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Cooking With Myra: Enjoy life's simple pleasures

By Victoria Advocate
March 21, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 21, 2011 at 10:22 p.m.

Pasta with Leeks, Spinach and Bacon

Pasta with Leeks, Spinach and Bacon

12 oz. of pasta, cooked al dente*

4 slices of bacon, chopped

3 zucchini, chopped

3 whole leeks, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 Tbsp. butter

1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped

4 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, shaved

Cook pasta, drain, toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil; and set aside. Saute chopped bacon in a skillet until fat is rendered and it starts to brown. Remove bacon and drain on paper towel. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to skillet. Add zucchini and saute about 4 minutes. Remove from skillet; and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to skillet and saute leeks; cook for 8 minutes; remove from skillet; set aside. Add garlic, spinach and 1 tablespoon of butter to skillet. Saute until the spinach is wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in Parmesan shavings. Toss all vegetables and bacon with pasta. Serve with Parmesan shavings over the top.

*I used a thin spaghetti pasta.

By Myra Starkey

Sometimes, it is the simple things in life that are the most fulfilling. Most people would probably agree with that, but it seems that we all tend to complicate our lives by seeking new experiences.

We somehow think that the pleasure we might obtain from something new will be better than what we get from something more familiar.

For example, you may have a favorite barbecue joint that consistently makes it just right; great smoky flavor, tender except kind of crispy charred on the outside; lean, but still with a little fat, so that it doesn't taste too dry and slow cooked so long that it almost falls apart.

Can you get a mental picture of that? Is your mouth watering? Yet every now and then, we feel like we need to try someplace new, as if that place may have a better way to cook meat. What I am trying to write about is the joy that comes from some of the simple things in life. Except now, I am thinking about really good barbecue.

As I get older, I find that I am happier with things that are more familiar and less complicated. Perhaps it is because I realize how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away. But mainly it is just that I have already tried lots of new things, and they really aren't much better than what I had before.

Did I already mention that well-cooked barbecue is a simple pleasure?

When I was young, I never read the obituaries. My parents would often sit at the table and discuss who died and who they were related to. They would recount how this friend or that had been diagnosed with cancer. I probably rolled my eyes thinking how very old you had to be to be concerned about such things. I would listen to my dad talk about the economy, or about how politicians were ruining our country, and I thought how boring my parents' life must be to worry about business or government. They were fairly frugal and often would tell us, "make hay while the sun shines" and the statement meant absolutely nothing to me.

Last week, I was working in the clinic as I have for the past 20 years or so. The waiting area was full of patients, and an elderly gentleman approached the counter and asked if he could see one of the doctors. He coughed deeply, presumably to demonstrate his illness, and I passed him a clipboard with the required paperwork that he needed to complete. He commented on the number of patients and asked if we had been busy all day. I indicated that there seemed to be a lot of bronchitis going around, and he chuckled and said, "Well, you have to make hay while the sun shines."

I have never farmed hay. I do know that hay can't be cut and baled when it is wet. As best as I can tell, this saying likely means that when an opportunity arises for some need to be met and the time is right, then be productive and simply do it.

This old fellow and my parents were all likely influenced in their thinking by The Great Depression. That was like what we recently experienced in 2009 except that back then it was several times worse and lasted well over 10 years. Those folks learned the value of money, were not wasteful and were happy to have a job. They would not spend lots of time trying to decide if they liked their job or if they always felt valued and fulfilled in their work. They simply did their tasks and found satisfaction in a job well done.

I do enjoy working at the clinic. I'm not a doctor, so I may not have the actual joy of treating those in need, but I feel that I am part of the team that makes it all work. And when I have a day that I am busy the whole time and it finally ends and I am so tired, I feel a sort of contentment that I completed a hard day of work.

One nice thing about having kids grown and out of the house is that I don't feel pressured to go home and cook a big meal after a rough day.

Taylor doesn't expect me to do that, and we often eat simply. This recipe for Pasta with Leeks and Bacon is fairly easy to make with simple ingredients. If you have a garden, which is another simple pleasure in life, then you can add other vegetables as they ripen.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail myra@vicad.com.

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