It’s not often that things on TV are pretty much exactly the same in real life.
Last week I sat on a jury for a five-day trial. The defendant was accused of 24 counts of crime, including first-degree rape and possessing a weapon when he wasn’t allowed to possess a weapon.
(Fun fact: the defendant’s last crime was prosecuted by Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 1993. Federal drug charge.)
I have never sat on an actual jury; I have been called for jury duty three times in my life, and mostly it’s just lots of sitting around and watching movies like How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days and Avatar. This time was different, and I was quickly seated as Juror #4 by noon on my first day of reporting, then sent home until Monday when the trial would begin.
Everything about the trial was pretty much what it looks like on TV: the dramatic opening and closing statements, the cross examination, the witnesses getting testy with the defense attorney, and, finally, conflict (and resolution) in the deliberation room.
Time seemed strangely fluid as well; hours would pass in the courtroom in what seemed like minutes, but in the deliberation room, every minute was an agony of waiting. At the end of the day we would emerge from our windowless room, cram ourselves into the elevator, and then emerge at the corner of St. Paul and Lexington, blinking against the too-bright sunshine of the late afternoon, at the height of rush hour to crawl our way home.
Of all the things that stuck in my mind that week, one in particular stands out. Whenever the lawyers had to gather something or find something that meant the action had to pause briefly, they would say, “Court’s indulgence,” and the judge would nod, indicating that she was cool with the wait.
I don’t know why, but I love this saying. It’s a respectful request for permission to pause while you gather your thoughts, something we could all use every now and then.
One day when I came home it was stuck in my head like a mantra, playing over and over as I fed the dogs and made dinner. On that night, it was hot outside and the back door was open, letting in a feeble breeze (and lots of flies, which drives The Black Dog crazy, an admittedly short trip). It had been an especially long day, nine to five listening to a case about rape and gun violations, and I wasn’t particularly interested in making something complicated for dinner or turning on the stove.
Court’s indulgence: I remembered my preserved lemons, which were ready and waiting.
Court’s indulgence: There were some small, sweet yellow, red, and orange peppers in the crisper, along with half a red onion and some arugula that I wouldn’t even need to wash.
Court’s indulgence: A bomb shelter’s worth of canned beans in the coolness of the basement.
Et voila. Dinner, eaten with the court’s indulgence, on the balcony in the back of the house as the evening wore on and the sun sank low.
White Bean, Sweet Pepper, And Arugula Salad With Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon (rinse to remove salt and also strip away the squishy flesh)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup best-quality olive oil (it matters)
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper (I like a lot of pepper)
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
One large red pepper, chopped, or five small multi-color pepper, chopped
1/2 large red onion, sliced
Handful of arugula per salad
Make things easy on yourself and mix this all in the same bowl. I used a medium-sized round white Corningware bowl.
Place first five ingredients in bowl and mix together. Add beans, peppers, and onions and stir to combine.
To serve, place a large handful of arugula in a bowl, then top with beans. If you feel the need, you can drizzle with more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, but mix it all around and taste before you do that.
Beans are even better the next day, chilled and then brought to room temp before serving.