I knew it was going to happen sooner or later: I’m having bizarre stress dreams involving Huey the Wonder Horse, and they’re getting more frequent and weirder as the end of the month draws nigh. I’m signing the paperwork on him next weekend, and after that, he will be all mine. And I am thrilled about that, make no mistake. But oy! this is such a huge responsibility!
Up to this point, my stress dreams have been pretty standard fare: my career as a college student of one sort or another lasted for 13 calendar years. I therefore have an impressive spectrum of Student Stress Dreams from which to draw when my subconscious wants to freak out. I can dream that it’s the day of the final, and I haven’t studied for it. I can dream that it’s the day of the final, but I missed the exam, or that I got the day wrong and the exam was yesterday. I can dream that it’s the day of the final and I just realized that I thought I had dropped the course months ago, but didn’t, and now it’s take a final for a class I haven’t been attending, or get an automatic “F” on my transcript. I can dream that it’s a class I’ve been attending, and I’m there on the right day and the right hour, in the right room, but when I look at the test, I don’t recognize anything on it. I actually had that experience, for real, once – I was taking an information-systems course as an undergraduate, and the professor had some kind of mental breakdown between the end of the term and the final exam. She’d been showing signs of wear all along…I’ll never forget the day when the students in the other section told us about how she’d started screaming at them, and had thrown erasers, and then burst into tears and run out of the room. Wow. I’m sure that all of us were experiencing that sensation of impending relief at having actually finished the course…and then there is the final, which looked to have been written for another course entirely. Someone actually got up the nerve to ask, and the teacher gave us all an evil glare and told us to Take. The. Test. One of my previous incarnations is as an IT person, and if I was stumped by this exam, everyone else was going to be, too.
For a few moments, right up until my intrepid classmate summoned her courage to ask about the provenance of the exam, I was pretty sure that this was actually just another one of those god-awful College Student Stress Dreams, and that I’d shortly be waking up to the alarm and cursing the unrefreshing night’s sleep.
But no, it was real. Scary, huh?
Silly me, I thought these ghastly dreams would come to an end when I graduated with my Ph.D. After all, I would never need to take another exam at that point.
Naturally, I was wrong. They just…morphed. And suddenly, I was having dreams about showing up on the first day of class to face forty expectant students, and not being able to find the room. Or finding the room, and discovering that there were three times as many people trying to fit in there as there were desks. Or finding the room, but not having any syllabi to hand out. Or having syllabi, but finding they were for the wrong class. Or showing up for the final without the exams, or not having the system schedlue a room for the final. Or – and this is my most hated one – giving an exam and having the students ask me if it was for a different class. Damn that information systems professor, anyway, for providing fuel for this kind of thing.
So I clearly have ample stores from which to draw should my sleeping mind decide to express stress. Yet, I am finding, the prospect of imminent horse ownership is adding a new, unexpected, and highly creative layer.
I have dreamed that I was riding and I lost my contact lenses and was suddenly rocketing around the ring, effectively blind (this combines the themes of Frightening Responsibility with the perennial favorite I Have Lost My Contact Lenses Permanently). I have dreamed that I was riding and I forgot to buckle some piece of tack. I have dreamed that I was riding and the horse wanted to jump the ring.
But my favorite so far, again, because it combines several themes in a creative manner, is the dream where the saddle guru shows up (which will happen in a week and a half) with a truck full of saddles (so far, so good) only one of which will actually fit both me and the horse (unfortunately, not a low probability outcome) and that one saddle is made entirely of baby-blue leather with a faux-alligator finish with patent leather accents…i.e., Inexpressibly Hideous. And, of course, wildly expensive (which is also probably going to be true).
The thought of having to face a hideous textured-leather baby blue saddle every time I want to ride my horse – who is red – caused me to wake up in a Cold Sweat at 3am the other morning, and it was so horrifying that I couldn’t go back to sleep for an hour and a half. I have since worked hard to satisfy myself that this shop does not appear to carry any saddles in bizarre colors, or any saddles in leather with a bizarre finish. Pebbled leather, that’s fine. Grained leather, that’s find. But I draw the line at the alligator look, or patent leather anywhere in the picture.
In an effort to purge that horrible vision, I’m going to think about what I’ll serve for dinner tomorrow. This dish is absolutely unbelievable, and right now is the perfect moment to get everything you need, fresh from the Farm Stand. I don’t remember where I got this recipe, but I’ve been making it in September every year for ages.
Linguine with Pumpkin, Tomatoes, and Shallots
1 small sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½ inch cubes. (approximately 2½ cups)
3 shallots, thinly sliced
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of sugar
8-10 ripe Roma or plum tomatoes, cored and quartered
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound dried pasta (short robust pasta such as penne or farfalle is best)
1 cup grated pecorino cheese
Large handful of fresh basil, chopped
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a roasting pan with aluminum foil, folding it up to make a dam across (short way) and separating the pan into two sections. This is an important step – don’t skip it. Put the pumpkin chunks on one side of pan and scatter the shallots over them. Sprinkle with cloves and sugar, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Then add the quartered tomatoes to the other side of the pan. Scatter the garlic over the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Season both sides with salt and pepper and return the pan to the oven to roast for another 20 minutes or so. The pumpkin should be soft, but not mushy. Browning along the edges is desirable, but not necessary.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Put the pasta in a large serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Top with the roasted vegetables and any juices from the pan, a palm-ful of grated cheese, and the basil, and toss gently.
Serve immediately with the extra grated cheese.