We traveled to Vancouver, B.C., last week, which was for us our Spring Break. It was a short trip, two nights, about as many days, more snack than meal, if vacations were food. Because, as one of mine said, "We just MOVED ACROSS THE COUNTRY. Why are we already leaving again?" (I might not have raised the most enthusiastic travelers. Also, he has a huge point.)
So we went, with few plans and zero itinerary, and followed our whims for 48 hours. Which is to say, we ate, and walked, and napped, and ate, and read and rested and ate some more, and walked some more through Stanley Park. Over and over and over again.
It's quite a park.
I've been to Vancouver, and to Stanley Park, at least half a dozen times. Possibly a dozen. Maybe more. Even my oldest has been to Stanley Park. Though, as I tried to explain, last week, how he loved clambering over that giant red fire truck on his last visit, to his now-nearly-six-foot self, it rang a little, well, distant.
It's been awhile. We've been away so long.
So when we were searching for someplace to stay, I settled on a funky place near Stanley Park, knowing that if we did nothing else, we would at least have great walking at our doorstep. (I know us well.)
And walk, we did. Morning, noon and night. Along the cairn-lined beach, toward the city. Around the seawall, as the sun set. To the Aquarium and back. (Yes! We made it to the Aquarium! Though technically, the Aquarium's smack dab in the heart of Stanley Park. Still. More seals, less trees.) And around Lost Lagoon, several times over.
In all my visits to Stanley Park, I'd never seen the so-called Lost Lagoon. (It's a big park, that Stanley. Big enough to easily lose a lagoon.) But our hotel was two blocks from this particular point of entry, and so, it was where we started each outing. And it was so good.
Paved paths, easy to navigate, with clear divisions for feet and wheels. Small enough for the smallest legs to easily make the rounds. A loop trail. All parents love a loop trail. Also, the scenery wasn't awful.
The lagoon is edged with extraordinary trees of all sorts, ancient old-growth stumps to showy magnolias to crazy-huge Giant Rhubarb, which is technically no tree, but might as well be, given its epic leaves, enormous flowers, and extraordinary vertical ambitions. One bend was bordered with an absolutely exquisite rhododendron garden. I don't even like rhododendrons. But this, this was weep-worthy. In large part, because April happens to be prime Rhododendron season. I could tell you this is precisely why I booked the hotel that I did, when I did, where I did. Actually, it was just cheap. Also, I don't have anything like that level of planning.
(By the same token, all you see, above and below, is not Stanley Park. Nor B.C. Nor even last week. It's closer to home, and several weeks back, because such is my organizational acumen, these days. Still, Spring is Spring, and glory is glory, and so we celebrate where we can.)
But the lagoon itself was, hands down, the main attraction. Anonymous fish we never quite nailed would leap up and out and belly flop back down, leaving only mystery and silvered circles, widening, widening, in their wake. There were mallards galore, and unfamiliar-to-us ducks, and many, many (Canadian, natch) geese. We even spied a swan, vast, white, majestic. Then another. Then a third.
That third and last specimen was sitting on a nest. A huge, HUGE, thick high padded grassy nest, neck tucked under wing, snoozing. Regal. Resplendent. Oblivious. We all sort of stopped and stared, stupidly. I think we were waiting for the credits to roll.
When they didn't (because this wasn't actually Pixar's latest, just a standard-issue Canadian park), we resumed our beaver sleuthing. Because beavers are, apparently, regular residents of Lost Lagoon, too. Informational beaver signage lined one full side. Trees sported protective chicken-wire collars at their bases. Trees without collars rather more resembled stumps, with expertly-whittled, impressively symmetrical, pencil-tip-pointy tooth-sharpened tops. We even spotted several fine mounds of branches and brush we decided were dams. Evidence of beavers was everywhere.
We just couldn't find any beavers.
Moving in, I think, is one big beaver.
My first instinct when I wake, every day, is to catalog the dozens of things that are broken. Or missing. Or working poorly. Or still packed. Or unpacked, but unlocate-able at present. Or unpacked, but unwisely randomly stashed in weird inconvenient spots that make no sense at all unless you were there when to cross the living room was to climb over six boxes and around seven more and then, sideways, sucking in, between another twelve. (Helloooooo, microscope in the laundry room!).
