I know, I know, that you don’t come here to read about my reflections on world news from the past week. You’re here for a story about George swallowing a penny, or for one about finding a hidden nest of chicken eggs situated immediately above the family of rats that lives in the corner of our yard, or to see what I did or did not burn this week (more on all these things later). And I don’t know what to say about the mass-shooting in Orlando, but I know that anything would be better than silence.
I woke up on Monday and called my senators and US representative, which meant listening to a recording of Ted Cruz’s voice before 10 in the morning. I signed a few petitions on the White House petitions site. I read about the victims and about the people of Florida standing in line for hours to give blood while Muslim women handed out food and water. I dusted off my twitter account to tweet my representatives. I’ve done pitifully little, I know, but it’s better than my usual MO of feeling sad and doing nothing. Or of resorting to my old standby of getting into flame wars with gun-loving folks on Facebook. That feels good at the time- getting all red-faced and shaky and getting to vent your frustration with all the stupid shit in the world by tearing apart some loser you knew in junior high. But what does it accomplish? Fucking nothing. Worse than that. The junior high loser is now more firmly entrenched in his opinions because you told him he was an idiot for believing them. I don’t want to be a part of those conversations anymore. It is, to me, a monumental waste of time and energy. Instead, I will call my representatives in between calls to the doctor and poison control center about George swallowing that penny. I will vote in every election. I’ll look for connections and respectful dialogue with people with whom I disagree. And I’ll set a bag of dog shit on fire in honor of Dan Patrick, because come on.
If you want to do something and haven’t, Everytown for Gun Safety has seven things you can do right now to help, and an easy interface to do them. If you’ve got ideas for other things I can do to be productive, that might have a higher potential for success than trying to turn Cornyn and Cruz into advocates for gun safety, please share them in the comments. If you think I’m advocating taking your second amendment rights away and you hate me now, you can tell me that in the comments too. I promise to be cool. Here’s what we ate this week.
Carnitas Tacos with Black Beans and Cotija.
Actually, no. I knew it would feel gross to come in here this week and jump in with an introduction about the petty dramas in my life in the past week when we have so many larger fish to fry/melt down into slag. But now that I’ve written that intro paragraph it doesn’t feel any more seemly to get back to business as usual. I guess in my head, it feels like a metaphor for how I and the collective we acknowledge the horrors of the moment and then get on with our regularly scheduled program and all too quickly forget what needs to be done. How do I talk about dried out carnitas and pennies in little kid shit now, knowing that it symbolically, and probably literally, represents me moving on. It’s a sad sort of helpless feeling. I probably have done just about all I’m going to do here. I’ve called my representatives and signed some petitions, and that pretty much puts me at the limit of what I know how and am willing to do. Fucking sad. There’s some honesty at least.
So, on with it then. I burned the tortillas and let the carnitas, really just shredded leftovers from last week’s bo ssam, reheat too long in the oven so they were dry and crispy, but still- salty meat in a taco. I was tired after a day of hosting twenty or so unschoolers under the age of six at our house. Usually our chickens wander around the backyard during the day, but I kept them locked up for this event for lots of reasons. 1. At a little unschooler’s gathering in South Austin last month, at a beautiful homestead that also happens to have chickens, a few of the kids (one of mine included) found a clutch of eggs and smashed them gleefully. I don’t want that. 2. We have short fences and high-flying chickens and it was all too easy to imagine the chickens fleeing from eager young fingers by making a run for it. 3. Back when we had chickens the first time, a three year old guest at Henry’s birthday party tried to wrangle a chicken and accidentally broke its neck. They’re surprisingly weak little things. Everybody did seem to enjoy watching the chickens all the same, especially Naked Neck who is practically a side show attraction.
Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Tacos. We only had 6 flour tortillas left, and, as you may have noticed, I have completely given up on making them from scratch. So I, because I am overflowing with selflessness and grace, let my family have them while I ate my tacos on corn tortillas like a sucker. But then, because I am actually neither selfless nor full of grace, I pointed this out to Andy, who hadn’t noticed, so I could be properly thanked for my good deed.
