If you read my Mother’s Day post, you’ll know that plans for this weekend centered around the home. No McDonald’s this year. Just lots and lots…and lots of cooking and baking. If you don’t like to eat butter, sugar, bacon, or stinging nettles, avert your eyes. I’m sure that most of you would say that you don’t like to eat stinging nettles, but if I can convince you to read on, I’ll try to make it worth your while.
On Saturday morning, before we headed up to the lake, the kids put in a pancake request. “Actually, I already made a big pancake with cherries” I was thrilled to announce. “It’s called clafoutis. It’s French.”
Lauren stared at it and then said “um, mom, you made pie”.
Which nobody wanted to eat. Kids. So I made regular pancakes. Lauren had the brilliant idea to make a DIY pancake bar where each kid could top their pancakes with fruit, chocolate and sprinkles. Not the healthiest breakfast, but not an everyday treat either. And I’d already made dessert for breakfast so it was probably my fault for setting the high water mark for a morning sugar binge.
We got up to the lake around lunchtime, and no surprise, the kids were hungry again. I figured that I’d serve something a little healthier this time around…
It’s that time of year when all rational behavior falls by the wayside. Ramps are here. Home cooks and chefs alike elbow each other out of the way in order to return from the market with a few bunches of these highly prized vegetables, triumphant.
Black truffle delicious? Pork belly delicious?
I don’t know if I’d go that far. But they’re pretty fantastic, owing in part to the fact that they’re only around for a brief window in the Spring. Then they’re gone, hidden from view until they can serve as next year’s bright indication that that Spring is back, and that Winter has been banished for 9 more glorious months.
Some of you may be scratching your heads at this point, either never having heard of a ramp, and/or reflecting on your extreme distaste for pork belly. Let’s focus on the first issue, which is the topic of this post. Pork belly will be saved for another occasion when I muster up the confidence to cook it at home.
If I’m to use my Instagram account as a laboratory of sorts, there seems to be a lot of confusion about ramps.
Are they overpublicized and overpriced?
Or are they unsung heroes, with iffy recognition at best? The kind of fame often reserved for cultish authors, who slip by unrecognized by the masses but are adored by a passionate few.
Here are a few of the comments that led to my confusion after I posted a few dishes that contained ramps.
First, there is a large and vocal group of ramp lovers….
“RAMPS, my fave!”
“Ramps!!!!” (inclusive of a bright green leaf emoji)
Second, there seems to be a strange sleeper cell of ramp haters….
“I’m suffering from ramps overload”
Lastly, there are those, with whom many reading this post will identify, who have never laid eyes on a ramp:
“Wait, what’s a ramp?”
“Are those ramps?”
“How have I never heard of these?”
Because educating the ramp unaware population is far more critical than appeasing the (likely) minority of (ornery) ramp haters, here we go: a short tutorial on where to find ramps, and what you can do with them. I’ve tried to make this visual so that you can see for yourself how versatile this simple green root can be….
For some reason, I have never seen ramps in a Whole Foods or for that matter, any store with four walls and a ceiling.
The only place I’ve found ramps is at the farmers’ market, where you can find them in bunches, looking like this:
Although it depends on seasonal temps, ramp season (in the Northeast) runs from late April into early June.
Use them just as you would any fresh herb, or if you want a milder flavor, give them a quick sautee or grill.
Just go easy on them at first – their flavor packs a punch.
Here are some suggested uses:
1. Snip them raw like chives over anything that loves oniony things – omelettes, ricotta cheese on toast, or as my kids like to do, just eat the leaves plain.
(That was, for the record, ramps scattered over homemade labneh; harass me about writing a post on labneh because it’s ridiculously easy and so delicious)
2. Sautee them and add them to baked foods, like fritatta…
I confess that I’ve never known what edible flowers actually are. As if they’re some exotic species of flower grown just for eating. I’ve bought and consumed them, leaving it up to the flower Gods to keep producing them in order to make my salads prettier, my soups more colorful. It just so happens that I was at the farmers’ market last week when some tattooed expert looking she-chef walked up and confidently stated that she’ll take a box of pansies. Mystery revealed, they’re nothing special, we’re just eating flowers from our gardens, but I’ll pretend that I never knew that.
ME: Ok, you’ve never seen anything like it. What are these?
LAUREN: What? Isn’t that just flowers? Are we eating flowers?
ME: Yes, they’re flowers. But they’re a special kind. They’re edible flowers.
SAM: I’m not going to eat flowers.
ME: You’re not going to eat flowers? I actually ate them on my soup last night.
