By Steph Farrar
I’m not a fan of words and insinuations like “luck” or “blessed” but if there were better choices to describe my new living situation, I would use them.
After a rushed sale and escrow from our beloved home in L.A., we are currently living with my in-laws, and I can’t help but feel a certain tinge of misdirected embarrassment coupled with absolute cozy wonder: something I didn’t quite expect when we made the choice to post up here in Malibu while we shop for a new roof over our heads. I feel snubbed by my own nose, turned up at living the good life in a Nantucket paradise, fed by an angelic woman who prides herself on taking care of family.
When I’m in Malibu at the Farrar’s home, I feel like I’ve been working the fields all day, sweating from picking strawberries, fingers bleeding from thorny roses. I only feel this way because I’m fed like I deserve it. I”m fed like a farmer whose crop is vibrant and productive, and whose hard manual labor merits a farm-to-table rainbow of flavor and color. Pearly (or Captain), as we call Sam’s mother, is the Masterchef of Sweetwater Mesa. She is den mother, head-of-household, gardener, seamstress, elegant hostess... the glue of the family. And I thank my stars she took to me so many years ago. Not just for the salads, but still...
I lived my elementary years on Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga, TN, with a rope swing in my front yard hung directly next to a Civil War canon, which permanently rests just next to several sun-drenched blackberry bushes. The vine-canopied lunch spot next to a small (now) koi pond hovered over a concrete table with a matching Southern-style lazy-susan. I can still taste my mom’s award-winning (mainly in size) zucchini, corn and peppers brushed with homemade butter, served with filets from my grill-master father. That old stone house was built over two hundred years ago and is still as strong as any fortress I’ve ever seen. It was haunted too, as you can imagine. Just like the taste of the summer vegetables, I can still feel that friendly ghost in my closet.
Growing up with a sparse yet plentiful garden on a battlefield Ridge, I never thought a California beach town could ever produce such substance, such homely, good ‘ole times-like warmth, until I stumbled upon Pearly’s garden. I love that our little girl is just the right height to pick the hard-to-reach tomatoes, and that as she ruffles the leaves, that tomato scent I wish to bottle fills the air.
I love the brisk walk to the end of the property where the large, protected grow boxes flaunt peppers, tomatoes, onions, lettuces, dozens of herbs for dinner: lamb chops and mashed potatoes, simple greens. Just beyond the scarecrow, her neighbors are making honey, boasting several large Warre harvest boxes, full of bees. Pearl’s garden is just beneath the hives, so you can imagine how her harvest fares.
After all these years, I discovered the thing I like best about Pearly’s salad: control. The way she plates a salad gives the grazer full control of what she wants and doesn’t want, and how she wants to dress it. I tend to use more lettuce than necessary in my salads. The good stuff always ends up at the bottom of the bowl. But Pearly places all the ingredients on a flat platter, including the lettuce. She lets you decide what you add to your plate and how you dress it. You’re the boss. Just greens and dressing? Great, have at it. Throw in some grilled bacon wrapped bananas, warm bread and cheese, and a gamut of marinated olives and gherkins, you’ve got yourself a Pearly lunch.
Let yourself feel lucky... and keep counting those blessings.
Pearly’s Malibu Salad #1
Nice handful arugula
Small bunch of bitter greens
Leaves of two mint stalks, chopped
6 oz sliced ham
6 oz sliced roasted turkey
2 plums, sliced
1 peach, sliced
6 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
2 large heirloom ttomatoes, sliced
1/2 red onion, chopped l
eaves of two basil stalks, chopped
10 snap peas, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
fresh warm crunchy bread
10 oz. jarlsberg cheese
white balsalmic vinegar
salt and pepper
Layer the arugula, bitter greens and mint on a platter.
Roll ham and turkey, add to platter.
Place cut plums, peach, mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, red onion, peas, celery and carrots around the platter, creating a colorful array.
Serve sliced jarslburg with warm bread, chutney, onions... any salty addition you prefer.
Pile your favorites on a plate. Drizzle with oil and vinegar and season as you like.
Or don't. You're in control!