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The Healing Powers of Pesto


I spent all last week, from Monday night to Friday, plopped on my couch. It was one of those weeks you daydream about when you’re insanely busy: “If only I could stay home and forget everything, take naps, and watch Netflix on my cozy couch while everyone else runs the rat race.” Only, when that really happens, it’s only fun for about five seconds. I hadn’t been sick in a while, so I forgot how much sick days as an adult pale in comparison to kid sick days. Back then, you watched cartoons and played Super Mario Brothers in your pjs. Mom doted on you with tea and let you eat whatever you wanted (to an extent). If you had a stomach bug, you were actually encouraged to drink soda. Sore throats meant ice cream. And for one glorious day (or however long you were sick) you were immune to homework and mean teachers. It was a true holiday, really, as long as you weren’t too too sick to enjoy it.

You didn’t worry about tomorrow, when all the work would need to be done anyway, or about whether people back at work really believe you’re sick (one of my irrational worries). Your main concern was whether you could coax another sick day out of the situation.

But being home alone in a two-room apartment is quite different. No mom around to scoop ice cream or make you soup, work piling up in your inbox, and daytime TV that’s way too depressing to watch. I was feeling pretty crummy about the whole thing, until Wednesday hit. Joe and I have been in a “raid the pantry” state lately, trying to see how long we can go without grocery shopping. So for lunch I resorted to pasta and frozen pesto cubes made from my mom’s garden basil.

I was bumbling around, feeling sorry for myself until the pasta hit the pesto. I kept mixing and mixing, thawing the frozen pesto in hot pasta, and the smells just lifted me. You know how they say scents can evoke memories more than anything else? Until now, that’s mostly worked for me with body scents—you know, someone’s wearing the same cologne or deodorant as an ex, or your aunt Stella, and suddenly you’re back on their couch, in their car or kitchen, or at prom night, even. You can hear the hum of your ex’s car stereo, or the drone of the evening news on your aunt Stella’s TV. I can see this happening with perfume, but it’s not what you’d expect from pesto.

Yet, there I was with my lonely laptop and pjs, stirring pasta, until I wasn’t. I was suddenly back home, in a houseful of family and chatter. As the oils melted and the pine nut scent lifted I could hear the clanking of my mom setting the table, my dad pouring wine, my brothers arguing over pro wrestling in the living room. I forgot how sick I was, or how behind at work, and just lost myself in a bowl of pasta. The next day, I did it again. It became my saving grace for the week. I’d lie in bed sniffling and hacking, dreaming of the next bowl of pesto that would take me away from all of this.

So, I don’t have a recipe for you this week because, well, I was sick. But if you don’t already do this, make sure you freeze the pesto you make from this summer’s basil! Freeze individual portions in ice cube trays and then store the cubes in a freezer bag. You never know when you’ll need some of that magic to transport you somewhere.

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3 Responses to “The Healing Powers of Pesto”

  1. Anne says:

    Thanks for giving me one more reason to love pesto!

  2. Celia says:

    Speaking of pesto ice cubes, I’d love a post on frozen treats for the summer… Any advice on freezing fruit?

  3. Andrea says:

    I just love this post, Maria! So beautifully written. You have inspired me to run home & make pesto cubes. Thanks for the idea & hope you are feeling better XO


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