep thinking of Annie Pott's character in Ghostbusters when they get that first call.
But, not to worry, I'm not going anywhere. I mean, where else can I talk freely in this way? That reminds me of another thing: one of the fun parts of this whole pregnancy thing (at least the stage I'm in now), is that I can eat what I really want. In moderation, of course. I'm told that if I crave something specific, my body probably needs it. This likely explains the sudden and bizarre cravings for peanut butter and honey sandwiches with a glass of milk (the first glasses of milk I've had in over twenty-five years). I guess I need protein and calcium.
Well, last night I really, really wanted ricotta cheese. So Fred made it for me again. And I also wanted pasta (always). So we made that, too. And with the weather being close to eighty degrees and the sun shining mightily, I wanted to make a bright springy dish incorporating those two ingredients. Five months in, Fred now knows that the pregnant lady – come Hell or high water – is going to find a way to get her hands on the food that she really, really wants.
So together, collaboratively, we did it all: from foraging for the right ingredients, to making our own ricotta and pasta from scratch, to the styling and photographing the food, to eating it (and yes, of course there was the requisite amount of bickering). I'm not sure if it was the process behind it, but man alive, this dish was exquisite. I can't see why anyone wouldn't really, really want it, too.
Here is the recipe, so you too can manifest your destiny, my friends.
Fusilli with Fava Beans, Fresh Mint & Ricotta
(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 Tablespoons coarse salt, plus more to taste
1 pound fresh fava beans, shelled (you can substitute edamame or peas)
1 pound fusilli pasta
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves, plus more leaves for garnish
Zest of 1 lemon plus juice of ½ lemon
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fill a large stockpot with water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil; meanwhile, prepare an ice-water bath. Place fava beans in a sieve, and lower into water. Let water return to a boil, about 1 minute; blanch beans, 1 minute more. Remove sieve from water, and place beans in ice-water bath. Transfer to a colander; drain. Peel and discard tough skins; set beans aside.
Discard blanching water; fill stockpot with fresh water. Bring to a boil, and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add pasta, and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine ricotta, lemon juice, lemon zest, and chopped mint. Just before pasta has finished cooking, add 1/2 cup cooking water to cheese mixture; stir to combine.
Drain pasta, and transfer to a serving bowl. Add olive oil, and toss. Add cheese mixture and reserved fava beans; toss to combine. Season with salt and sprinkle with mint leaves and a little extra lemon zest for garnish; serve immediately.
Two years ago: Roast Chicken with Meyer Lemon & Thyme
Three years ago: Roasted Parsnip-Carrot Soup with Crispy Bacon & Potatoes
Four years ago: Fresh Mint Pea Soup