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Summer Pasta With Shrimp

I clearly remember the first time I was presented the opportunity to choose. I was ten and had been taking both ballet and riding lessons for several years. It was time to pick between the two; I could no longer do both. Many kids face this dilemma because ballet trains your toes to point while riding is all about sinking down into your heels, and doing both can counter each one's progress in young, developing legs. Regardless, the choice for me was so obvious that I thought it was a joke. Like some cruel adult game that parents play on their kids as a way of retaliating for all of the selfish things kids inflict on their parents. But I quickly realized that it was a legit chance to exercise my right to choose. And I didn't hesitate to pick horses.

The choice was simple because I hated ballet. When I was really little, ballet was a fairly even playing field. We all donned our little pink leotards and shuffled around in our little pink shoes and pink tights. But as the years progressed in Martha Mahr's ballet class and we moved on to the powder blue leotard and then red, the divide between the girls who had talent (everyone but me) and those who did not (me!!) grew to an embarrassingly wide gap. Ms. Mahr's school fed young dancers to professional ballet companies. She was strict and unforgiving. With not an ounce of fat on her dancer's body, she ruled with a stick that came down hard if you didn't perform. I really tried. And I wanted to be good like all of my friends. But I simply didn't have the discipline or the natural ability. My leotards hung off my scrawny little frame, my tights bunched around my ankles and there was always some errant curl popping out of my slicked back bun.

I'm not sure what color leotard came after red because I would never wear it. Ms. Mahr made it clear to my mom that I wouldn't be moving on to the next level with all of my friends. My mom enrolled me in a summer school for dance hoping for a miracle. But this square peg was never going to fit into the black hole that was ballet for me. Mercifully I had riding, which came easily to me. I loved horses, I loved my friends at the barn. I loved the intoxicating smells and everything else that came with this wonderful sport. No brainer - forty years later and I'm still riding.

As a stepmother and a boss, I realize the importance of setting young people up for wins. Whether my mom intended to or not, that choice defined who I would become as an adult. Riding has taught me so much - the bond with an animal, the thrill of winning and the respect paid to those who beat you. The ease with which I move around a horse feels like a choreographed dance to me. And so does cooking in my kitchen.

With Marvin Gaye playing in the background and Jeff and the kids watching sports on TV in the next room, I can glide from the cutting board to the stovetop, the fridge to the sink and out onto our deck to snip fresh herbs. With so many amazing fresh ingredients at the farmers markets, summer is my jam. Corn is coming into season as are tomatoes. Peaches sit in the window sill to ripen. And Mitch, the Valrhona Shrimp guy, is always on hand with fresh Georgia shrimp. I love cooking up fresh pasta or a delicious salad. My improvised dance around the kitchen probably doesn't exhibit any more grace than I had at age ten. Some folks have it and some don't. But Jeff thinks I'm a good dancer. Bless him.

Summer Pasta

1 Lb. Fresh shrimp peeled and seasoned with salt and pepper

4 Ears corn shaved off the cobb

1 Crate cherry tomatoes sliced in half

handful of fresh basil rough chopped

handful of fresh mint rough chopped

2 T olive oil

2 T butter

1 C white wine

Salt/pepper to taste

1 Lb fresh pasta (we used chickpea spaghetti)

Cook pasta as directed (10 minutes if dry and two minutes if fresh)

Peel and clean the shrimp. Heat olive oil over medium high in a heavy bottom pan. Toss in shrimp and saute until just pink. Toss in tomatoes and corn and give a good stir. Pour in wine and turn to high heat. Cook out the alcohol for about 2 minutes. Toss in butter and fresh herbs.

Toss in pasta and stir until incorporated, salt and pepper to taste

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