Fear and Sweet Pea Crostini with Crispy Pancetta
We are all born with the same two fears and only two fears: falling and loud noises. All other fears must be learned.
Are you afraid of the dark? Nyctophobia
Do you have a fear of heights? Acrophobia
What about germs? Mysophobia
Well, you weren’t born that way.
I’m particularly intrigued by the, uhm, unusual ones:
Fear of flutes. Aulophobia
Fear of chopsticks. Consecotaleophobia
Fear of female genitalia. Eurotophobia
Fear of string. Linonophobia
Fear of relatives. Syngenesophobia
Maybe that last one isn’t so unusual.
Most of my fears are out of my control. I’m afraid that my sisters will die before I do, delivering the final blow to the orphan I became at twenty-nine. I’m afraid that Greg will cut his fingers off on the table saw like my dad did one snowy Christmas Eve. My fear of driving on any urban highway with more than three lanes is one that I presumably can control though I haven’t figured out how. Above all, I’m afraid that I’ll lose my mind without even knowing it. And research shows I’m not alone. A 2011 survey conducted by Alzheimer’s Research UK found that 31% of people feared dementia more than death or cancer.
My biggest fear smacked me in the face yesterday when I watched an elderly woman get on my standing-room-only bus. She stepped on with a sense of purpose and an able body–so able she declined every offer for a seat. She stood next to the driver and turned to face the front window. The driver and the old woman appeared to be having a conversation though I was too far away to capture the details. Suddenly the driver’s face tightened into a puzzled look. “Ma’am, are you trying to get home?” she asked, her voice raised.
The old woman nodded.
“Where do you live?”
The woman that had boarded the bus moments ago, looking so certain about her destination, was now scanning the faces of the nearby passengers as if we held the answer that escaped her. She clenched the handrail, her knuckles white against the dark skin of her worn hands. At last she turned to the driver and said, “I just want to go home.”
“And where is home? Ma’am, do you know where your home is?”
My heart was racing. This woman was likely someone’s mother, their grandmother, their neighbor, their friend. Did they know she’d gone missing, their own hearts racing with fear?
The bus kept moving, but time was suspended.
Finally the fog began to lift and the homebound woman recited an address to the driver. Was it her current home address or an address from days gone by? My stop was next. I made my way to the door squeezing past her. She smelled like lavender. The old woman and the driver were casually trading smiles and memories now. Peas. The old woman, stable once again, gestured with her hands as she described shucking peas when she was a child. “How I love me some peas.” The gap between our worlds narrowed with every word she spoke.
I easily found my way home though I could no longer take the twelve-year habit for granted. Did the old woman find her way home too? My fears of dementia have fed on her memory ever since.
Sweet Pea Crostini with Crispy Pancetta
This recipe is as versatile as they come. Trade out the peas for edamame (fresh green soybeans). Not a fan of goat cheese? How about some fresh grated Romano? Basil or tarragon can be substituted for the mint. Looking for a vegetarian option? Skip the pancetta and garnish them with some crispy shallots instead.
1/2 cup finely diced pancetta
24 baguette slices, 3/8-inch thick
2 cups fresh peas or frozen ones, thawed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the bread slices
juice from half a lemon
10 mint leaves, torn, plus more for finishing
1 clove garlic
2 ounces chèvre (Feta or Parmesan are nice too.)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- In a large skillet, cook the pancetta over moderate heat until crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate.
- For the crostini, heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Lightly brush both sides of the baguette slices with olive oil and grill each side until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- For the sweet pea puree, combine remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and puree.
- Top each crostini with a generous dollop of pea puree. Garnish with crispy pancetta and additional pieces of chopped fresh mint.