LAUREN: Um, can you take this off?
SAM: No, thank you.
LAUREN: Do you eat that? Do you eat this?
ME: Smell it. Yeah, you can eat the whole thing.
SAM: I want to smell it.
ME: Does it smell like anything?
LAUREN: It smells like petals.
ME: It smells like petals? Yeah, well it actually doesn’t have a strong floral smell which is probably why they’re edible flowers. You can eat that whole thing.
LAUREN: I don’t want to eat this. OK, maybe I’ll try the yellow one.
ME: Sam, you’re going to miss out. Here, do you want to try the yellow one or the purple one?
LAUREN: I tried the yellow one.
ME: Lauren tried the yellow first. You’re gonna try yellow first too, Sam?
Last week, we were invited to a friend’s birthday dinner, usually cause for celebration, but this time it resulted in a mild panic attack. While getting ready for the evening, I started to question what to wear, something that’s been happening with increasing frequency. Somehow, when I made the decision to leave my corporate job last year, I got sucked into the mom wardrobe vortex of cords, chunky sweaters and other items that can best be described as “comfortable”. Any sense of style was promptly diverted to the unused part of my brain that’s responsible for random childhood memories and bad first dates.
So these days, instead of embracing an evening out, I look through my closet, and think….“Will this outfit look good with these shoes?”
The answer of course being “no”. These heels were bought circa 2009 when gladiator sandals became the shoe of choice for people whom I will kindly refer to as “those who remove their clothes for a living.” Emma modeled them on Saturday morning to remind me that I’m no longer 25 with a questionable taste level. To the Salvation Army they went and I’m at least happy that the worst offending item in my closet is now deceased.
Arrest-worthy outfits aside, the dinner was fun. I sported a sizable headache on Saturday morning, my barometer of a good time. Rodney & I dusted off a family size bag of Thai chili-flavored potato chips for breakfast and hit the road, lake-bound, for what promised to be a beautiful weekend.
I wasn’t planning to write a Mother’s Day post. Today’s post was supposed to be about ramps, but ramps will have to wait. Mother’s Day is a more timely subject, and one that I shamefully didn’t prioritize.
It’s not that I don’t love Mother’s Day, I do. But I tend to get excited about it on actual day itself, when at 11AM, someone in the house (not a child) says “oh crap, it’s Mother’s Day.” Then I start to scheme about all of the wonderful things that are heading my way….a late afternoon nap perhaps, or a 7:30PM bedtime with a good book.
I hope that my lax attitude towards Mother’s Day doesn’t sound harsh. I’m certainly not an old curmudgeon who goes about disparaging Valentine’s Day and the rest of the Hallmark holidays. If I’m to be completely honest, I’m equally forgetful about anniversaries. Rodney and I are often shocked to see a bouquet of flowers show up in our apartment every November, courtesy of my mother, who doesn’t forget these things.
But here’s the thing about forgetting communal holidays. It’s much better if it’s forgotten until the end of the day. At which point you realize the error of your ways, have some celebratory Champagne, and head to bed happy and a little drunk.
The worst time to remember is mid-morning, when you feel compelled to do something about it outside of the home.
Which is how, two years ago, we ended up at McDonald’s.
Not my first choice either, but here are the facts: 1) we were staying at the lake for the weekend where there are only 1-2 decent restaurants, decent meaning not McDonald’s, 2) everyone within a 15 mile radius goes hunting and gathering for a table at one of said restaurants, and 3) McDonald’s was right around the corner.
Based on my food and recipes, you may have presumed by now that I’m more skilled in the kitchen than a McDonald’s fry cook. Which isn’t a fair comparison, because it’s possible that he’s a talented chef who’s butting up against the chronic and debilitating constraints imposed by McDonald’s corporate.
But the point is this: my food tends to be better than what you’ll find at your neighborhood Golden Arches. Meaning that we could have gone back to our house, tails between our legs, and prepared a splendid brunch of Eggs Benedict, plump sausages, and blood orange mimosas. But that would be admitting defeat.
So rather than making me do all of that wonderful gruntwork which would have had me humming The Sound of Music all morning, Rodney suggested that we go to McDonald’s. Because, you know, the kids are hungry and we should probably find somewhere quickly before tectonic plates shift, the ground opens up, and world disintegrates into a smoking heap of ashes.
McDonald’s is one of those “in the case of an emergency, break glass” kinds of places. And I suppose that hungry kids = emergency, although in my highly trained medical opinion, treatment should have included a return to the house STAT for some whole grain crackers and a yogurt squeezers while I did the Sound of Music thing.