Dozens is an exaggeration, of course. There are hundreds. Plural. Easy. All of which I see, simultaneously, because my mind thrives on detail, and analysis, and particularity, and order. These are wonderfully useful traits for, say, editing spreadsheets. When re-settling a family and re-creating Home and re-building community and restoring routine, amidst the ordinary full-on flow of five diverse lives? Not so much. So I make (with huge effort, and middling success) my mind stop in the double-digits. Because enumerating All The Not-Right Things is, shall we say, not helpful. Also, because even college-ruled paper only has 33 lines. Limits, people.
And in this itchy state of forced patience, I sometimes (once every third blue moon) step back, and survey the situation, and see what Is instead of Should Be. Weird stuff, this Is business. I see—can you hear me squinting, here? hard?—progress. Lower case, subscript, slapdash, incomplete progress, my ornery mind adds. Incremental, unpolished, important, indisputable progress, retorts my fake-it-till-you-make-it zen mind. I no longer get lost on the way to school. Our taxes will be mailed. On time. Boxes no longer live in the living room. And even if we don't live there well yet, either, we're on our fourth round of re-arranging everything, and anyway, life is what happens when you're busy tripping over chairs. Something like that.
I don't see Beavers, or Progress, per se. But evidence of beavers?
Nowhere is this evidence more apparent than in our creaky, coming-to-life kitchen. I often think our kitchens are our days' best barometers. As goes my life, so goes my supper. When all is chaos, dinner is popcorn. Which is wonderful. Popcorn is communion food, stuff of community and comfort and grace. Popcorn also gets mighty stale after six months on repeat, and so, every time dinner is Not Popcorn, I am learning to pronounce it "Progress".
Progress measured in simple, steadfast, stuff-of-life fare. Chocolate chip cookies. Pots of stock. Pancakes. Tomato soup. Tomato sauce. Omelettes. Egg salad. Bread. Oh, bread. We baked bread, yesterday, for the first time in six months. It felt like an old, dear familiar friend, and also like revolution. Funny, that.
Most of these things have appeared here, over the years, the soup, the bread, the pancakes, the cookies. But the egg salad, I realized, as I reached for the recipe, didn't exist, except in my head. High time, I think, to right that wrong.
Egg salad and I are fairly new acquaintances, our friendship a young thing of three or four years. I don't really remember (correct me if I'm wrong, mom) eating it as a kid, and in the decades that followed, only occasionally encountered it in the odd, unavoidable sandwich. Insipid, bland, book-ended by soggy bread, and absolutely slick with mayonnaise—one of two foods that literally make me gag (the other being, much to my childrens' bewilderment, Nutella)—"egg salad" was always synonymous, for me, with "run, RUN!". Or, more politely, "No, thank you."
Then, several years back, the egg salad stars strangely aligned. One day, Alice Waters' Simple Food simply fell open to page 281, "Egg Salad". Therein, I spied the world "parsley". Parsley! In egg salad? Also, scallions! Or chives. Or dill? Good grief. Green things in egg salad?!
I was intrigued. Theoretically enamored. Tentative. Thrice burned and all that. Unfortunately, Waters' revolution also included capers, my third (and, truly, final) anti-food. Also, a full third cup of mayonnaise. Gag me. I back-pedaled. Fast.
But then, a few months later, my friend Keshena mentioned making egg salad. For dinner. For her family. And her kids—get this—loved it. My first response? "My kids would NEVER eat egg salad." My second: "Have I ever made them egg salad?" And, my third: "Have I ever made me egg salad?" So much for first response/best response.
So I set out to make an egg salad I might maybe actually myself even eat. With Waters as springboard, I added minced parsley, and chives, and dill, choosing to read "and" between every herb, where she originally wrote "or". Wanting some crunch, I added a tiny dice of minced celery, and radish, and shallot, whatever was orphaned and crisp in the crisper. And to hold the whole thing together, I swapped in mostly whole-milk Greek yogurt, cut with a slim slip of mayo, just enough to bind, not enough to notice. I stirred. I sampled. I was stunned. I could eat this egg salad. I could crave this egg salad.
My kids wanted nothing to do with this egg salad.
Sassed up with mustard, smartly salted, this 1.0 version was everything I loved, soothing and plush and lushly creamy and crunchy and punchy and herbal and bright. It felt like a brand new element, this egg salad, like some manna I'd never known existed. I made it, many times, in the months that followed, resigned to their eating pita chips and plain boiled eggs, while we inhaled the main course.
