Summer 2014 will go down in my mental history books as the summer when: Tim and I drove a friend’s beat-up truck to East Nashville so we could load my old roommate’s queen-sized mattress and box spring, strap it in as best we could with ropes and gravity, then truck it back down the highway like those crazy people you never want to wind up stuck behind, praying it wouldn’t fly off.
It will be the summer both my old roommates moved away. The summer of days so hot, sweat layers on sweat.
The summer I did things like look up the owner of a property on public records, cyber-stalk him and email a “Hey, have you thought about selling your place?”
The summer of sweet old ladies like Edna, whom we met this week, who lived in her house for 50+ years and whose husband worked on airplanes and who is only trying to move now because he died last year.
The day after I met her, I sat at Provence with my work buddies, thinking about people who can’t get out to coffee shops in the middle of the day, can’t even leave their house when their Realtor shows it, because their bodies are slower and older now.
Alongside all of these things, because of these things, it will also be the summer of nights, so many nights, where Tim and I end up looking at each other, stomachs growling and bodies tired, realizing we’ve forgotten to eat and now we’re too tired to cook, so we wind up with episode #53 of Tomato Cucumber Salad, made the way Tim ate it as a kid.
A few weeks ago, a sweet blog reader named Katie was in town, and while we talked at Fido about kombucha and parasites and real food and moving across the country, the fact that Tim and I were looking at houses also came up.
We’d made an offer the day before, and we were waiting to learn the result. I told Katie then what I’m going to tell you now: I’ve been trying not to blog about it.
That’s mostly because I don’t really want to tell the world about the saga that is house-hunting… not because it is painful or difficult or hard but because, hello, the very idea of looking for a house to buy is a luxury, and yet it’s a luxury that can often feel like a part-time job that you don’t get paid for, especially when you never wind up buying a house at the end.
Also and more significantly, looking at houses confronts a hundred things I don’t want to be true about my heart, namely that I’m selfish and I want and I fear and I get anxious and I, sometimes without even realizing it, buy into the lie that a house will fill me up.
I get caught up in square footage and property values and start hearing thoughts like, “You have to get ahead” or “This house will make you happy,” and it is work to filter them and throw them out.
But the other thing I told Katie is the same thing I read in an article somewhere I can’t remember now, which is essentially that it is in the sharing of these moments—these embarrassing, unattractive internal arguments and conflicts and struggles—that we find actual connection with other human beings.
We don’t see each other’s souls when we talk about our favorite kitchen backsplashes (much as I enjoy a good subway tile); we enter each other’s lives when we talk about what wanting a certain something is doing to our hearts.
So this is me saying in black and white and to the Internet that we are nearing the end of (another) summer of house-hunting and we are walking into all the city-versus-country, suburbs-versus-city, Antioch-versus-Hermitage, Woodbine-versus-Donelson, big-versus-little-downpayment, big-versus-little-house conversations that come alongside.
What I love about this process is what it reveals; what I hate is how disproportionate, from a value standpoint, the amount of time it takes to hunt and offer and go to showings takes. What I am sure of, despite whatever fleeting thoughts hit me day to day, is that no house or hardwood floor is going to give me something that satisfies me more than what I’ve been given now.
I looked at our stock of CSA vegetables Monday night, grown by hands that are not mine and through sun and rain I do not send; I sat with my Tim Sunday night by a body of water that you almost wouldn’t believe people made; I talked tonight to a dear friend who starts our conversations by laughing with me about sending her Christmas cards eight months late.
I have so much! We have so much! I hate every minute I spend not soaking that in.Print
The basic formula for this salad is equal parts tomatoes and cucumbers to quarter or half parts onion, with all of it dressed by a blend of balsamic, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and salt. Fresh herbs complete the picture, which is a bright, fresh salad with the crunch of cucumber and the tang of tomato juice. It’s summer eating at its finest.
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds (fresh summer!) tomatoes
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds cucumbers
- 1 small (i.e., 1/2 pound) yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
- Handful of fresh basil (maybe 10 to 15 leaves), torn roughly
- Cut out the stem and any bruises of tomatoes; then slice them into pieces. Slice those pieces in half and slice those halves in half again. Place these tomato quarters into a large bowl.
- Peel cucumbers (I find a paring knife works best and fastest for me with the tough cucumber skin) and slice into rounds. Add to bowl of tomatoes.
- Peel onion and cut it in half. Slice halves into thin pieces, pulling apart the resulting half-moons and adding them to the tomato and cucumber bowl.
- Toss vegetables with balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Add salt to taste. Add basil, toss again and serve.
- While this salad is crunchy and refreshing on its own, it’s also particularly nice with crusty bread, especially so you can use the bread to sop up the juices.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.