Keeping What Works for You

I have become a regular at the drive-through drop off at our neighborhood Easter Seals collection store. Buck and my new mantra is “if we don’t use it, maybe someone else can.” My first rounds included clothes from my “dress for success” life, nice corporate suits that hadn’t been worn in years. I still have one recently acquired classic navy blazer, black suit, two pairs of Johnston and Murphy black pumps with a matching bag and a few tailored silk blouses.  Conservative stuff: good for church or the rare “must go” funeral, clothes that say I am not a fashion maven, but am booted and horsed.

A few slinky black dresses with slits up the side and dangerously high heels complete my out and about repertoire. I l do love scarves, especially long ones that can double as a translucent shawl, and have a couple of nice pieces of jewelry thanks to sweet surprises from Buck over the years.

It’s nice to know I can get myself together when the occasion requires, but the truth is that most days find me in tank top, running shorts and jogging shoes, or jeans and t-shirt. Sky blue denim straight legs for fall/winter and white straight legs for spring/summer.

Once I got all that clear in my mind, clearing out the closet(s) and letting stuff go was easy.

I’ve moved on from clothes to kitchen gadgets and now books. The Easter Seals stores sell books. Years ago when I was a young bride in my first marriage trying to learn how to cook, I bought several of those cookbook collections that come in series. One was a whole set of tall, slim volumes devoted to the cooking of different countries, and the other was something similar and equally useless to me now. When I was a young bride, they were great. They stimulated my imagination and opened up the world to places that were way, way beyond the rural south, where tuna is born in a can, and spaghetti is, too, compliments of that convenience food mid-wife, Chef Boyardee. They opened my mind to the concept of fresh herbs, and using cuisine as a way of learning about the world beyond the narrow borders of my birth.  Those books supported and encouraged my nascent belief that I could reinvent myself and find a life remarkably different and more expansive than the one I was born into.

And so, today I let them go, hoping that some other young bride or groom or solitary dreamer will use them as I did, as a passport and a dreaming wheel for their own futures.

There are a few cookbooks I am holding onto, despite the plethora of foodie websites. One of them — the one I used to find out how to make the best asparagus I ever tasted — is Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style. It’s called Parmesan Roasted Asparagus. I made it for the first time last night.

The photo is a little out of focus. It’s because we had already eaten most of those luscious spears and I suddenly remembered I wanted to take a picture, so I jumped up and ran off to get the camera and returned just in time to snap a fuzzy shot of the last few in the dish.  The secret of their yumminess is that you drizzle them with olive oil, grind a little kosher salt and pepper over, then cook them for 15 minutes in a super-hot (450 degree) oven, then sprinkle a little Parmigianao Reggiano over the tips and cook for one more minute. Squeeze a lemon wedge on them as soon as you take them out of the oven and eat them up.

Oh, baby, now that really works for me.

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