Green Bean Salad with Capers and Red Onion & What I Want for My 40th Birthday

Oct 10, 2012

My almost-11-year-old is compiling a wish list for his birthday. He wants a drum set (this would help but not eliminate his drumming on any and every available surface with hands, chopsticks, shoes, etc). He’d like more Big Nate books.  Desires a computer only on which to write stories (no internet, no games). He’d like but won’t get an endless supply of candy (though since his birthday is right after Halloween, it sort of feels that way). He highlights the stuff he really wants to differentiate it from the items he only kind of wants (like green hair dye).  He is so intent on writing down exactly what he wants, noting all of his wishes as though if he doesn’t no one could possibly know what is on his list, even though what I know he wants more than anything is to feel better.

I am four days shy of my 40th, which is to say I am in the last few days of my 30s.  My sweet mother got my closest girlfriends together for a weekend of fun in NYC with walks, talks, amazing food, karaoke, and huge guffaws.  What else could I want?

I have a family who loves me, friends near and far, a career that while inconsistent and often exasperating brings me creative and intellectual fulfillment, a drooling beast of a dog, a warm house, a well-stocked pantry.  I laugh daily. I guess I wish for more of that.

And yet, on this day, I also wish for good hospital results, better news.

What we want as we get older – or at least what I want – aren’t things to bang on but more minutes in the day. More months in a year.  We cannot control those. We cannot work for the extra hours.  We can prioritize and enjoy and cherish. I’ll blow out candles with my husband and kids and friends this weekend.  There will be tiramisu and salted caramel cookies and pumpkin brownies.  And wishes.  Will I wish to publish more books? For a pair of boots that don’t squeak when I walk and sometimes – but not always – leak?

No.  I will close my eyes and wish for health.  For more time.

Green Bean Salad with Capers and Red Onion

This crisp and tangy salad pairs well with fish or a poached egg. Topped with nuts or tofu, it is a meal. Make sure you don't over-cook your beans - you want them crunchy and bright green.

2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed

salt (for water and for to taste)

1/4 cup olive oil

1-2 tsp Dijon mustard

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

2-3 tbsp capers

1 red onion, thinly sliced

Bring big pot of salted water to boil. Add beans. Set timer for 2 minutes (TWO!). Get a bowl of cold water and ice cubes ready in the sink. When beans have cooked, remove from heat and transfer to icy water to stop them cooking (the 3rd minute of cooking happens as you are transferring them). Meanwhile, make dressing. Mix oil, mustard, lemon juice well and pour over red onion. Drain beans in colander. Put beans in salad bowl and add red onion-dressing mixture. Sprinkle with salt if desired but remember, you are about to add capers which are also salty. Add capers. Toss and serve. You can also chill this in the fridge and serve cold or keep it warm and serve with dinner.


  1. Unprofessional Critic
    October 10, 2012

    Sending good thoughts your way. I know I say this a lot, but I have really valued your writing over the years. It inspires my own (though mine isn’t as good!). Happy birthday.

  2. Celia
    October 10, 2012

    I offer you the wise words of my husband, who once said to me, “Length of life is overrated. Quality of life is underrated.” Have a wonderful 40th! My first though was, “oh, she’s so young!” – I’m feeling very old at just a few years shy of 50.. 🙂

    PS. Beans are planted and growing, so I’ll be making your salad! x

  3. Abby
    October 10, 2012

    Sending healing wishes your way!! Here’s to a healthy and peaceful year for all.