A year ago today he drove me to the airport. He got out of the car, opened the trunk, leaned in, pulled out a large red suitcase and then another, placing them on one of those airport trolleys, the suitcases weightless in his arms. I leaned against the trolley, watching him, and he stepped towards me, pulling me in by the waist, enveloping me in his arms. And I was engulfed in his scent, and the faint stubble on his cheeks, and those thick, muscular arms of his that made me weak in the knees. And as I lost myself in his kiss, I grasped for him, for his love, for him to fight for me, to fight for us.
And as I walked away, steadying myself against the trolley handles, I was terrified and lost and undecided and so lonely and so deeply sad, and I missed him so much already, and it felt like someone had plunged their hands deep into my chest and tore out my heart.
And it all twisted into each other: my excitement to see my family and friends, and the birth of my newest nephew, and my paralyzing fear of flying that had me postponing my flight until I could do so no longer, and this kiss from this man, my husband, whom I loved, and whom I had loved with all of my heart, with all of my being, for the past eight years; and the fact that I partly knew, but could not yet fully acknowledge, that I was not going back.
We had been living in Brooklyn for a year and a half, deep in the un-hip, un-gentrified south, on the first floor of a family home converted into a cozy duplex. The street was quiet and lined with trees, and kids played on the sidewalks, their parents watching from the shade of front-facing balconies. The house was painted white and you entered onto a shared foyer that immediately gave onto two doors. On the left was a middle-aged lady who we heard once or twice a month and saw maybe three times in two years; we were on the right.
I went jogging in the morning with my ultra-orthodox Jewish neighbor, mother of six and counting, asked vegetable-growing advice from the Indian lady down the street, covered to her toes in colorful saris, her front yard a maze of trellises, her eggplants the envy of the neighbors.
In our backyard we could hear our neighbors arguing loudly in Hebrew; we would overhear the eldest of my jogging partner’s children give extremely eloquent presidential speeches to his friends; we would watch the Pakistani kids climb up into their tangle of trees, biting into ripe fruit, their legs dangling from the branches.
We felt at home. When I arrived at the airport, the security officer opened my American passport, glanced up, said: Welcome home, Charlotte.
Yaki had left for New York a few weeks before, to look for an apartment, and I had stayed back in Israel to spend some time with my newborn nephew. When he picked me up from the airport, it was dark and the streets were covered with snow, and I was scared and tired and hungry. He turned up the music, and I rested my hand on his thigh, and we drove over bridges in this sprawling, foreign yet familiar city. He pulled up in front of a Japanese restaurant with a deep red awning, and I stepped out of the car and into a puddle of melting snow blackened with dirt, and I reached out for his hand.
We walked in and were met with graceful smiles and guided to a red leather booth with deep seats, and as we settled in, a young woman placed a teapot and two cups before us. And he poured us tea, and I wrapped my hands around the tiny clay mug, and all of my worries and fears about this move to New York began lifting, along with all of the pent-up stress of packing and tying loose ends, and dealing with a landlady who, in a fit of rage, threw her cell phone against the wall, shattering it to pieces, and the rounds and rounds of goodbyes, and the guilt, the inescapable, relentless, merciless guilt.
And we drove to the house he had rented, and he unlocked the door and the house was bare, and there were boxes in corners, and bags of chips, and all I wanted was to sink my face into his neck, and have those arms of his wrap themselves tightly around me. He was home, and I didn’t care where it was.
[to be continued...]
Five Minute Tomato Sauce
Adapted from this recipe by Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks.com
Spaghetti with tomato sauce is the thing I make when my pantry is bare, which is often the case when moving in or out of a house (and of course many times in between!). It immediately makes the kitchen smell like home, and, to me, is a big bowl of comfort. This particular recipe is a favorite of mine- as it relies heavily on pantry staples (olive oil, spices, garlic, canned tomatoes) and the zest of one lemon, which brings a nice, bright twist of flavor. Freshly grated parmesan and some torn basil- if you have it- gives it a nice upgrade. It comes together so easily and quickly, making it the perfect thing for times when you either don’t have the time or the desire to cook.
Heidi notes that she uses the sauce for all sorts of things, such as topping pizza crusts, or filling lasagna, or even as a soup base. She also notes that she’s particular about the kind of tomatoes she uses in this sauce- since their flavor really shines through- and recommends canned crushed tomatoes (not diced, pureed or whole, and with no additional herbs!). I usually use canned whole tomatoes, I’ve found them to be more consistent in quality, and also like crushing them myself!
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes ( I use 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 28-oz (800 grams) can crushed red tomatoes (see headnotes)
1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon white or red wine vinegar (optional)
zest of one lemon (preferably organic)
To serve (optional):
Freshly grated parmesan
Freshly torn basil
Combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Heat the pan over medium-high heat, and stir until everything is fragrant- just a minute or so- you don’t want the garlic to brown.
Stir in the tomatoes, brown sugar and vinegar, and heat to a gentle simmer, this takes just a couple of minutes.
Remove from heat and taste, adjusting seasonings if necessary. Stir in the lemon zest, reserving a bit to sprinkle on top of your pasta. Serve pasta topped with grated parmesan and basil, if desired.