I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of patience since a chance encounter with a stranger earlier this year. The unknown woman tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned to her, she said: I admire you for your patience. I am still amazed because at the time, I was feeling anything but patient. Out to dinner with my husband Al, daughter Isabel and my mother, Stella—I was feeling anxious to get home. We were in a Chinese restaurant on Long Island. It was the eve of our departure to the safety of New Hampshire.
My mother and I have a complex relationship. Love abounds between us but it rarely shows itself overtly. I get angry easily when I am with her, no doubt in part because I feel like I am a disappointment―I am not the dutiful Jewish daughter she’d hope I’d become. Still, there is love between us and I try hard to be there for her at this stage of her life. I want her to know my children.
As my mother approaches 90 years old, Isabel will turn 12. My daughter is becoming more independent, my mother is becoming more dependent. At dinner that night, as I spoon-fed my mother because her age-worn hands are no longer up to the task, I tried to bridge the gaps between youth and old age. Patiently, I asked my mother to tell us about her youth. As her story unfolded, I asked her to envision ‘little’ Stella, age 11— then tell her anything. It was awkward, my mother struggled to find what to say. After a pregnant pause the answer came: I would tell her, you had a good life. Stay true to yourself. It was a touching moment, one that the stranger at the next table overheard, one that I will carry with me as reminder in my life to stay true to myself, to remember to see the best in each day, in any given moment, no matter how challenging―practice patience.
What sorts of things are challenging for you? When do you find yourself needing the most patience in your life?
Here in New England patience becomes important at the end of a dark, long winter. Now that spring is here our patience will be rewarded with fresh produce growing in our gardens, at local Farmer’s Markets, or in our CSA baskets. Fresh foods taste oh-so-good with the simplest of preparations―Simple Roasted Asparagus or fresh fiddleheads boiled then sprinkled with melted butter―are amazing. But it also fun to dress them up with something fancier. These Spring Tartlets are perfect to have on hand throughout the growing season. Here, delicate butter pastry is filled with a bit of feta cheese and a light egg custard. The preparation requires patience—the dough needs to be carefully shaped and chilled between steps. Chilling the dough after you first mix it together, then again after you shape it into the tartlet, allows the gluten in the flour to contract so the baked shell will keep its shape. Baking chilled tart dough helps create a flaky, golden crust. Your patience will be rewarded with every bite of these delicious tartlets, so much so that you will want to keep some pre-baked shells in the freezer at all times―they are extremely versatile to fill with both savory and sweet fillings. (See a couple of suggestions at the end of the recipe.)
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.