My friend Christy is completely lovely and wonderful and had been talking about starting an enneagram group for months. The first few times I heard her mention it, I pictured enneagram as some sort of scientology/new age pyramid scheme thing, I’m ashamed to admit. It actually doesn’t cost any money (so not a pyramid scheme), is not a weird cult, and instead has been an amazing tool to help me learn more about myself and the people I love, and how to have compassion for other people. A group of us have spent the last year meeting once a month at Christy’s house to learn about it and get feedback from each other about whatever was bothering us at the moment. In enneagram, there are nine personality types, and I won’t go into it too much because it’s way more complicated than that really, but I will say that I’m an 8, The Boss, The Asshole (they only imply that last title). Eights are aggressive, which doesn’t mean they punch you in the face, but does mean that they walk fast and do what they want to do and get shit done, often/occasionally at the expense of others needs or feelings. They convert most of their emotions into anger and they hate to be controlled. They’re leaders who always have a plan and bring energy to everything they do. I really didn’t want to be an 8. For the first several months I clung to the idea that I was a fun-loving 7, The Epicure (isn’t that a good title?). Sevens want to experience everything in the buffet of life and are full of charm and charisma. I thought I was that because I love to plan for new experiences and I like to make new recipes everyday and always keep things feeling exciting and fresh. But motivation is important, and I realized that I care more about trying new things and visiting new places because I want to be an authority on them. I want people to come to me with food questions and I want to know all the answers. So, 8.
On Friday at our last enneagram meeting, we watched a video of a panel of people, one of each of the nine personality types, talk about their numbers. The eight lady, when asked what she wished people knew about eights, said that we like information given to us in a straightforward way, and so we do that for others. Nobody else likes that, it turns out. When someone comes to you with a problem, sometimes they just want empathy, not for you to skip past that step and tell them what the solution to their problem is. I do this all the time, and it’s true. People hate it. It is mystifying and frustrating to me, but I think I get it now. When I was explaining this to Andy, he looked at me questioningly. “Remember at breakfast,” he said, “when you asked if you should take the kids to the grocery store while I took a shower or if you should wait so we could all go together? And I said, well of course we should all go together, because that’s the better option for you of those two options, and really you wanted a secret third option that was for you to go by yourself to Wheatsville? If you’re straightforward and direct, why not just say that?” I have no idea, Andy. Let’s chalk that one up to the feminine mystique.
Here’s what we ate this week!
Central Market Cooking School, Preserving Citrus Class with Cathy Barrow. Thai Flavored Citrus Salad with Spiced Candied Buddha’s Hand, Roasted Orange Salty Caramel Duck Breast with Basmati Rice, and Saute of Snow Peas and Julienned Carrot, Meyer Lemon Curd Shortbread Tart.
At 5 in the morning George started thrashing around next to me and chatting to himself. I kept my eyes squeezed shut and pretended to be asleep, hoping he’d somehow drift back off on his own. He didn’t. Instead, he made the same gagging swallowing sounds your dog makes for 30 full seconds before throwing up, and for the same reason. My slow-witted nighttime self managed to move just quickly enough to get his head over the edge of the bed so he could throw up on the carpet instead of on the sheets. I made no move to clean it up, and instead George and I fell back to sleep. The poor kid got a fever and slept on me much of the rest of the day, and Andy was really sick too, and I felt bad for them, I did, but I felt worse for me because I’m narcissistic and was so blue that I would have to miss the cooking class I’d been looking forward to for weeks. If just Andy or just George were sick I’d have felt ok about leaving them for a few hours, but leaving both of them, one to care for the other, plus another kid on top of that, felt cruel. I pouted to Andy that I guess I should call to cancel the class and he said no way, that he could totally do it. I demurred, but Andy insisted that it would be ok, so when the time came, I left, guiltily and also giddily.
The class was brilliant. I am fully obsessed with Mrs. Wheelbarrow and her life and how she spends her time. I want to be just like her, which sounds creepy, unless you know her and then you’d probably agree with me. I want to dedicate three days to candying citrus peel the right way so I can have it on hand to serve to my guests on delicate little plates at the end of a dinner party. I spent the class staring at her in starry-eyed amazement. At the beginning of the class she mentioned (while she was preparing a lemon squash) that you should never toss the zest or the juice of your citrus. If you’re just eating the flesh or using the juice, peel off the zest first and keep it in a bag in your freezer to toss into soups or stir fries, and extra juice can be frozen in an ice cube tray to use for later recipes. Isn’t that lovely? (Read her Washington Post article for more ideas for citrus).
And the food, you guys. You don’t have to cook in these classes. You get to sit comfortably with your food52 friends while the cooking school assistants bring you drinks, wine even, and generous portions of the food you’re seeing demoed in the kitchen. I couldn’t find a recipe online for the first course, but it was sublime and would be easy enough to replicate at home without a recipe- slice up a variety of citrus, toss it with a fish sauce-y vinaigrette, toasted coconut and salted peanuts or cashews, and handfuls of cilantro. You will want to eat it over and over again. The roasted orange salty caramel sauce over a crispy duck breast was everything good in the world. And you can serve it over crispy tofu too! And a big wobbly slice of lemon curd tart on top of that. I am completely confident that no one was happier to be in that class than me. I relished every stomach-bug/kid free moment of it. I raced home after the class was over and was delighted to see a happy George run out to meet me at the car, and Andy was feeling better too and everything was ok!
