When I was a little girl – my mother always bought season tickets for the symphony orchestra and took (dragged) me along. I had to get all dressed up in skirts or dresses and stockings and good shoes or boots. I had a little gold hair-band with pearls on it that dug in behind my ears and gave me a headache. And I had to behave which meant sitting absolutely still and listening. And not talking. Or coughing. Or sniffling. Or even yawning. It was painful.
I was usually the youngest person in the entire audience and in order to pass the time, I made up games. I used to count bald heads. Or count how many times the people around me coughed, or scratched, or yawned. Or see how many people were wearing spectacles or the colour green or fur coats. Or watch to see who was eating candies and then attempt to will them to make eye contact with me – in the hopes that someone would send something my way. (Once early on, a sweet old grey-haired gentleman smiled at me and sent a stick of chewing gum along the row for me – leaving me ever hopeful that it might happen again.)
Sometimes I watched the musicians – trying to figure out who was making what noises with their instruments – or wondering things about them like what they liked to eat or where they lived.
Then at intermission, my mother would ask me questions about what we had been listening to – to name the composer or the piece of music. And she would ask me if I’d heard the oboe, or the piccolo, or the French horn. I hated this line of questioning because outside of the obvious instruments like the harp or the piano, the violins or the drums – I really had no idea.
I know my mother was only trying to educate me. But I wished she would inflict this particular torment on my brothers – who never once had to attend a symphony concert.
So it surprises me now that I actually like classical music. And that I often tune my car radio in to classical stations to avoid all the talk and cacophony on other stations. Last week, I was driving along when the announcer introduced a piece by Gustav Mahler and I was transported back in time.
I remember Mahler because the conductor once told the audience that young Gustav Mahler composed his first real piece at age six. I was about seven at the time, and remember feeling hopelessly inadequate.
That early composition of Mahler’s was a funeral dirge combined with a polka. At that stage of his life, Mahler lived over a tavern next door to a funeral parlour. Though he could not have known at age six, that first piece, tragic and comic, basically foretold the story of Mahler’s life which was an endless series of traumas and triumphs.
I love that Mahler used the tragedy and trauma in his life to create some of the most beautiful, emotional music ever written. The elements of sorrow and joy juxtaposed, counterbalance each other to create harmony.
I know that none of this has anything to do with pea pesto. Except that, I recently made this to take to a potluck appetizer dinner. I knew there would be a lot of sinfully rich things and this healthy pea pesto was the counterbalance. I did also bring some stuffed dates and some champagne! But I like the simplicity of this pesto and how fresh it tastes. I like almost any kind of pesto – a concentrated way to eat greens.
Pea pesto works well as a dip (almost like pea hummus) with a sliced baguette but is also good served with pasta (or on crostini)- just add some grated pecorino or some other really tasty Italian cheese. Light the candles. Pour wine. Put on the Mahler. Enjoy.
1 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pinenuts – (can substitute walnuts)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (easily omitted for a dairy-free, vegan version)
Dump all the ingredients into your food processor. Whiz until it reaches the desired consistency – should be along the lines of hummus.