Cooking With Myra: Salad just in time for summer

By Myra Starkey
May 20, 2014 at 12:20 a.m.

Summer endive salad with ginger vinaigrette

Summer endive salad with ginger vinaigrette

Last weekend, I was called on to watch 8-month-old Leah and 4-year-old Layla. This task lasted from early morning until late afternoon. I found out that I was not in such great physical shape.

I hate to admit it, but I just can't find the time or the motivation to go to the gym or even go on walks. So my stamina is not what it once was. Who would have thought carrying a baby on your hip would make you sore? I guess I haven't babysat an infant for at least 20 years.

And I had also forgotten how to answer questions that a 4-year-old girl asks, such as "Why is that towel wet?" "Why does your dog have curly hair?" and "Why does your cousin live with you?" I had already told her that Taylor was my husband. She then switched to calling him my father. At least she thinks I am young.

A young doctor and his wife were in town to visit us and to look for a house. Javier will be working at our clinic starting this summer. Ruth is the mom of these two adorable little girls, and she will be a stay-at-home mom while her kids are small. They needed a home, so Alfred, their real estate agent, took them all over town from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening. Taylor went along to offer advice and give moral support.

I volunteered to watch the kids Saturday because I knew that would help them look at houses quicker. I became the official babysitter. I was so overwhelmed that I had to call in reinforcements (Janet and Charlotte) to help because it has been a very long time since I took care of a baby. Eventually, I began to remember life with children and all the tidbits of wisdom I had tucked away all those years ago.

Leah is a perfect baby, never crying or fussy. She smells like baby shampoo and baby powder. She has long eyelashes, curly black hair and large, dark eyes. She is petite, and although she doesn't weigh very much, carrying her for several hours made me a little sore.

She was happy to hang out in her playpen with her toys to keep her busy. It is so cute to watch an infant stare in fascination at some little stuffed animal or noisy, colorful rattle, gnaw on it and then stare at it again. I was happy she was content in her pen. I relocated it to the kitchen while I prepared supper.

Layla is a rambunctious 4-year-old who wants to know about everything around her. She loves the color pink - whether it is in crayons, clothes or flowers. She even asked me if I could make her some pink pancakes, and I probably could have with a little notice. As soon as her parents left that morning, she asked if she could have a (real) Coke. I told her we didn't have those in the house, and besides, sugar drinks might rot her teeth. She seemed alarmed by that and agreed to water.

When she first arrived at our house, she asked me if we were going to bake cookies again. At their first visit a year ago, I made chocolate chip cookies with her. She also wanted to make "blaunies" (brownies), since she noticed I had a box of mix on the cabinet. Her parents are from Puerto Rico. She explained to me that her skin was light brown and then proceeded to ask me why my skin was white and blue. I was confused about her comment until I looked at my arm and noticed the blue veins under my thinning skin that she was pointing to. Kids are painfully honest.

On Saturday, Layla wanted to play in Hannah's old playhouse. She told me that she wanted to have a tea party, but when we opened the door, the little house was very dirty and dusty from years of not being used. She wrinkled her nose and announced that the house was too dirty to have a tea party, so I reached for the bucket and some scrub brushes, and we cleaned house.

We scrubbed miniature windows and the furniture, and at last, we were ready. Janet joined us with Leah, and we sipped on pink tea in tiny white tea cups, ate hot dogs with toothpicks and spread cheese on small crackers. She was most impressed by the pink-flowered toothpicks I found in a drawer. Layla showed us how to hold the teacup with our pinky fingers pointing out.

Hoping she might get tired if we went inside, I brought out a craft project. I had punched multi-colored flowers out of paper and gave them to her to glue onto a large sheet. Leah fell asleep, but Layla finished her craft and was ready for an afternoon swim. We put on her bathing suit, which was a pink floral design, and I put on mine, and we went swimming.

The day was warm and sunny, and I was pretending I was a grandmother. I loved hearing her laughter and the giggling of her baby sister. At the end of the day, I was amazed how tired I was. It has been so long since I took care of "little people."

I know it will be several years before I am an actual grandmother. In the meantime, I am looking forward to practicing my skills with Leah and Layla. I am also going to work on my tan, since I hate being blue and white, especially for summer.

Spend your evenings outside enjoying the long days by saving time in the kitchen. Prepare a delicious salad for your evening meal. I have recreated a salad from Doris Metropolitan in New Orleans. Ask your grocer for Belgium endive. Pears or crisp apples can be used. Be sure to rub lemon juice on them to keep them from turning brown.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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