Life’s lemons

24 Jul

I’ve been alone lately.

At first, after a tearful breakup with the man who’d shared almost all of my leisure hours, I embraced my new independence.

“Plans for a Full Life,” I titled a page in my journal. “Start journaling again,” the list demanded. “Exercise. Learn to play clarinet.”

And so I did. I struggled through a yoga DVD and pored over a fingering chart on an unexpected vacation day. At night, I sprawled across my entire full-size mattress, and then I stayed in bed and read through long-neglected stacks of magazines and nurturing books, such as The Woman’s Comfort Book, on Saturday mornings. Afternoons I spent playing with cats at a local animal shelter or trying out new recipes for dinner.

And in the evenings, I took myself on dates—walks around a lake that my boyfriend had tired of visiting, independent films that he might have mocked throughout the shows.

But then, last Friday night, I saw a sold-out concert at Ravinia, where he probably would have kissed me and held my hand.

Lovers dominate that park; and, constantly, on their way to or from their lavish picnic spreads, couples would stop, kiss, smile, laugh, or hug just in front of me.

Alone wasn’t so wonderful anymore. In fact, it never really had been.

And as I perched on a tiny stone barrier beneath a tree, I told myself—as I always do when alone in a crowd—not to cry. “This is just a season,” I promised myself. “One day, you’ll be the one holding hands again.”

Hope, for the first time after a month of despair, had returned. How fitting, then, that the concert concluded with an encore of Five for Fighting’s plaintive acapella line “You gotta have hope.”

And with that hope, I’ve started paging through a tiny brochure I recently found among my mom’s old recipe collection. Exciting Cooking with Rice for Two [or More], the pamphlet was titled by the Rice Council of America back in 1976.

A ’70s bride, my mom must have written to the council and requested that free brochure full of savory rice ideas to try for dinners with her new husband.

And while variations are included for only two or six servings for dishes such as a tangy, buttery lemon pilaf (adapted recipe below), alterations for one should be simple enough.

Or maybe I’ll start practicing for two—when I won’t be alone anymore.

2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green onions
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

Combine the rice, water, and salt, and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until rice has absorbed all of the water. In a separate pan, sauté the celery, onions, and pepper in the butter until the vegetables are soft. Add vegetables and lemon peel to cooked rice and toss. Then serve to six . . . or savor solo, and save the rest for the future.


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