On Naming (and on Eating Vegetables)

I have been working, a subject so eye-glazingly dull I cannot bear to even discuss it. And so I won’t. Instead, I would like to share with you a piece of family news and a small recipe, one that everyone should have.

I can only begin the family news, though, by reflecting for a second on the names we use when we write about our families. (The names I use, I mean.) Although my sons love the idea of being known all over the world by their real names, I have long had a superstition about using those names, as though to say their first names might somehow be bad for them.

But I have just this moment realized that is silly. They don’t care in the least if I use their names. And they know better than to go to a stranger who happens to know their name. The world, it seems to me, is not so dangerous that writing their actual names on my blog will put them at risk. (Except the risk that they might be deeply embarrassed by me, but that is a risk they will have to learn to Deal With.) In the end, I’m not sure why I ever thought — in that back of the mind, unexamined place all our fears live — there was any danger in using their names.

I’m quite proud of their names, in fact, because I chose them. My husband (he’d prefer to be referred to simply as my wonderful husband whom I was lucky to marry rather than one of the superbly unreliable men I dated throughout my career) and I agreed, before our children were born, that if they were girls I would choose their last name and he would choose their first names. And if they were boys, I would choose their first names and he would choose their last names.

As things turned out, I got to choose six names — a first and a middle for each of our three boys. He, on the other hand, simply had to get the spelling of his last name correct on their birth certificates, a simple enough matter, I’m sure you’ll all agree, compared to naming not just three boys, but two who are twins and, thus, need names that mesh, but do not actually rhyme.  (We have moved forward from the time when twins were named things like Colin and Rollin and Jessie and Bessie.)

I named then Charlie, Jack, and William, dear reader. (Charles, John, and William, in fact.) My inspirations were as follows: English kings, American guys, Shakespeare, my father, my brother, my husband’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather, his best friend, and my husband. I went this way because I felt it was important that they have a decent explanation for my decisions. You are named after several really fine men, including the man who wrote As You Like It struck me as preferable to, you are named after an actor who played the unreliable doctor in The Days of Our Lives.

The family news is that Jack, who is a singer, performed this weekend with the San Francisco Symphony. He had a solo — a brief piece in which he had to rise up and sing many very high notes — and he acquitted himself admirably. In fact, today in our local newspaper he is described as “excelling in his small assignment.” He’ll like that phrase because it seems so adult and professional.

This phrase, in addition to being part of my family news, has made me think about the aim of hard work. In the last week of grinding work, I’ve forgotten that in addition to actually just finishing my job I might consider how I could excel at some small part of it. Not the whole, long involved thing, but just a piece of it. As is often the case with the young ‘uns, we learn things from reading their press.

And now for the recipe, a little value-added week beginning thing for you.

Every single person who eats — which would include every one of us — should have a nice recipe for vinaigrette. I know I’ve described this before, but I’m going to do it again. And I’m also going to suggest that you consider making it in this enormous quantity. That’s because if you have lovely vinaigrette on hand, you’re far more likely to eat vegetables. Here it is:

Macerate together these things:

2 shallots diced small
2 cloves garlic — diced small
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2/3 cup vinegar (red wine, champagne, balsamic)
–let sit at least 30 minutes

add 1 cup olive oil
4 Tablespoons dijon — shake and drizzle

I’m going to suggest that you begin the week by (a) excelling in at least one thing you’ve been assigned to do and; (b) drizzling some nice vinaigrette on your favorite steamed vegetable.

And later in the week, after I’ve excelled in at least one small thing, or at least eaten quite a number of green vegetables, I’ll be posting the BlogLily Annual Report . It has actually been an entire year, shockingly enough, of telling you exactly what’s on my mind and it is now time to account for how that’s gone.