I tilted my head to the side, trying to decide whether to react. It was an awkward moment, standing in the bright sunlight under the impeccable blue sky. The suburban street was manicured with perfect little houses, and the cars drove slowly on the errands of those that live free of cubicles.
White headphones draped like suspenders around my shoulders, my nose and elbows dripped with sweat and I was starting to get cool from standing for so long on the side of the street in the middle of my run. An old friend stood across from me and we were having one of those odd conversations that leaves you feeling like a stumped clown unsure of whether to entertain a child who has just stomped on your foot. Did he mean to do that? Should I continue juggling, or let the tears run my makeup away. Should I get angry? The thousands of possible scenarios born in the seed of each moment pulled the corners of my mouth into an indiscriminate botox smile.
I imagine the grotesque expressions I displayed as I struggled inwardly with which face to put on. I needed to walk away for a bit. I needed to let it hover, to let it roast for awhile while I focus on other things. When I pick it up again I will taste it and see if it suits my palate to add sweetness or vinegar or to let it alone. I peeled the 4 medium beets over the kitchen sink to avoid creating a huge mess on my counter, even though the messiness of beets is sort of an illusion that can be wiped away by towel. I cut them into chunks, maybe I imagined some malicious intent. Or perhaps the intent was there, but not directed at me. Since I will have the oven hot for roasting beets, I might as well toss garlic in too to make the house smell lovely, 2 cloves. I put in 1/2 head cauliflower, because I remember how my friend Scott described the roasted cauliflower that he had ordered at a restaurant recently. It was "like angels weeping on his tongue" he said.
I sprinkle it all with salt, to bring out the flavors already locked inside the vegetables. I bathe the vegetables in 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsp olive oil. After the pan is loosely covered in a 400 degree oven, and the timer set to 50 min, I can let it go. My shoulders melt back to normal. Is it all such a big deal? I move on to other things, as the salad tenderizes in the oven.
By the time the timer goes off, everything has changed. Beets and balsamic are sweet, not tangy. The cauliflower is buttery and rich, the garlic is mild and perfumes the air. When all is cool, I mix it together with 1/2 bunch fresh diced Swiss chard and 1/3 Tbsp Ume plum vinegar.
Christina's vote: "This salad is nectar for the Gods"