The morning after the last day of school, I always woke up feeling a little adrift and lost, slightly suffocated by a feeling of anticlimax. As excited as I might be about summer vacation, even as a child I was someone who needed days to be filled with purpose. I’d sleep late and stumble into the kitchen listlessly for cereal, anticipating day after hot day unfolding in just the same way, wondering what my friends were doing, envisioning the darkened classroom I was so eager to escape only yesterday, chairs stacked haphazardly, abandoned and empty. My mother, stepping into the kitchen for another cup of coffee, could always recognize the storm clouds on my forehead. ”Get dressed,” she’d say, “Let’s go to the Book Rack.”
As a kid, the Book Rack, which sold used paperbacks, was possibly one of my favorite places on the planet. There was no talking, no muzak, no one wondering if they could help you find something, just shelves of books, a rocker, handmade vinyl paperback book covers, and a few sad pothos ivy plants struggling to survive in macrame hangers. Clearly designed for serious readers, the books were helpfully arranged by genre, so I could disappear into the horror section or the mysteries and never be bothered with Westerns, romance novels, or God forbid, “historical” romances. My mom would drop me off there while she went to run errands, and I could happily stay for hours, enveloped in the owner’s cool quiet fog of menthol cigarette smoke, filling a paper grocery bag with books priced at a quarter. At the end of the day, I’d spread all the books out on my bed and agonize over which one to read first.
Summer is here. I want more than anything to go back to the Book Rack, pull a damp and crumpled $10 bill out of my shorts pocket, and disappear for three months into another world.
A lovely tangle of slippery, sesame-scented noodles is a cool, easy recipe–make a big batch for lazy days and late evenings so you don’t have to put your book down for long.
Buckwheat Noodles with Green Beans & Toasted Sesame-Lime Vinaigrette
1 package buckwheat soba noodles, cooked to al dente, drained and rinsed
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 1″ lengths and blanched
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 c. cherry tomatopes, cut in half
1-2 spring onions, cut into paper thin slices
1 c. cooked chicken or tofu, cut into 1/2″ pieces
small handful cilantro leaves
1/3 c. roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lime juice
3 Tbs. fish sauce
2 Tbs. “rooster” chile sauce or siracha (to taste)
1 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. tamari sauce
3 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
Make dressing. Place lime juice, fish sauce, chile sauce, sugar and tamari in a small bowl. Whisk in sesame oil until well blended.
Place all salad ingredients together in a large bowl, reserving a small amount of peanuts and cilantro for garnish. Add dressing, toss well, garnish and serve.