On September 3, 2019, ten days past her due date and heralded by simultaneous cheers and tears of joy, Poppy O’Regan Bischel came into this world. Weighing 10.6 lbs (yes, 10.6 lbs) and sporting a thick head of strawberry-blonde hair, she brought with her an undeniable and generous presence.
As labor is an experience best shared by the person who went through it, I’ll keep the details to a minimum. For the entire month before the due date, all of us were on tenterhooks, ready to drive to Sutter at any second. My coworkers dubbed those weeks, “Baby Watch 2019.” In the end, Bailey had to be induced—Poppy was just way too comfortable in there. Coincidentally, she was placed in the same room in which my mom had given birth to Emma almost 22 years earlier to the day, September 4, 1997. Mom wasted no time telling each nurse about this incredible coincidence—it was as though Emma was a celebrity.
As with most first births, it was a long process. Emma, Mom, Matt, and I were all there, helping wherever possible and simply waiting if there was no help to be given. Being at a birth is truly amazing—it’s serious and gut-wrenching and hard, but it’s also incredibly inspiring and honest and raw. I watched my sister, someone who laughs more than anyone I know, who I still remember as a girl wearing mardi-gras beads and board shorts daily, barreling through life without a care in the world, find a different side of herself, one that wasn’t laughing. It’s tough to watch someone you love go through something that difficult—we all wanted to take some of her burden, but she was on a road she had to travel alone. (And because I can’t deny an LOTR comparison when it’s this obvious: it was like Frodo knowing he had to carry the ring by himself and, clearly, we were Sam.)
Finally, after hours of waiting and pushing and hoping, Poppy was born at 10:30pm on Tuesday. Our excitement, joy, and sheer relief was palpable as we all lay eyes on her for the first time—the chunkiest newborn any of us had ever seen.
I meant to bring this meal as my lunch for the birth, since no one knew how long it would take; it ended up being the only thing I forgot to bring. It would have been a comfort to me, sitting in a dark room with hope and tension grappling in my chest. It’s a perfect representation of the season Poppy was born into—to me, tomatoes and corn are pure summer. Combined with brown rice, arugula, black beans, and avocado, the meal becomes satisfying, hearty, and not too hot to eat when the temperatures are still reaching the 90s.
At midnight on September 3, after an exhausted drive home, I ate my forgotten lunch standing alone in the quiet kitchen. I thought of Bailey’s strength as she faced what must have felt like an impossible task; and Poppy, small but solid, blinking in the light that was dim to us but to her must have felt like the sun.
Summer Grain Bowls
serves 6 • adapted from Dinner by Melissa Clark
1 cup brown rice, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed in a mortar and pestle or grated
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp salt
a scant 1/2 cup olive oil
2 ears fresh corn, shucked and “hairs” removed
1 15oz can of black beans, rinsed, or 2 cups freshly cooked black beans
1 basket (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
1–2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
First, cook the brown rice. Place the rice, a pinch of salt, and plenty of cold water in a small pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and turn the heat to low. Keep the pot simmering lightly for 20-30 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Drain and set aside.
Set your oven to broil. Place the shucked corn on a baking sheet and broil, turning a couple of times (10 min total). Let cool until you can handle the corn without burning yourself, then slice vertically downward from end to end to remove all of the kernels.
Mix the dressing: whisk the garlic, cumin, lime juice, and salt together in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
Mix the warm rice, beans, corn kernels, sliced tomatoes, and dressing together in a large bowl. Mix in the pine nuts, if using.
Prepare the bowls: add a handful of arugula to each bowl. Sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice and olive oil over each and toss lightly. Add a couple large spoonfuls of the rice mixture to each bowl, then top with plenty of diced avocado.
This meal is vegetarian, but if you need more protein feel free to serve boiled eggs or chicken alongside.