On Sunday morning I abandoned Andy again (feel free to judge me) and went out for a fancy brunch at Odd Duck with my best friend and roommate from college, Julia, who was in town from Boston for the weekend. It was so great. We ate pig face-stuffed parker house rolls and shredded goat with sweet potato tater tots while reminiscing about life in the Performing Arts House at BU. I have, legitimately, the worst memory in the world and it was so fun to be reminded of all the stuff we cared about back then. A little dirt for you. Julia and I lived together for three years, until I illegally moved in with Andy for senior year, and we had a rotating cast of characters share the 3 bedroom suite with us in that time. One girl, a hippy chick who I would probably have really liked if I didn’t have to live with her, had all the sex with her boyfriend. Which, yay, good for her! Except that she lived in the front room that you had to walk through to get into your own room. Also, this fellow had the worst BO of any person, alive or dead. When they had sex, the smell would fill the room like a thick, choking gas. I’d unlock the front door and it would hit me in the face and I’d know to keep my head down and walk briskly through the room while they hastily covered themselves with a sheet. Another girl was the sort that never paid for her toilet paper and instead took yours and that shit fills me with rage. I am a naturally uptight person. I was inclined to hate her for being annoying and stealing resources, but also, she would leave bottles of douche laying around the bathtub. Julia and I would see it and say, what the fuck? Why is she leaving this out for the world to see? When she moved the douche bottle to be right next to our toothbrushes by the sink we decided to say something to her about it. It turns out the bottle was just in French and it was shampoo or something and we are the stupidest people in the world. Also Julia reminded me that there was someone that I lived with for a whole year whom I had completely forgotten. That’s messed up. Anyway, it was so much fun to see you, Julia! Come back to Austin so we can play Settlers of Catan again and glare at the people who steal the longest road card.
I have no picture of dinner because I think we didn’t eat one? I don’t remember. The kids both fell asleep before 7, which is unheard of, and I was so happy, until they both woke up at 9 and stayed up until after midnight and everything was horrible again.
Parmesan Chicken, Northern Spy’s Kale Salad. Probably because of being sick, or lack of sleep from the night before, Monday didn’t go well. I had to stop the kids from hurting each other every minute of the day, and we couldn’t go anywhere because George still seemed sickly. Henry was in such a bad mood and I was angry with him for being so damn difficult, and I knew he was going to have a problem with the Annie’s mac mixed with broccoli I wanted to make for lunch, so I said he could eat that or he could eat whatever he could put together himself from the snack shelf and refrigerator. He was furious, but then decided that he would make his own lunch, dammit. And nothing cold or snacky either. He was going to heat up some leftover Mexican rice on the stove. I stood by the pot of noodles I was making while he dragged a chair into the kitchen, pulled down a giant pot, opened the tupperware, dumped the rice into the pot, and then puzzled over how he would turn the heat on on the stove. I didn’t want to help, but also didn’t want him to burn himself, so I turned the stove on for him. But he didn’t know to get a spoon and stir the rice so it didn’t stick, and I was so exasperated with him for wanting to make a second lunch and for all the morning’s battles that I was super snippy with him and eventually just took over. I handled the whole thing badly. Our moods improved after lunch, and Henry even washed and scrubbed his own giant rice pot. We went outside and built a fire and roasted marshmallows. And I don’t know if this is a thing that everyone has done, but I put a roasted marshmallow on a piece of peanut butter toast and it was like seeing the face of God. I recommend it.
The next day was so much better. We went out for pizza at Conan’s, a little dive down the street, and the kids played Ms. Pac Man and we all, really and truly, enjoyed each other’s company, which felt wonderful after all the sickness and misery of the past week.
Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Gravy. As we were leaving parkour on Tuesday, I set my phone down next to me while I buckled George into his carseat. It slid slowly off the seat and tumbled softly to the ground and shattered. The last time I did this, in very similar circumstances actually, I didn’t want to spend the money or time to get the screen replaced, and so just lived with it, until the glass crumbled off in big chunks and the thing just stopped turning on. So we spent Wednesday traveling up to north Austin and hanging around the smart phone repairz (doesn’t that z inspire confidence?) shopping center while some enterprising young teens fixed my screen. It was actually a lot of fun. We spent most of the time in a little Japanese grocery store. I let the kids each pick out one thing and George picked an adorable Hello Kitty strawberry chocolate bar, and Henry picked a huge sack full of what looked like jello shots. They sell handmade onigiri there and Henry and I each got one of those too, Mine was filled with “salty salmon flakes” and Henry opted for “plain”. Just rice, that means. They were delicious! I loved my salty salmon flakes. They were salty. And the crunchy seaweed wrapped around the triangle of warm rice was so fun too. Crackly. The jello cups contained no alcohol but otherwise were what they appeared to be. Henry and George ate probably a dozen each right there in the parking lot.