Avocado, Kale, and Cheddar Sandwich. I have convinced myself, rationally I think, that it is healthier for me to eat big squeezy fistfuls of avocado instead of the buttered noodles and grilled cheese sandwiches that the kids request at lunch time. This sandwich was so good.
Buttered Noodles with Parmesan and Marmite. But then since there were leftover kid noodles I decided to eat those too. It was for science, though, because my friend Ben told me that you could stir Marmite into buttered noodles and I wanted to try it. I either have a terrible palette or added too little, possibly both, because it didn’t taste much different than plain buttered noodles. I was too lazy to get up and stir in more of the stuff. I’ll just have to do a repeat experiment.
Hot Bread Kitchen’s New Yorker Rye. The only place I could find this recipe online was over on the godforsaken yahoo site. Next to the story, they have a “what to read next!” feature, that starts with an article entitled “It Happened to Me: My Stomach Exploded and I Couldn’t Eat or Drink for Six Years,” followed by an ad for Macy’s. This bread turned out really well. I’ve been enjoying it toasted with lots of salted butter for breakfast, and we’re having patty melts later this week with the last slices.
HBK’s Batard. The rye uses a good amount of pâte fermentée, which is like a small batch of bread dough that you’ve allowed to age in the fridge for a day to deepen its flavor. There was enough of the stuff leftover to make another loaf of bread, so I went for it.
HBK’s Reuben, Green Salad with Cashew Tamari Dressing. All this bread-making was inspired by the photo of an oozy, slippery reuben from the Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook (photo, but unfortunately no recipe, in the link). I had to have it, and it was every bit as delightful as I had hoped. The rye was perfect. You slather, I mean really pile on a homemade thousand island dressing on the bread, and then top that with really good swiss and meat that you’ve heated for a minute in a hot pan, so its edges go all dark and crispy. I skipped the sauerkraut because it would have meant another $4 and I was already over my grocery budget for the week. And I served it with salad! I don’t even know myself anymore. When I told Henry we were having salad with cashew tamari dressing for dinner he actually cheered, and then he did eat loads of the stuff. This dressing is magic.
Strawberry-Peach Crumble. Since I was spending all day in the kitchen anyway, and because I had peaches getting wrinkly in the fruit bowl, I made a crisp for dessert. It was perfect. One of those rare and special times when something you whip up hastily at the last moment ends up being the best thing you’ve cooked in a good long while.
French Toast. Henry had a red-letter day on Thursday. He asked for French toast for breakfast, and because I had a day-old batard sitting around, I made it for him. Then we spent the whole day working on his electronic snap circuits projects. He made a working AM radio with a power switch, volume control, and tuner by following the project outline in a book, with no help from me, while George stuffed extraneous resistors and capacitors down his shirt. Really! I have it on video. I took a few videos, actually. Here’s one of Henry demonstrating an improvised project:
Henry also spent a good portion of the day reading every number on his six multiplication table posters, from 1×1 up to 84×84. George and I checked out of this exercise and read a million Berenstain Bear books instead.
Butterscotch Blondies, Gluten Free. And then, because Andy had toastmasters and I had three more hours to kill before he got home, we went to the pool with friends and ate these for dinner along with some tube yogurts and trail mix. I don’t feel bad about it.
Also, I don’t know if I impressed upon you enough how important it is for you to make these things. They are not hard, don’t psych yourself out about the caramel on top, and they are showstoppers. You won’t regret it. They were great gluten free, but took a lot longer to cook.
Crispy Coconut Kale with Roasted Salmon and Coconut Rice. That white fatty stuff oozing out of the salmon is a sign that I cooked it poorly (according to my skimmings of the salmon section of The Food Lab). I even made a half-hearted attempt to rub the stuff off with my fingers before taking this picture, but it didn’t work and I gave up. This is a good little weeknight dinner. The coconut rice feels special, and the kale goes all crispy in places, like kale chips, and you pour a delicious coconut oil/sesame oil/tamari dressing all over everything and it’s very very good.
