It became an adventure that turned into something a little bit more.
Last Saturday was a gorgeous autumn day in Upstate NY.
Runner Girl's race was 200 miles away, so we weren't able to make it. The Dude was off helping family. And The Karate Kid (I am going to have to come up with a new name for her - she has abandoned Karate in her old age of 17) and I were left with a totally open day.
Not. A. Single. Obligation.
How nice is that?
Since it was a week and a half before Halloween, The Karate Kid really wanted to go pumpkin picking. So we hopped into the car and set off for "Destination Unknown" - we would go wherever the day decided to take us. No planning. No route.
Just. Like. That.
I realize that the time where "mom" is still somewhat in the center of her universe is dwindling and that the luxury of carefree, whimsical days together will not always be an option. I felt a sense of gratitude that everything seemed to be lining up - the weather, our moods (lemme tell, mood plays a HUGE role in a successful outing), the time of year.
A year ago, we wouldn't have been able to take this drive. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys were devastated by the flooding caused by that crazy storm (as were so many other communities up and down the Eastern US).
Evidence of last year's storm was still prominent - FEMA trailers, gutted-out houses, washed-out stretches of land. We were saddened when we stopped to see the remains of the Old Blenheim covered wooden bridge - an 1855 landmark ripped apart in the storm.
The visible reminders of Irene heightened our appreciation of the stops we made along the way.
...picking pumpkins from a farm that had lost their entire pumpkin crop last year in the storm.
...eating lunch at a market that had to close for an extended period because the road to it had been washed away in the storm.
...buying produce from farm stands whose farmers lost the majority of their annual income when their lands were submerged in the flooding that followed Irene and Lee.
At each stop along the way, we were reminded of the hope and renewal that can occur in the wake of disaster. Human fortitude. The ability of earth to renew itself. A sense of healing that only time can bring.
We had no map on hand - we just drove. Stopping whenever something caught our interest - a scenic view, an interesting historical landmark, a park. Taking it all in. Enjoying the scenery and the company of each other. We talked when we felt like it and spent the remainder of the time in companionable silence. We were having an adventure - one mile at a time.
When we finally came home and unloaded our "haul" (there may or may not have been cider donuts involved...), I think we were both mindful of its provenance.
We had a sense of the soil that we brushed off our carrots and onions. We had driven by the orchards that housed the trees that our apples came from. The fields where the Brussels sprouts, green beans and squash had been grown had been pointed out along the way.
The vegetables that went into this "tagine" were either the fruits of our "adventure" or from our CSA share. Instead of sweet potatoes, I loaded the dish up with butternut squash and carrots. Fenugreek and turmeric were used in lieu of saffron and cumin. Star anise was left out to please picky palates. Boneless, skinless chicken was sauteed and nestled in the pot to supplement the vegetables. Oh, and there were prunes. Lots and lots of prunes. Which were surprisingly my favorite part of the meal.
Seriously. The stewed prunes stole the show. I just don't even know what to say about that.
I could have taken or left the rest of the stew, but the prunes were keepers.
Roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower were served alongside.
This may not have been my favorite meal to date from the book, but by far it was my most enjoyable procurement of meal elements. I'll take that any day.
This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie. Other blogged descriptions of this dish can be found on the French Friday's site.