The trappings of summer

My favorite fork

“COMFORT IS A TRAP,” read the road graffiti on the bike path in front of me. My thoughts bounced first to my bicycle seat (I was, in fact, comfortable, which isn’t always the case), then rattled around beside the author’s annoying negativity, and eventually settled around the last few weeks.

This summer has been comfortable for me. I’ve been riding my bike, and making an ass of myself on a stand-up paddleboard in Montana, and reading Suffering Succotash on a bench in the park. I’ve been working at a patient, delicious pace. I’ve been calling this The Summer of Jess, because my goal for July (and maybe August) has been to relax and rejuvenate. Because I’m trying to revel in summer in a way I haven’t over the past few years. Because I’m celebrating the effects of my new lupus drug. (And because everyone wants a holiday named after them, right?) I’m firmly against using “summer” as a verb, but that’s really what I’m doing. I’m summering.

But back to comfort. It sounds bad, but it’s true, it’s a trap. Right now I can’t imagine working after Graham goes to bed, which has been the norm for me for so many months. I can’t imagine holing up to work in a coffee shop, because these days, the windows are always open. I can’t imagine washing doughnut dishes until my fingers crack, because it hasn’t been necessary. In so many ways, it’s bliss. But every time I feel my brain starting to relax, I instinctively tense up, just a little. My brain works like an engine; it has to be warm to move forward efficiently. It’s hard to trust that it will restart again.

My body feels the trappings of comfort, also. These days, living is easy. The Benlysta is working, and it’s wonderful. I usually wake up with zero pain. I love how the body delivers a dose of amnesia with discomfort; I’ve almost forgotten how much it hurt, just months ago, to pour milk into my coffee first thing in the morning, or to type, or to pick up my hefty 3-year-old. I’ve been picked for Team Lucky in the side effects department, but the effects I do have are a little shocking. They come snaking off the end of my hairbrush, and curling into the corners of the bathroom, and twisting, rather disgustingly, around anything that will stand still in the shower stall. I have thin hair to begin with, but honestly, having to trade the mane for a shiny new Benlysta body has come as a bit of a surprise. I feel a little betrayed by my scalp. I’ve spent far too many minutes surfing Pinterest for a new, shorter hairstyle.

But oh, that body. For July, I am focusing on the body. I’m feeding it whatever it wants – these days, spoonfuls of the parsley pesto I’m hoarding from the garden’s dramatic bolt, wrapped around potatoes, whirled into vinaigrettes, dolloped into soups. I’m working this body, and resting it. In August, or maybe September, when the brain starts up again, I’ll decide on a haircut, and just see what comes next.

Parsley Pesto (PDF)
Serving suggestions: Fold into pasta. Spread inside a panini. Whisk into vinaigrette. Slather on toast. Stuff into chicken breasts. Layer inside caprese. Stir into soup. Mix with goat cheese for crackers. Eat with a spoon. Toss with fresh vegetables and nuts for a pretty salad, nestled into Bibb lettuce: tomatoes and pine nuts, roasted beets and walnuts, etc. Make chicken salad. Or freeze, for another season, when we’re not so produce-lucky.

TIME: 15 minutes (more if toasting pine nuts)
MAKES: About 1 1/2 cups

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
4 cups parsley (packed into a big 4-cup liquid measure)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup loosely packed freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Whirl garlic and pine nuts in a large food processor until very finely chopped. Add the parsley in three additions, pulsing until chopped between each addition. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and blend. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula, add the cheese, and blend just until combined. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container* in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks or in the freezer up to 6 months.

*The less air the pesto is exposed to, the less chance there is of it turning brown. I put mine in Ball jar, then either press a small piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pesto underneath the lid, or cover the pesto with a layer of olive oil before sealing. I find plastic wrap works better when freezing, just be sure to tuck all the plastic neatly under the lid, so no air gets in.



Filed under garden, gluten-free, Lunch, recipe

4 responses to “The trappings of summer

  1. Nicely done, Jess. Every word was perfectly chosen, and you evoked a true sense of what a relief this time of year can be. Maybe I’ll even flag it and read it in November to bring me back to a summer state of mind. Thanks for the beautiful post.

  2. I’m currently receiving treatments with IVIg (immunoglobulin) every 7 weeks for an autoimmune disorder called CIDP. It started 4 years ago ( wow–time goes by so fast) when I got a flu shot and it triggered the CIDP and I began having mobility issues which within a space of of a few months evolved into me barely being able to walk, even while holding onto walls and furniture. Luckily, the treatments worked for me. I went from going 4 days every 2 weeks for IVIg infusions to just 2 every 7 weeks now. The side effects of the IVIg as well as other meds they’ve put me on has been a roller coaster, like whammies every time I think I’m past one a new one pops up. The current one is my hair, it’s thinning like mad and I’m finding it everywhere. Taking a shower turns into a depressing ordeal as I see strand after strand slipping down the drain. I have really long hair and and in the past 4-5 months I think I’ve lost a 1/3 of my hair, mostly in two spots on top. Covering those spots is starting to become futile. Some days are worse than others. But like you, I’m just trying to chug along. It’s summer so I’m out there enjoying it and relishing the fact that I have mobility. One wouldn’t know by looking at me today, that I could barely walk a few short years ago. Although stilettos are still out of the question, I walk perfectly fine again. I’m out riding my bike, cooking in the kitchen, hanging with friends and going camping with the bf. So, it’s hard to roll with the whammies but somehow I do it and it sounds like you do too.
    So keep summering, Jess! 🙂

  3. Hi!

    I’m new to your blog – I added it in my blog roll because of the recipes. But this post introduced me to the person behind the blog, and I’m happy to have met you. Your post made me smile.

    It is sad how often it is the case that we need to get sick before we can learn to appreciate our health. This friendship with your body is something we should all learn from!

  4. Erina

    Well done!

    Love the idea of “summering”. I say do it as often as you can.

    Lovely recipe to boot.

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