And then, a year later, several years back, it dawned on me to dial it down. To make a batch without all The Bits. No dreaded green, no weird chunks, no no-way, no-how raw onion anything. Just stripped-down, straight-up, yolk-yellow salad, soothing and soft and eminently scoop-able with a pile of pita chips.
Or, as bingo as it gets, which in our house is "best 2 out of 3". One still passes. One easily eats it. The third asked me recently, emphatically, to include the recipe when she packs for college. We are officially not remotely ready to discuss college, at this time. So for now, we'll just check the egg salad box, or boxes, for she and I, both. And call it one more tiny, true sign of that ever-elusive critter, progress.
Egg Salad, Straight Up (My Kids' Egg Salad)
with thanks to Keshena, for teaching me to try
Full-fat Greek yogurt is, I fear, going the way of the dodo bird, a shame. Here in the Northwest, Ellenos is a glorious, local Greek yogurt operation, whose original whole milk yogurt is as lush as it comes. Fage's 2% will do in a pinch, though I might tilt the ratio a touch more toward mayo, to make up for the loss in unctuous. If non-fat is your only option, substitute crème fraiche, instead.
I find a bit of mayonnaise is necessary to properly bind eggs to dairy, here. I also find that for those few times I must use mayo (BLT's, egg salad), I prefer Kewpie. If you're not a weird mayo-phobe like myself, by all means use whatever kind and quantity you wish.
6 hard-boiled eggs
1 Tbs. mayonnaise
2-3 Tbs. full-fat Greek yogurt
shy 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. French's mustard
Slice or mince your eggs, as you prefer.* We consider our $1.29 plastic egg slicer essential kitchen equipment. I slice each egg one way, rotate 90 degrees, then slice again. Repeat. Add remaining ingredients to eggs, then stir vigorously with a wide spoon, applying enough chutzpah as you go to break down the yolks a fair bit. Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, salt and mustard, and stir again, vigorously, to further break down yolks into the sauce, and to combine everything well. Taste. It should be creamy and smooth, with a faint unidentifiable nip from the mustard, and just enough salt to make the whole sing.
Adjust salt/mustard/yogurt by pinches, to taste, then inhale. We most often eat this with pita or tortilla chips, though there's no reason it wouldn't sidle between two slices of sandwich bread, slip into a pita's pocket, or straight into a mouth with the help of a stalwart spoon.
*There are, apparently, grand debates on this point, and factions, and regional styles. Who knew? I didn't see this fascinating Food52 piece until a few years into our egg salad journey. I can see, now, that I'm of the California camp, whereas my kids are solidly Tennessee in their tastes. But our slicing style—minced, by means of an egg slicer—is a hybrid of both, and unites us.
Egg Salad, As I Like It
with thanks to Alice Waters, for mentioning "herbs" and "egg salad" in the same recipe
The basic blueprint, for me, is this: 9 eggs + 1/4 cup creamy lush + 1/2 cup diced crunch + 1/2 cup minced herbs, laced with mustard and heightened with salt.
For the crisp, I'll use fresh fennel when I have it, or all celery if that is all I have, or red onion, or scallions, even water chestnuts, if crisp is scarce. As to herbs, start with 1/4 cup, working your way up from there. I like the full 1/2 cup, but I also like coffee strong enough to hold a spoon standing. Parsley provides a good backbone, but don't stop there. A hit of dill is nice if you like it, or chervil if you can find it, or those quiet wonders, chives, especially if you grow them and it's Spring and they're going feral, fast. A pinch of fresh lemon thyme is lovely. Play. Taste. Never the same twice.
9 hard-boiled eggs
1 Tbs. mayonnaise
3-4 Tbs. full-fat Greek yogurt
generous 1/2 tsp. kosher salt + more to taste
1 Tbs. French's mustard + more to taste
2 stalks celery, minced (1/8")
2 radishes, minced
2 Tbs. minced shallot
1/4-1/2 cup chopped, fresh, sweet herbs (parsley, chives, chervil, dill, any/all)
Prepare as above, mincing eggs, then mixing them well with the next four ingredients (mayonnaise, yogurt, salt, mustard). Once your yolks are well-beaten, your salad golden, the whole lush and creamy, add the final four ingredients, or all of your minced vegetables and fresh herbs. Mix well. Taste, ponder, tweak. You may well want more mustard, or that extra mound of herbs, or another whisper of salt. Follow those leads. Then sit down to supper.