The past five days here in the Boston area have been surreal beyond imagination. As I sit by the TV, watching and waiting for the successful denouement with suspect #2, it feels strange to even think about writing about food and wine. On the other hand, once we have assured that our loved ones are safe and secure for now, there’s not much else that hasn’t been said in the millions of words in print, on TV, in blogs, or on Twitter. So here’s what’s on my mind right now.
On Monday afternoon I had a meeting with a senior professor regarding new teaching opportunities. At the time of the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, we were sitting in a cafe about 5 miles from Copley Square. That was fortunate. The night before we had agreed to move the meeting there, instead of in his office in downtown Boston.
When our meeting was over and we went separate ways, I turned on the radio and heard the awful news. Next, was the challenge to teach a class that evening. The graduate students in the class work full-time, but oddly the day is a state holiday, Patriot’s Day, so some had the day off and some didn’t. None of them were in the marathon, but some spouses and friends were, and in those few hours after the event, there was great confusion and uncertainty. As we began class at 6:00 PM, it was clear that none of us had our hearts and minds fully engaged on these subjects, so we adjourned after one hour, and the students agreed to run the online simulation exercise from home later in the week.
Two days later I had a different class, this time in the afternoon. By now the smoke had cleared, the dead and injured had been counted, and our heartbreak for those impacted was very palpable — but we knew nothing about by whom and why this tragedy had occurred. The class was a bit subdued, but we got through it. On the way home I stopped at one of the major greengrocers in the area, and bought some great vegetables — my way of sublimating, I guess. I stumbled home, extraordinarily tired and not terribly hungry. My wife was out at a meeting that night, so I decided to unwind by cooking just a little. I had just bought some beautiful red peppers on sale, so I sautéed them in olive oil for a long time, finished them with a bit of red wine vinegar and salt-preserved capers from Puglia, opened a jar of tiny cooked artichokes from Campania, and then uncorked a bottle of Laura Aschero’s 2011 Pigato from Liguria. That helped me get some needed sleep.
Thursday I was recovering and regrouping at home, and lunch is always one of those rare occasions when I’m at peace with the world. Here is the lunch plate, all leftovers:
Half an avocado with lemon and salt, steamed asparagus, a few more baby artichokes, and the peppers for vibrant color and flavor. A slice of my toasted multigrain bread sopped up the olive oil and garlic from the pepper sauté, and a glass of Pigato rounded it all out nicely.
By Friday morning the suspects in the bombing had been identified, more killing and shootings had taken place the night before and in the early hours of the morning, one suspect had been killed and the manhunt was on for the second one. After getting text messages every couple of hours all night from MIT and my other universities, I had little sleep. It was a long, tense wait as the drama progressed ever so slowly on Friday. By early evening I decided to cook a few other special ingredients from Wednesday’s shopping: maitake mushrooms, king trumpet mushrooms, and the first ramps of the season. It was a fitting first course for Barbara’s fine vegetable and whole wheat pasta dinner that followed. And it went perfectly with the remaining Pigato.
The arrest of the second suspect in the bombing tonight will provide some semblance of closure for a community so traumatized these past five days. But even as justice is served, there is no way to heal the loss of life and limbs — as well as sense of security — for so many. It all provides just one more reminder, as we plan and organize and fret over small details, that life is all too short and often unpredictable, so we must cherish our values and pleasures whenever we can.