T. had a fantastic first day of kindergarten. Me? I had a strange first day. I walked around with the distinct feeling I was forgetting something—not a good feeling to have, really, especially when the something you feel like you’re forgetting is your child. But then I’d tell myself, reciting it like something I needed to remember: L. is in school, T. is in school, everything is okay.
The night before kindergarten, at dinner, we talked about making T. a photo collage she could keep in her backpack, to look at when she needed.
“Isn't that a good idea?” I asked her.
She looked at me, then at Scott. Her lips quivered. Then she burst into tears--heavy, sad, weight-of-the-world tears.
“It’s okay, T.! You’re not leaving forever!”
Which she wasn’t, of course. Although just between you and me, it sure felt like it.
My mom came into town for a weekday visit—my favorite kind of visit. I like weekend visitors, too, but having family come during the week feels like real relief. She brought gifts from her trip to Greece: small ones, the kinds of gifts my grandmother might have given the kids, little treasures that poked at my heart—colored pencils, a tiny doll, a pencil holder for L. Later that night we sat and looked at pictures from the summer and I had to steel my heart a little; looking at those faraway familiar places was like looking at the face of someone you love, someone you haven’t seen for a long while.
When I came home on Wednesday from a dragged out day of teaching (what IS it about Wednesdays?), and a late afternoon meeting, I opened the front door to the glorious smell of garlic, cooking tomatoes, and pasta—orzo pasta, in fact, that comforting food of my childhood. If you go to most restaurants in Greece you can usually find a huge pan of kritharaki on the menu—a mouth-watering mix of orzo pasta, cooked with tomato, and oregano, and served with slabs of feta on the side. My grandmother used to make kritharaki, too, and second to her Sunday spaghetti, it was my favorite dish.
Kritharaki (Orzo with Tomatoes and Feta)
16 oz of vegetable broth (or one vegetable bouillon dissolved in hot water)
1 package orzo (16 oz)
1 large onion, chopped finely
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup white wine
One large tomato, chopped (I don't like cooked tomato skin, so you can scald the tomato first--drop in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, then the skin peels off)
1 cup cubed feta
1 tablespoon of oregano, to taste
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Dash of salt
Sauté the orzo in the olive oil until golden, then add the onion and garlic, stirring continually. Add the wine.
Continue stirring while adding the tomato, salt and thyme (or oregano). Then slowly add the vegetable broth. Continue stirring until all liquid is absorbed. Finally, add the butter and the feta.
This is perfection served with a glass of cold white wine, and a cucumber and olive salad on the side--somehow adding those simple things makes this a summer dish, the kind of dish that reminds you of a slice of purple-blue ocean, and those faraway places that make you ache inside.