Vanessa Chang
(A Glutton with Brains)


a glutton with brains

The Promise of Sunshine


I know. The title sounds like a bad '70s easy listening hit. But even now with bouts of sun and cloud duking it out for seasonal dominance, I'm rooting for the sun, betting every single metaphorical and metaphysical buck I have on the warmth and the life giving, soul-drenching sunlight.

My argument:  Sunlight brings me fresh chili peppers from small pots on a patio. Little lightning strikes of fiery reds, yellows and oranges. Some are as hot on the tongue. Others wonderfully mild and perfect for dipping like a carrot stick in something as simple as olive oil and salt or my mom's favorite, a paste of Korean miso paste, Korean chili paste, rice vinegar, sugar and salt.


Sunglight also brings me a basil plant. Strike that. A basil tree. From one lowly plant that managed to outlive the once thriving tomato, it gave me bushels and bushels of fragrant greenery. Some I plucked as I needed for the lazy summer cooking (assembly is more like it) for a salad here and there. Maybe some goat cheese.

When the sunlight started to fade, I rushed all the tender leaves inside for one last good-bye with the help of my food processor and some ice cube trays. Fresh pesto is simple enough -- take basil by the handful (the way Scrooge McDuck would grasp handfuls of his cash), wads and wads of it, stuff it into a food processor bowl that has already in it some fresh garlic cloves, pine nuts and salt already pulverized.

Pulse until the leaves are no longer leaves, but confetti. Slowly stream in a waterfall of extra-virgin olive oil. Something sweet and mild like almonds, versus punchy like a radish and cut grass. Stir in some grated pecorino cheese (I love Fiore Sardo). Season to taste. I kept one jar in the fridge. The rest in tupperware or ice cube trays to deliver some warmer memory in the depths of winter.


Sunlight also allows me big ripe tomatoes from friends and neighbors (I am not a good gardener. Thankfully, my friends are) that I stuffed with goat cheese, chopped basil or whatever other fresh herb was abundant. Sometimes I added in some fresh corn kernels to pop like sweet candy with the soft fresh tomato. Olive oil and some sliced zucchini into the same pan before going into a hot oven. To be flashy, I finish it off under the broiler until the cheese reaches this gorgeous cosmetic flourish. It tastes good, too.

I look out my window and imagine these flavors the moment I tasted them. The pesto is almost gone. The chili peppers in my fridge from some other place. And tomatoes? The ones I've come across are more appropriate as blunt force weapons as opposed to seasonal bliss. 

But even as the memories fade like the morning fog, the sunlight usually shows up just in time. I no longer have to rely on memories for the promise of sunshine because it will be here.

I'm not a religious person in any sense. But I can see how people for generations on end prayed for and to the sun. We might not have temples for it or ceremonies to exalt it, but as I look around me the throng of responsible adults look out their own windows and long for the same thing the ancients did.

Bring us light.