I was feeling really lonely today. So I filled my time with stuffing peppers. I found some long, green peppers on Portobello Road. They didn’t seem to know what they were called or whether they were hot or not. I bought them thinking they might be fun to stuff. The vendor, my favorite for vegetables in the market, asked me what I was going to do with them and when I said, stuff ‘em she said “I have a customer who buys these; she’s a chef.” Well, hmmmm… I’m just an ordinary human, not a real chef. She continued, “She puts them into one of those caeke things…” I struggled to understand what she said. She noticed my blank look and repeated it. Eventually, after 3 tries and a little pantomiming I got it! Oh, she was talking about one of those pastry things for doing frosting or decorating cakes! A tiny funnel on the end of a pastry sack. Oh yeah! “I have one of those. Good idea.” She looked at me as if she didn’t believe it. Every Wednesday and Saturday I go to her stall. Each time I tell her I’m doing a dinner for 15 or 25. Not sure she hears me, or if she does maybe she thinks I am buying the
quantities for a very large and hungry family. Of course I have one of those little thingamajigs. I do! Honestly!
But I never use the chef toys (or rarely)! I cut the peppers down the side so I can indelicately scoop the filling into the peppers. I hate little fidgety food and delicate decoration. I fail at presentation (aka-pretension). I was thrilled with my messy mixture. And the choreography of flavor was enough to take me away from my dangerous musings. Two years ago my life was perfect. Hard, and stressful but filled with so much fun. My son was still alive. My family of two – my son and me – is now a family of one. I can’t bear to be such a small unit. Sunday is my recently deceased son’s birthday. He won’t be here to celebrate it. But I’m going to celebrate it for him, to cook all day, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and midnight snack. For all of his friends, for my friends, for me and for him I’m going to cook like he did on Sundays – in his honor!
This week has been hard. I miss him so much. I didn’t know what to do to escape the intensity of my missing him today. I alternated between working fiendishly (for my clients), writing (feverishly for myself and maybe, one day, for an unknown agent or publisher), lying down (reading a trashy thriller to take me away from the pain that rose in higher waves than usual, precipitated by the birthday/anniversary that everyone warns of as being the most difficult for the newly bereaved), bursting into floods of tears when each little frustration in the day threatened to drown me …. and cooking!
Today I invited my friends, the peppers, to join me at my table for one. In fact, today, they were such welcome visitors. I had so much fun with them that for at least an hour and a half I didn’t notice the time passing… or my sadness. The reprieve of busy-ness. Phew! And I took pictures of each beautiful step in the dance of food and flavor. For once I remember the ingredients. I have a beautiful table that looks out onto a beautiful garden. There was no one sitting there when I cooked today. But I could easily imagine my son raving about the farcie (filling) in the peppers. I raved too as I later relished them. Filling: coriander, mint, greek yogurt, small hot red peppers, lime juice, garlic and ginger – all blended up in the food processor. Cooked basmati rice, crumbled feta, chopped vine ripened red tomatoes, chopped yellow heirloom tomatoes, mint/coriander sauce, salt and pepper – all mixed together with hands and fingers. I scooped the filling into the peppers, closed the seams with my fingers (no stitchhes required), laid them in a baking tray with olive oil under and all over. Baked them at 350 F or 180 C for ½ hour or until the peppers were tender. They were good by themselves, all alone. But they were better drizzled them with a spicy sauce: roasted garlic, roasted tomatoes and chipotle peppers. I am kind of OK by myself, alone. But I am much better if I fill my time with stuffing peppers.