green surprises

He had long curled up shoes and a tall hat with a Pilgrim’s gold buckle on the front and even though he was forever drenched in cocoa, he had an odd smell of mothball, or dust, or mold. For years there was a little green man living in the bottom of my chocolate milk mug and this was how I imagined him. As a kid, my nightly ritual was pretty uneventful: bath time, pajama time, being tucked into bed and then read to. The closure to the day was topped with a frothy mug of chocolate milk. This surely seemed to be a treat: chocolate (albeit mixed with milk) is always a good thing. However, as rituals go, my sister and I soon caught on that this was the last step before the horrendous, curtain-dropping, impossible silence of lights-out darkness, and so, soon enough, the chocolate milk drinking slowed down to a turtle’s pace.My mother, no doubt on a light-hearted whim of ingenuity mixed with complete desperation, put an unforgettable spin to our chocolate milk drinking experience by making the event an unbelievably interesting one that demanded our complete and quick cooperation. One muggy, late night, after nestling next to us on our chocolate milk stained daisy sheets, mom absconded our impressionable six and seven-year old minds with the tale of The Little Green Man that lived at the bottom of our mug. She never explained how this little man could live at the bottom of my mug AND my sister’s mug, but it was a detail that, at our tender age, we easily missed. If we drank the chocolate milk fast enough, we were promised the chance to catch a glimpse of him. (No explanation as to what would happen to him if we were slow drinkers.)While I didn’t grow up to be 5’11” (despite my countless prayers to Brooke Shields while clutching her image on the cover of Seventeen magazine and begging to be just like her), I am confident there isn’t one calcium-deprived inch in my entire bone structure thanks to mom’s tactic. Chocolate Milk Speed Drinking became my nightly obsession from then on. Armed with an unhealthy competitive edge, an infallibly wild imagination, and a total and unwavering trust in my mother (what was I thinking?) I became determined to meet this little man, and later, his family, for he must have a family, children, a village…something (remember the vivid imagination part).Never once did the notion dawn on me that this could perhaps be false. I even had moments where I would swear, SWEAR, I had caught a glimpse of him: his finger, his foot, the top of his head, just barely speeding away to the bottom of my cinnamon-colored glazed mug with a chip on the handle.”Saw him!” I would shout with the same glee and triumph aunt Zelda yelled BINGO.”Where?” my sister and mom would chime in, my sister clearly aggravated by my apparent victory. And of course, as easily as I had spotted him, he was once again gone, seeking refuge inside the murkiness of my nutrition. I know mom must have wondered how long the enthusiasm for all these near-misses would last or, at best, how many more paralyzing bouts of brain freeze from my chilled speed drinking I would tolerate. Luckily for her, I appeared resilient in the light of my daily disappointments, becoming more adamant and determined that in the next chocolate-drinking round, I’d be fast enough.You know the end of the story. I wasn’t fast enough, in all sense of the word. I started to catch on and become suspicious at about age 28 (so I’m a slow learner), when my husband questioned my incessant and desperate consumption of dairy beverages. Even still, after the shock rubbed off, I still like to pretend I see him escape through the invisible trap door at the bottom of my mug. I just can’t help myself. That tiny moment of hope and trust and delicious chocolate milk is one I am not so willing to give up.This month another man in green is being celebrated. This one does have a name and an identity: he is St. Patrick and comes from the grand ole isle of Ireland. Being one-sixteenth Irish myself, I deem it a privilege to eat some tasty Irish grub in his honor. Of course, I’ll have to skip the beer and wash it down with a cold, tall glass of chocolate milk instead. You never know who might be there at the bottom of it.Warm Cabbage Salad with Bacon And Roquefort (adapted from Sara Moulton, The Food Network)A delightful treat, using two Irish favorites: cabbage and bacon! This salad is flavorful and rich and can be served up as an appetizer or alongside a meal. 4 ounces thick-sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch piecesfreshly ground pepper1/4 cup dry white wine1 small shallot, finely minced1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustardsalt, to taste3 cups finely sliced green cabbage3 cups finely sliced red cabbage

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