It was the first day in a long time when the sunlight didn't wake me. Most mornings, our bedroom lightens shade by rosy shade, as dawn's fingers steal around the corners of the curtains. I'll doze through familiar noises as they come into focus: birds chirping from their twiggy nest in our gutter, the clunk of the old red teapot as one of my roommates heaves it, full of water, onto one of the burners.
Instead, Merrick woke me. I recognized all of his words individually, like you might pick faces out of a crowd, but I couldn't understand the sum of their parts. How many shots were fired? Where are they now? What he said went something like this: the bombers stole a car and are somewhere in the city, and we're all supposed to stay at home today and I just remember asking back, what? what? Shaking the fuzz out of my ears as if sleep were the reason I couldn't understand, but no, it was just incomprehensible.
We usually think of anniversaries as reason to celebrate, but sometimes, like this Marathon season in Boston, they open old wounds. One year ago this week, an entire city sequestered itself so that our modern-day knights could catch two dragons. It was impossible now to ignore the confusion and heartbreak that had sharpened every day since the Marathon, the way I ignored the tightness in my chest, the way my breathing came fast and shallow, when I walked down Beacon Street past the flowers and running shoes and stuffed teddy bears left there in memoriam.
In my mind, the day of the capture is much clearer than the day of the bombing. It was sunny and clear, warm enough to go outside without a jacket, but we didn't go outside. The furthest we got was our front porch, where we listened to the sirens and stared uncertainly at our neighbors, who were all standing on their porches staring back. Sometime in the evening, the radio announced that they had found him, hiding in a beached boat, a mile or so from my apartment. With that news, hunger came all in a rush. We had scoured the apartment from top to bottom that day, I think so we could feel like we were doing something, and we had digested a lot of news, but very little food.
A week or so afterward, The Boston Globe ran an article about what people had cooked during the shelter-in-place restrictions. (The Globe's Food Editor had baked pastries and offered one to the sniper stationed on her front porch; he thanked her, but declined.) As you can imagine, people were craving comfort food, nourishment for body and soul, soups and roasts full of solace. Comfort food is different for everyone. Maybe it's what you ate when you were a kid, with a cache of happy memories that flood back at the first bite. Maybe it's salty or starchy or sweet in the best way, all gleeful self-indulgence.
Or, maybe it's whatever protects your bounding heart, and keeps you feeling safe.
This dish may not look like much, and that's because it's not. My comfort foods are usually rich and starchy (and, if it's been an extra hard day, cheesy), but we didn't have much in the house. This is just the sum of a few things we had kicking around, and we ate it with rosemary foccacia, and it was comfort food, somehow, the kind that protects the heart.
Zucchini and Chickpeas with Boursin
Serves 4, modestly
You could try substituting the Boursin with good quality goat cheese, if you like. In that case, I'd suggest adding another clove or two of garlic, and a handful of your favorite fresh herbs, chopped fine. Whatever herbs you add, don't skip the basil at the end; it adds flavor and freshness to the dish.
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cups zucchini (from about 5 medium zucchini), diced into 3/4-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 wheel of Boursin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Flaky sea salt, for serving (optional)
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the zucchini and cook until soft and golden at the edges, about 8 minutes. Avoid stirring the zucchini more than a couple of times to ensure that the pieces brown.
2. Add the garlic and black pepper and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas and Boursin and stir gently to combine. Turn the heat to medium-low and let cook for a minute to warm through.
3. Stir in the lemon juice. Transfer to plates and sprinkle with the basil and sea salt, if using.