Mariel here. We are on the cusp of my son’s first birthday so we celebrated with a [backyard] bash this past weekend. Backyard is parenthetical since it rained 15 minutes before go-time. Anyway, I expected to feel a lot of different things leading up to this milestone – happiness, anticipation, relief, excitement – but sadness wasn’t one I had planned for. In fact, during all those sleepless newborn nights and panicked “Why won’t he stop crying?!” outbursts, I had prayed for this day to come.
In my head, making it to his first birthday meant that I had survived the unpredictable ups and downs of infancy (seasoned moms, feel free to laugh at the idiot). There was the initial terror of realizing I’m responsible for the survival of another human being; a mourning period over the loss of my former life and all that lazy-day freedom I had taken for granted; excitement and a previously unbeknownst limitless supply of joy at watching my son become his own person (even if that person sometimes scares me with his stubbornness); and heaps of gratitude. I’ve experienced a new appreciation for my own mom who taught me how to be a mom and continues to teach me every. single. day. I’m grateful for the close bonds I’ve forged with other seasick moms who are also navigating the same choppy waters. And I’m grateful for my husband, since he’s the level-headed, steady-handed one in our funky bunch.
But back to the birthday blues, since I still haven’t quite put my finger on what’s bugging me. The obvious answer is that he’s getting older and that’s got me down, but the truth is, I didn’t really love those early newborn days. If I’m being completely honest, that black hole of endless need really rocked my world. I felt lost. And alone. And at times I wondered if I was cut out for this whole messy business of motherhood. I much prefer this age: he can entertain himself, he can Ghadafi-style dictate wants (and demands), and his remarkably witty little personality is constantly on display. Just ask him how big he is. He is SO big. And then he gives himself a round of applause.
So although I’m not sure what’s got my goat, I didn’t let it get in the way of throwing down for my little man’s big day.
My son has developed a pretty decent palate, so I decided to whip up a few of his “faves.” How do I know they’re his faves? Because he greets each mouthful with a resounding “Mmmm” and then shovels it in so fast I fear he’ll choke. Or puke. Which he’s done. So yes, the following Pesto Pasta Salad is one such dish. I also made Pineapple Pulled Pork and Peach-Mint Caprese, which was a gamble since peaches are notoriously tough to ripen, but one that paid off so I plan to post my tips later on.
If anyone is still reading this rant, I’d be curious to hear from other moms out there who experienced the same sense of sadness at the first birthday… Or maybe it’s just me. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Pesto Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus
Serves 10-12 as a side
2 pints grape tomatoes – $4.00
1 teaspoon brown sugar – stock
Pinch of kosher salt – stock
Freshly ground black pepper – stock
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided – stock
A big bunch of thin asparagus – $3.99
1 lb Farfalle -$2.19
¾-cup pesto (homemade or store-bought) – $3.99
1 to 2 Tablespoons reserved pasta water – stock
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $14.17
Cost per serving: $1.18
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil.
2. In a large bowl, toss the grape tomatoes (whole) with brown sugar, a dash of salt, black pepper and 1 Tablespoon olive oil, coating well. Roast at 375 for 20 minutes or until very soft and the tomatoes start to deflate. Set aside.
3. Line another baking sheet with tinfoil. Preheat the broiler. Trim the asparagus ends and toss with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper. Broil for 5-10 minutes, shaking the baking sheet every 2 minutes or so. NOTE: My broiler can be set to medium, but it’s important to keep checking the asparagus so they don’t burn. You want the asparagus to have a bit of a char at the tips and the stems to soften and start turning a little golden. Set aside.
4. Cook the pasta in unsalted water according to package directions. Reserve 2 Tablespoons of pasta water and strain the rest in a colander. Return the cooked pasta to the pot and stir in the pesto, adding some of the pasta water if it needs to be thinned a bit. Gently toss in the roasted tomatoes and asparagus, adjust seasonings. Serve hot or chill and serve cold.