Every year on the first day of school, my brother, my dog, and I posed for the camera. Early in the morning before heading to the bus stop, we went outside with our backpacks already on, held up our fingers to demonstrate the grade we were each entering (4 fingers = 4th grade…the dog refrained from this part), and smiled as my parents took our picture to commemorate the day. To me, the photo signified the beginning of a new year, and I remember the pride we took in the outfits we had chosen for that first day and the worry we felt about the unknowns of our new teachers and routines.
This annual photo op always took place in the backyard in front of our small family garden. Usually by September, the bed was in full swing – tomato plants too heavy for their own height, zinnias reaching higher and higher for the sun, and a jungle of basil fending off the native army of mint. While simple, it reliably produced ingredients for our summer cooking needs.
My favorite warm weather food was my mom’s pesto. I remember smelling the basil as I rode my bike up our driveway on my way home from our local swim club and running into the kitchen to see the pesto in the making. My mom’s version is creamier, nuttier, and more garlicky than the traditional Italian type. With only a few ingredients and 2 steps (blend, add oil), it was ready in a snap. The most difficult part was knowing how much oil to add; the sole instruction was to slowly add the oil to the spinning food processor until the pesto looked ‘right,’ which I learned meant smooth, not too stiff, and not too runny. Continue reading