You know what I'm talking about. Back in high school, everything is poised to get better. The braces will be pried off soon. The glasses can be traded in for contact lenses, maybe even the kind that turn your muddy eyes a cool shade of aquamarine like a mood ring. You're finally easing up on all the Aqua Net (step away from the can of hairspray, Tammy). The ugly duckling becomes a swan and all that crap. Meanwhile, you're making a little cash throwing together sandwiches on the weekends and you feel real smart with that diploma in your hand.
The world is yours for the taking!
In high school, you can't wait for college. In college, you look forward to getting out of college because all this studying is putting a damper on your social life. Plus, you want a fun job with a decent paycheck. You want a mode of transportation besides your own two feet. Dates at fancy restaurants. A place to live that's not a dump. Vacations. Soon you have some stuff, and you like your stuff, but you want something more. You want love. You want a family of your own. Then you get a family of your own and, for the whole first year, you can't believe what a horrible mistake you've made. No more dates at fancy restaurants. Your place becomes a dump. Vacations take on an entirely new and unwelcome meaning. Sometimes you wish you'd just stayed home.
But then you learn to stop being so selfish all the time and things gets better. Your family becomes your whole life. Does anyone else have kids as awesome as yours? NO WAY! IMPOSSIBLE! And then you realize something. Your kids are halfway through their childhood already. They're going to spend the whole second half hating you. And then they're going to leave.
They say you get better with age, but in what way specifically? Nicer? I don't think so. If anything, I'm getting more crotchety and even less charitable behind the wheel of a car. Wiser? Uh-uh. By my calculations, I'm getting stupider by the day. I've always been a wee bit forgetful, but this is ridiculous. I left my coat somewhere last week. At the library? At Walgreens? Where? How did I not notice my coat was missing? True, it felt colder, but all that ran through my head was: That's New England for you. One minute you're toasty warm in your nice winter jacket and the next minute you're shivering by the parking meters fumbling for change while the icy wind sucker punches you in the spleen and there's no logical explanation for it whatsoever. (I still haven't found it, by the way. My coat. It's puffy and gray with a big hood.)
The other night I looked in the mirror and realized that it's all downhill from here. This is as smart/healthy/attractive as I will ever be for the whole rest of my life. And, I'll be honest, the bar didn't seem very high.
Is this what a midlife crisis looks like?
This recipe is stupefyingly simple. I don't even use stock anymore, just water. It's silky and surprisingly sweet. Snip a few chives on top and you have something tasty and healthful to warm you up on a chilly spring day when your coat is nowhere to be found.
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups water (or veggie stock)
1 pound parsnips, peeled, cored*, diced
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Sauté the chopped onion and celery for 4 to 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Don't let the vegetables brown. Add the garlic and sauté for 15 seconds until fragrant. Add the water or stock and the parsnips. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the parsnips are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool and purée in a blender or with a stick blender until perfectly smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 2 or 3. The recipe can be doubled (just be sure to purée the soup in half-batches if using a blender).
*Some parsnips have a woody central core that runs from top to bottom. To remove it, I usually just slice the peeled sides right off the core, which is a slightly different color. (Then chop up the sides and discard the core.) But if you're not sure exactly where or how big the core is, you can also quarter the parsnip the long way. Then you can see it a lot better. Just trim along the interior edge of each quarter with a paring knife to remove it.