I live in Suburbia Disturbia. I poke fun at the suburbs because like any good comedian, I go where the material is. I’ve mostly lived a more urban life which suits my eccentric energy better.
The things I do love about the suburbs are the things that disturb me. It’s so perfect. We have trails and parks and lots of rules to keep the riff raff out (which is sometimes us, when we get those nasty letters about our lawn) and a threat from the clubhouse secretary to be banned from the swimming pool for showing up twenty minutes early. Her exact words were “I will decode your pool key right now.” Unlike the enviable neighborhood of Desperate Housewives where the women know it’s happy hour somewhere and they gossip over daytime poker parties, we are the BlackBerry mom capital of the world.
In case you don’t know what a BlackBerry mom is, they used to be called soccer moms, a general term designated to over-committed parents who structure life a certain way. They still drive their kids to the soccer or baseball field or dance class where they proceed to text the time away. Extra curricular activities abound, forcing parents to divide and conquer, which has created the BlackBerry dad. It’s life scrubbed clean, protected, and disciplined. It’s full of expectations for safety, sameness and conformity. If the suburbs were a food, they would be Kraft macaroni and cheese! Because in order to get to all these activities, dinner is fast, mobile and not the focus.
This is the part where I cock my head, close an eye and search to see how much sense that makes. I have a side of me that wants to stop after school activities or at least limit them so families can eat together.
I grew up with reckless parents who created a chaotic mess out of all of our lives on a daily basis. I wish I could pretty this up, but there is nothing pretty about attending eight grammar schools because my parents couldn’t settle their differences. A beautiful suburban home with a weed-free lawn and a two car-garage was no where within reach, but it contained more than my wish list.
All I wanted was one simple row house with an address that made sense to take to memory. I wanted a bedroom to myself, or at least a bed and a full bookshelf, and a quiet time to read and to dream. I didn’t require toys, a bike or my own phone.
The only thing that made me happy and fearless was the one hour of the day that my parents laid honor to, the dinner table.
The dinner table was the only thing they consistently did right amidst so many consistent wrongs. Sometimes there was no money for school shoes. But there was always money for food. There were often eccentric dinner guests and aunts and uncles that made me laugh, the kind of people that don’t usually move out to the suburbs. I had a fondness for oddballs, misfits and people who didn’t live the perfect life, married with 2.5 children, a dog, a fence and family calender on the wall.
The dinner table was oxygen to a dying family during a time of happier sitcoms where all families marched to the same beat, except ours. I can’t help but wonder what it’s like not to have the experience that kept me sane, the one hour of the day I lived for. It was more than food to soothe the soul. Conversation served as an outlet to debate, laugh, unload, even confront.
While I like eccentric and weird people, I don’t like dangerous people. Halloween used to scare me. Big rats come out to play and it’s not always a safe time. But in my perfectly planned suburb where rules abound and there isn’t a dog poop or piece of litter to be found, Halloween is a safe place and probably the best day of the year in the neighborhood.
The streets come alive as a big parade of parents and children venture out door to door for a BlackBerry free night of mingling. And, I don’t know why the suburbs are like this (part of the disturbia for me) but, when taking children out door to door, it’s the only time I get a peak inside of the homes I drive by. It’s all part of the busyness created in this kind of world.
So, I got to thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to have a nice treat for the parents ( a different kind of blackberry) as they take on the day, fighting extra traffic, misfit costumes, and door to door walking. In my world, food is still the most memorable way to make a new friend and restore sanity.
If you are like me, you like little bites with a nice surprise that awaken my senses and goes well with a glass of bubbly or a cocktail. The sweet and salty combination of jam and bacon is just one of those bites. In this case it’s smoky, sweet and salty with a little crunch and the satisfaction of crusty bread. The surprise is the caramelized shallots nestled inside blackberry preserves. The brie is an optional layer. These can be made without cheese and are very good that way too.
Use the very best preserves you can find. These are from the Loveless Cafe and it’s hard to find better.
- 12 slices sour dough or similar crusty bread
- 4 to 8 slices prosciutto (depending on size, you need enough to crisp and crumble onto 12 toast slices)
- 4 large shallots
- 1 tablespoon butter (more if need to caramelize shallots)
- 4 tablespoons blackberry preserves
- mascarpone or triple cream cheese
- (Cheese is optional: Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery is a favorite, but you can try blue cheese, brie or other similar choices.)
- Fresh thyme for garnish
- Heat oven to 400 degrees
- Place prosciutto on baking pan and crisp turning at 5 minutes. Bake for 10-15 minutes, enough to get a good crumble. Set aside.
- Heat bread in oven for 5 minutes.
- Slice in ½ slices on diagonal.
- Melt butter in small frying pan.
- Slice shallots and put in pan on low heat, until caramelized. They should be very soft, browned.
- Add in blackberry preserves.
- Spread very light serving of cheese on toast. Spread preserves mixture.
- Top with crumbled prosciutto and garnish with a little fresh thyme.