Dinner After a Birthday Party. We were hot and exhausted and happy after a day at a splash pad for an unschooling friend’s birthday party. The kids ate more than their fair share of cheese pizza and cake, and then we kept them awake on the drive home with lollipops from the goody bags and red gatorade. Andy and I were still hungry though, but had that bleary dehydrated feeling you get after a day in the sun, so I just ate half a tub of store-bought hummus and Andy had his specialty, Safari Cocoa Crunch and Mallow Oats mixed together in one big bowl.
Corn and Black Bean Pico de Gallo. I added that avocado in later. Thought you should know. We had gone nearly three days without getting any eggs from our chickens. I knew this meant there was a secret nest somewhere, but I had searched the periphery of our yard, poking around in all their favorite hiding spots, and had turned up nothing. I was thinking about it on Saturday night, one of those random thoughts that pop into your head before falling asleep, and I remembered that I’d seen Light Bronze (Henry has a penchant for selecting straightforward, unimaginative chicken names) hanging out behind the tree near the compost bin. So, Sunday morning I went back there and found the damn thing. The chickens had engineered a lovely little nest atop a pile of brush that sits next to the compost, and there were 10 perfect eggs nestled inside. A delightful little family of rats lives under this brush pile. I see one of them every night when I go out back to close the fence around the chicken run. After the chickens go into their coop for the evening, the little rat comes out to investigate the scraps of food the chickens have left behind that day. When it sees me, it zooms back to the nest beneath the brush. I don’t mind the guy and have no plans to oust him. That’s my whole story.
Strawberry Goat Cheese Wrap, Nutty Couscous, Peanut Butter Coconut Balls. Henry made us this dinner! Nobody liked the strawberry wraps. Not Henry’s fault- there was way too much goat cheese and it overpowered everything else, and I was the one who spread that on. But the couscous was delicious and I loved those date/peanut butter/coconut balls. It took Henry a really long time to roll them, and his balls got smaller and smaller (there’s probably a better way to say that). I stepped in at the beginning to roll one ball and show him the size they were meant to be, but he politely declined my help and rolled them how he liked, and I let him, hard though it was for my Type-A kitchen persona.
Peach and Tomato Panzanella, Thai Flank Steak Salad. Monday morning, while I was calling Sen. Cruz, George swallowed a penny. He had showed me the penny in his mouth and I said that coins were dirty and easy to choke on and that they shouldn’t go in your mouth and he acquiesced, or so I thought, until he made a strange gagging noise and burst into tears and said, “I’m so sorry!” I was worried it was lodged in his throat at first, because he was crying and saying, “won’t I ever feel better again??” But then he said that oh, he did feel better. The doctor’s office told me to call poison control. The poison control lady launched into a speech I’m certain she’s given 4000 times. I had to give George something to eat and drink. If he didn’t throw it up (he didn’t!), he would probably pass the coin on his own in 1-5 days. We’ve got to poke around in his poop until we find the thing though, because if it’s not out by the 5th day we have to go to the doctor to talk about what to do next. So that’s fun. At least George still prefers to poop all of his poops on a little red plastic potty that sits in the middle of the rug in our living room, so I don’t have to figure out how to scoop the stuff out of a big toilet and find a suitable examination tray. As of this writing late on Tuesday evening, the penny is still at large. Will keep you posted.
We swam for another three hours on Monday and then came home and I made this flank steak salad (actually made with a huge skirt steak, that weighed over two pounds- a peace offering after I skimped on the amount of meat the last time I made this) and a peach and tomato panzanella. They were delicious and summery and wonderful together.
Thanks for sticking with me through this weird post. I don’t feel any closer to knowing how to honor the suffering and sadness from last weekend and still talk about what we ate for dinner. It’s hard to know what to do, about any of it. If you’ve got any answers for me, I’d love to hear ’em. In the meantime, love to you all.