Three days after Tess was born, I brought her home from the hospital, a perfect, round, pink baby, with a tuft of orange chick fluff on her head. It had never occurred to me that I could create something so perfect, so beautiful, a being filled with sunshine and light from the moment she came into this world. I thought it would take me time to love her, to know her, but there she was from the very beginning. She lay sleeping in my grandfather’s wooden crib next to my bed and I sat for hours looking at her clear brow, her sweetly balled up fists, her perfect little mouth. Suddenly I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. A voice of darkness whispered in my ear, “Someday, she’s going to leave.” What a dirty, dirty trick. I am a planner, an organizer, a strategist, and I had not accounted for this, this giant love that was bigger than me, that would forever be beyond my control. I would love her so much my heart ached with joy, and if I did everything right, she would leave me. To stop the panic I convinced myself in that moment that it would be a really long time before that happened–ages, really. Yet here I am, almost twelve years later, and all I did was blink.
In that moment looking down upon my sleeping baby, the strategist in me wondered what I could do to forever tie us together without binding too tightly. What would we do to weave the too-short years into a tapestry of love and warmth and light and connection? Food would work that magic, just as it had for me and my parents and their parents and their parents. Together we have laughed and cried and yelled and wondered and shared over plates of pasta, warm bowls of soup, stacks of pancakes, and the scents and tastes have become us, our family, our memories. And when we do the practice leaving that all good parents must, it is food that sees us through it. What did we talk about at dinner the night before we dropped baby girl at camp for two weeks? What we would have the night she got back, of course. “But I don’t want to go out to dinner. I want you to cook,” she said. “Promise?” Yes, I promise.
Grilled Stuffed Sweet Peppers
adapted from The Homesick Texan via Robb Walsh
1/2 pound breakfast sausage meat
1/2 pound ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
3 small sweet peppers
Yield: 6 small pepper halves
Combine the sausage, ground beef, rice, eggs, parsley and spices together in a bowl. Cut the peppers in half through the stem and removed seeds and membranes. Fill each half pepper with meat mixture. Mound the meat no more than a 1⁄2 inch over the top edge of each pepper. The stuffed peppers can be made in advance to this point and stored covered in the refrigerator for several days.
Build a medium hot fire off to one side in the grill. Cook pepper side down over the cooler side for 10 to 12 minutes, until the pepper is charred and soft. Turn the stuffed peppers over and cook on the hotter side of the grill for about 5-10 minutes until lightly browned. Test for doneness and serve.