Rachel) After our son was born, my husband Jared and I had to budget every penny we made, and there was nothing left over for fun. I’d stopped working, and hospital bills were starting to pile in. Still, by the time Jackson was two months old, we were in desperate need of a date night. We had plenty of grandparents pushing us to go out and leave the baby with them, but no money to go anywhere. So, instead, we got creative and turned our house into a romantic escape from parenting.
We called Grandma and Grandpa and asked if they could watch Jackson at their house for a few hours on a Saturday evening. They, of course, pounced at the opportunity. Before we dropped him off, we cleaned the house and cleared out all the baby items from the living room and kitchen. I looked at what we had in the pantry and the refrigerator and came up with a menu. With Jackson riding kangaroo-style in a baby wrap, I put Jared to work chopping vegetables while I baked, simmered, mixed, and taste-tested. Then we took turns getting showered and dressed up for our date. I put on a dress and heels for the first time since getting unpregnant. Just before we left the house, Jared set up a card table on our patio, covered it with a pretty table cloth, and turned on some classical music. On our return home, we splurged on a bottle of my favorite Pinot Noir.
Jared opened the door for me. “Welcome to La Villa de Randolph, the hottest (and only) vegan restaurant in town,” he said. “I hear the food is delicious, but wait until you see the chef. I wonder if I could get a slice of her for dessert?” he flirted.
I grinned, throwing him my best come-hither look. “I don’t know; I heard she already has a thing for her sous chef. Pretty racy stuff, I hear.”
I dressed some Brussels sprouts, cut in half, with oil and balsamic vinegar, and a generous sprinkle of salt. Then I popped them into the oven to caramelize and roast, while I served us our first course: thinly sliced ribbons of carrot and broccoli marinated in a sweet and tangy vinaigrette. Jared poured the wine, and together, with beautiful strains of music taking the place of the cries of a fussy baby, we sat and talked (like grownups!) as we ate and enjoyed the pastoral view from our back-porch table for two.
Just as we finished the first course, we heard the timer in the kitchen go off. I pulled the Brussels sprouts out of the oven, which were now perfectly crispy and richly caramelized. I served them alongside mugs of stewed late-summer veggies with white beans. There was a chill in the air, but the creamy beans, new potatoes, and yellow squash, simmered in a chunky cherry tomato base, along with one another’s company, kept us warm.
Later, as I sipped coffee and ate a pumpkin pretzel tart under the starry sky, I gazed at my husband, really seeing him for what felt like the first time in months. “Hey, we’re talking! Like, really talking, and actually able to concentrate on what the other person is saying … in complete sentences!”
“It’s nice,” Jared said. “I’ve missed this.”
“I’ve missed us,” I replied.
Excerpt from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook: A Mom andDaughter Dish About the Food that Delights Them and the Love that Binds Them by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph. Used with permission.