Spring Retrograde

I’ve been back in Santa Monica for about a day now.  I’ve gotten lost–taken the wrong turn about three times already.  Driving aimlessly down streets in my neighborhood that I know lead to nowhere I need to be.  Over the last few days in New York, I’ve woken in the middle of the night worried and obsessing when and if my lemons will return and if my new lime tree will produce fruit this summer.  I know this is not normal.  It almost seems fitting that this is happening on the first day of Mercury Retrograde, and I could just blame it on the stars, but then I realize that perhaps this is a manifestation of my anxiety.  

Six weeks in New York, working on a television production and being away from my son didn’t seem stressful to me at the time.  Likely because I used the time without Ethan to concentrate on getting the task at hand done (the mom/producer me really did get more done before 6am and after 10pm than non-mom producer me ever did in a day).  In my free time, occupying myself with the yin/yang of discovering just about every new restaurant of note opening in New York last month (Jean George Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, David Chang’s Ma Peche and Keith McNally’s Pulino) juxtaposed by several strolls down memory lane.  

As if in an homage to the Ghost of Christmas Past, my corporate apartment was on the exact same street as the first building I ever lived in New York.  My first New York apartment was ostentatious, with its 2-story waterfall in the lobby and white-gloved doormen.  I shared a one-bedroom, along with the one futon we could afford with a girl friend.  We had no other furniture until someone donated a couch–which my friend took over as her bed and bed room.  I used to chuckle that I lived in a building so far beyond my means.  Little did the NY professionals and on-air hosts who shared my walls know that everyday, I searched for change in the couch/bed to take the train; or that I had budgeted $1 a day for food.  Buttered noodles with black pepper; cheese on special days when I found an extra quarter.  My roommate would eat an entire bag of Ruffles or Lay’s potato chips for dinner (likely also $1).

Before you feel too badly for my early epicurean misfortune, there were dates.  At least three evenings a week, wined and dined by young Wall Street traders and partner hopefuls at Manhattan’s  prestigious white shoe law firms.   But its not Le Bernadin or Gramercy Tavern that I re-visit on this trip, but an ACC college themed BBQ restaurant and bar.  It was owned by the most significant eX next to my former husband.  Strangely re-appearing in my life after nearly 15 years of no contact.  He found me through a social networking site a year ago; said he had moved to a Caribbean island, married and had a son.  Cut to me living again near my old New York apartment, passing by a new location of this BBQ restaurant and thinking back to when we met at one of his bars.  50 dozen roses delivered to my apartment, a whirlwind romance and then before I knew it, five years had gone by.  I can’t exactly remember why it ended.  He was busy.  I was busy trying to get his attention.  But on this day, he called.  He was in New York.  Visiting his son after a divorce.  

After all these years, I still haven’t learned much on the relationship front, but as a life lesson; I don’t believe in coincidences–everything happens for a reason.  I didn't see him, so on this day, perhaps the reason he re-entered my life was to help me with a wrap party for the show I was working on.  So now I've come full circle, ending this latest trip to New York almost the same way I began my life in New York nearly 20 years ago–at this BBQ bar.

And now I’m back home, with the love of my life, my little Ethan.  Since his visit to New York, he’s been feeling under the weather, but insisted we go for a hike.  ‘Don’t forget the tangerines’, he reminds me on the way out the door.  We just read Ruth Stiles Gannett’s dragon trilogy.  The main character in the book, Elmer Elevator eats tangerines and uses the peels as a trail to find his way home.  And conveniently, the baby dragon of the book, eats the peels (and cabbage); so Ethan wanted to make sure we would be able to  find our way home, and share our food with the animals in the woods.

We tried a new trail called Los Liones, close to our new home.  Yes, finally the source of the stress is revealed.  Mid-way through my stint in New York, I made the decision to leave our little home in Santa Monica for another little home, in Pacific Palisades, a bubble of a community, nestled along the Pacific Ocean, between Santa Monica and Malibu.  I’m not sure if logically, this was the best decision for us, and on paper, its 6 of one; half a dozen of another.  But there is a positive energy that I am trusting–that is of change. 

Change has been good to us this year–yes, it’s taken me away from home for 4 months, but its helped us both grow.  Its helped us both become more independent, confident and we don’t take our time together for granted.  It is this change that has helped propel us from our inertia.  Like Mercury Retrograde, it's been a chance to catch up and look back in order to move forward.  

I doubt I will leave for an extended amount of time without Ethan again, but I am fortunate that I was able to do so with the help of my family.  After nearly six years of being a single parent, I did go home again–or at least I brought my home to Ethan.  My parents dropped everything and came to live with Ethan while I was away; both my brother and sister's families welcomed Ethan as a brother during the summer months in Chicago. So in the spirit of reflection and holding on to touchstones of familiarity, I’m sharing the mother of all recipes, my mother’s Pad Thai.  

I could describe this dish in my own words, but thought the words of my 11 year old niece, and budding foodie, says it best:  Alex's Taste of Home

The Mother of all Pad Thai


  • Pad Thai Sauce
  • 1 cup tamarind concentrate
  • 1 1/2  cup palm sugar (melted–20 seconds in the microwave)
  • 3/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1  cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup water

Add all the ingredients, stir and bring to boil.  Use 1/8 cup of sauce per 1 pound of noodles.

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped shallots
  • 10-12 peeled and cleaned shrimp (optional)
  • 1/2 pound of ground chicken or pork (optional)
  • 1 cup sliced hard yellow tofu
  • 1/2 cup (shredded) preserved sweet radish
  • 1 pound rice noodles (if dry, soak the noodles for 2 hours; if the fresh pho noodles, soak in warm water for about 10 minutes–the 1 pound weight is post soak)
  • 1/8 cup Pad Thai sauce (above)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry ground Thai chili pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons ground roasted peanuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sliced garlic chives or green onion
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro (garnish)
  • 2 cups bean sprouts (optional garnish)
  • 1 wedge lime (optional garnish)


  • Heat 1/8 cup of the oil in a wok.
  • Add the garlic and shallots and stir-fry until golden brown.
  • Add the meat and cook until browned.  Separate into a bowl.
  • Cook the shrimp until it changes color. Remove the shrimp to prevent overcooking and set aside.
  • Heat the other 1/8 cup of oil in the wok.
  • Add the noodles, using a large fork to continuously separate and fluff them.
  • Add the Pad Thai sauce, while mixing into the noodles, and separating the noodles at the same time.
  • Mix in the meat, shrimp, tofu and preserved sweet radish.
  • Move the noodle mixture to one side of the wok and fry the eggs, scrambling them in the wok.
  • When the eggs are cooked, stir in the noodles.
  • Turn off the heat and mix in peanuts, garlic chives or green onions, and hot chili pepper.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve with fresh bean sprouts and a lime wedge on the side.

Learn more about Eda at http://edamame2003.blogspot.com/  


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