I love a roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. And Henry and George have inherited my fondness for stove top turkey stuffing, so I planned to buy that too, but it appears to be too low-brow for Central Market. They sell the pepperidge farm kind instead. I turned over the bag to see how much boiling water and melted butter you have to mix with the package and was horrified to see that I had to chop and saute onions and celery and mix in chicken stock. What’s the point, you guys? This is but one step away from making my own damn from-scratch stuffing! The stuff ended up tasting weirdly sweet. Never again. Give me stove top or give me death.
Alton Brown’s Granola Bars. Out of a choice of chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, raisins, and dried pineapple, my weirdo kids picked pineapple as their preferred granola bar mix in. I ended up being the only one who ate these but I did really enjoy them! The chocolate and peanut butter ones were obviously the first to go. These take forever to cool, and if you try to cut them before they have completely cooled they’ll ooze into floppy piles of wet oats that taste good but look bad.
Lemony Cheese Blintzes with Spiced Peach Jam, Hashbrowns. The kids sat with me on the counter while I spent over an hour making blintzes. They took turns measuring the ingredients for the batter and filling and then watched and expressed their shock at how long it took me to cook the crepes, fill the crepes, and fry the crepes in butter. They’re worth any amount of time though, and Henry and George, their blintzes spread thickly with jam, agreed.
Green Chile Quesadillas, Beans. I was sort of a mess in the kitchen on Friday. I made banana bread in the morning and first, forgot about the coconut oil I was melting on the stove until I smelled it and saw that it had turned a golden color and was smoking. I moved it off the heat to let it cool while I assembled the rest of the ingredients and then poured in the oil, which I thought had had time to cool off but I guess had not because it sizzled furiously when it hit the batter and I absolutely saw bits of cooked egg in there. I pressed on anyway, and the stuff wasn’t all that bad, aside from a weird sort of burned oil aftertaste.
I was heading to our last enneagram meeting of the year cycle that night and had planned to make samosas because my friend Christy had requested them, but I realized that I didn’t have enough oil to fry them. Then George fell asleep on me and stayed there for two hours. The whole time I was reading books to Henry and trying to think of what else I could bring. If George wakes up right now, I thought, I’ll have enough time to soften butter for cookies. No dice. If George wakes up right now I’ll have enough time to make flour tortillas and can bring stuff for tacos. No dice. I finally got to start cooking 45 minutes before I had to leave and lamely made a pile of cheese and hatch chile quesadillas and served the things with a pile of beans.
Leftover Bean and Hashbrown Tacos on Homemade Tortillas. I get to do something really fun! I joined the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance last spring when I overhauled my blog and I have not taken advantage of a single one of the many benefits (free food at new restaurants primarily) of joining, but jumped at the chance to write a post about the best breakfast tacos in Austin to be part of their annual city guide. This means that I get to spend the next several weeks eating breakfast tacos around the city, and I’m so excited. We went to TacoDeli on Saturday morning and I’ve got a long list of other (and more authentic) places to try, but will you please tell me if you’ve got a favorite spot you think should be included? Please and thank you!
We spent the afternoon at the library and then at Dove Springs, throwing rocks into Onion Creek, and then came home and ate our second meal of breakfast tacos that day.
Salmon Teriyaki, Rice, Kale Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing. We drove out to Johnson City this morning to go to the Science Mill, which I’d heard about from my sister Joanna, who was surprised to find a legitimately good science museum out in the Texas hill country. She was right- it is incredible! The place is beautiful, gorgeously landscaped and modern, and the exhibits are thrillingly different and engaging. They have a converted the old silos into exhibit rooms- one has a huge light wall running up to the ceiling that has thousands of bulbs that light up when you send a text in the space as it detected your cell phone signals. Another had a room filled with a giant color-changing fractal ceiling, and another was an art exhibit featuring paintings that correspond to the seven chakras along with the associated Tibetan bowls that each played a different note of the scale when struck with a leather mallet. What?! Amazing, Johnson City. Inside, my favorite exhibit was a table filled with sand that had a topographical map projected on it that changed in real time as you manipulated the sand. Also a microscope with slides containing real live tardigrades, aka water bears, aka the weirdest living things on earth. Henry loved playing with a 3D computer program and George loved playing with a complicated ball and pipe wall. Also they have an adorable cafe with sweet local and organic choices and things like Sunflower Butter and Jam sandwiches on the kids menu. You should go right now.
I thought the sweet sauce on the salmon would win Henry and George over, but they were only interested in rice at dinner. I should really stop serving the stuff. The salad dressing recipe makes four cups, which is certifiably insane. Also it’s too biting with that much onion, but otherwise great.
Does reading this post make you worry that I’m too down on myself? Andy thought I called myself an asshole too many times, so I deleted some of them. Honestly, I think I’m pretty great, and right nearly 100% of the time. I even sort of like being an asshole. Just a note to reassure you that you don’t need to reassure me. But how very kind and dear of you if you wanted to! Instead, please talk to me about tacos.