I have lost my way home. In every sense of the word it is gone. Let’s start with the obvious. No trek to Maine. No boat ride. No getting back to good. Not this time. I will mourn a Memorial Day not on Monhegan. A junkie without her fix, no cure for the homesick. I don’t know what to make of this.
My current address is slipping away. My days there are numbered and all of a sudden I have this urge to be a homebody in this home. Soon, what I call mine will be someone else’s rent. I spent the weekend cleaning closets and scrubbing floors. Like visiting a dying friend I wanted time with my kitchen. For a mid~morning brunch I made a Maine inspired stratta. Homemade bread from the weekend before, spicy vegetarian sausage, crisp green broccoli, sweet Vidalias, creamy eggs+Tabasco+milk, a sprinkling of sharp cheddar cheese. Baked until golden and puffy. More hot sauce for me. For dinner I explored Mexico with a pan-sauteed mix of shredded golden potatoes, spicy Mexican sausage, shiitakes, cilantro and Vidalias. Served with homemade roasted tomatillo and garlic salsa. From scratch flour tortillas. I’m learning to control steam, if there is such a trick. And just to get ahead on the weekday dinners, roasted (skin-on) chicken, smoked with oak chips and cloves of garlic. I’m imagining that will be added to a white bean chili (served with the leftover salsa, of course) and maybe a twisted chicken salad…something smoky and sultry. Trying to reclaim something that isn’t mine. Is not.
The Other Home doesn’t exist yet we sat in front of a loan officer just the same. We spoke the language of calculations. Questions in the form of dollars were answered with quotes. Bank statements and pay stubs. Numbers spilled from our lips easily, as if we memorized our speeches and imagined our lasting impressions.
At the same time we gathered up the dollars to downpay our vacation. Home away from Home. To look forward to the date is to wish summer away, and yet – yet I cannot wait. We’ll start in the cottage of our honeymoon and end in Big Brother just across the way. I’m already tasting lobster and luna.
Such an odd place to be. I’m laying down the disappointment of missing homehome while prepaying on a later visit; I’m turning away from our here and now while it’s still our address and planning payments on an unknown one. We haven’t gone anywhere but I have lost my way home.
A month ago I developed a weird spot on my thigh. A nursing student took one look and said basal cell carcinoma. Freak Me. For a month I held denial’s hand and didn’t do anything about it. Nothing except stare at the spot and watch it mutate. I didn’t WebMD it, didn’t do anything. This river in Egypt ran deep. Finally I went to someone a little more professional. Someone with an actual degree and not just in training for one. She took one look and said arachnid. Whaa? Come again? Bug bite, possibly spider-ish. Maybe tick-ish. Either way I’m having a reaction to the saliva. I’m allergic to bug spit of all things.
Whatever. All I know is that Friday (after the bug appointment) I decided to hit the Gerbil cage. 45 minutes. 4.26 miles. Felt freakin’ great. My new tempo pace is 10.2. I can sing while moving that speed. Love it. Then, last night I decided to hit it again. Chicken thighs were in the smoker getting happy with the alder chips (can’t call it smoked chicken chili without the chips…) and I had the time for a sweet 20 minute run. At first I wanted to really kick it. See if I could get more than two miles in. But, my knee gently reminded me it hadn’t even been 24 hours since the 4.26…I’m supposed to “take a day” between runs, remember? Oh yeah. So, I decided to crank the incline and work on hills. Run slow…but UP-up-UP. Bottom line: 1.8 miles in 20 minutes. I’m happy with my energy. I’m in love with my knee. I’m feeling better than ever. Could it be the spider spit? Just call me spider woman!
I had another one of those failed restaurant meet-ups a few weeks ago. I was supposed to meet someone for dinner. He thought 7:30pm. I thought 5:30pm. I sat there wondering if he was waiting outside while I was inside doing the exact same thing. Toying with my wine glass, fiddling with the silverware, smoothing the tablecloth with my fingertips, reading the menu until I had it memorized, staring at the artwork on the walls. I’m sure the waiters thought I either had a kidney problem or I was having an affair as they filled my water glass for the eighth time. My friend never came. Until 7:30pm
This week we were able to connect and I’m almost wishing we hadn’t. Before me sat a BBQ burger with BrianFries and crunchy pickles. I was ready to dig in. Before I could take a single bite my friend eyed me and asked the WhatsNewQ. I knew I should have started eating first. After I told him my latest he threw his head back and laughed. Laughed and laughed. Laughed so loud other diners turned with curious looks. Laughed and laughed until he was crying. When he was finally finished and had swallowed the last chuckle he managed to ask, “how in God’s name do you get yourself into these messes?” A tear hung in the corner of his eye and a giggle escaped. I could feel another bout of uncontrolable laughter coming my way. Through gritted teeth I admitted I had no idea. And added it wasn’t funny. Burger aside I had to explain. Or at least try to. My life is one big soap opera minus the orphaned surgeon who never knew he was sleeping with his sister and actually died 3 episodes ago but still managed to seduce the bull fighter’s CIA wife in Africa last week. When I said I was done with drama I should have said I’d like to be done with drama. I’m dreaming if I think I can ever fully escape it.
I never did finish the burger…or even touch the fries.
I have been hiding behind book reviews and poetry for days on end. Two poems for every one book. Reading like a fiend seems to suit me. Sorry.
I’ve started to tell you about the weirdest things ~ Kisa murdering the ladybugs in the bathroom, the end of N&ZY, my heartbreak over a breakup, the amazing work I’ve done with MSR, the crap I’ve been handed at AIC, how homesick I am, how little I’ve run, the need to hear my music again (go where we haven’t I don’t dare), Natalie, Germany, Sin City, Taka Tak, being stood up, being letdown, sex in my city, Comic Book Tattoo, Darfur, Boston Celtics, wine, angry black man, gun to my heart, arthritis and friends too far away.
I’ve started to tell you about all these things. Yet, I can’t. Instead I tell you about what I’ve read and read and read.
We didn’t end up where we haven’t been so I ran. I promised I would. (thanks for messing with me). Truth is, the running thing is seeping back into my blood. I can feel it becoming as natural as time ticking. Except for this – it’s really hard to run on a full belly of burritos! Seriously. There is this small Mexi place right by where I used to work. Everything is authentic and good, good, good. I pity the person who is afraid to bite adventurously because there isn’t a bad thing on the menu. I could stand in front of that menu, drool coming off my chin, taking forever to decide just how hungry I am. I’m always biting off more than I can chew, more than my stomach can hold. In my greed for great food I gorge.
Last night was no different. We ate and ate. Later, I literally waddled up to the gerbil cage and said a prayer before rocking 3.4 miles in 35 minutes with warm-up. I’m proud of the pace. A month ago I was barely hitting 2.5 miles in that same time. I prefered a 12 minute mile over anything faster. Now, I’m comfortable with 10.5. What a scary thought. What a great feeling. So, B~ I didn’t get the 3.5 I promised you, but I came damn close – so damn close!
Someone pissed me off today and made me shut off my phone. The anger is enough to get me running again but I have to be smart. Last night I heard my hip gnash it’s teeth in pain when I climbed the stairs. Last night I ran hard and I ran happy. I never run stupid. I’ll wait a day. The anger will still be there, but the Mexi won’t. I wonder how far I’ll get?
Don’t get me wrong. I love to cook. I absolutely adore being in the kitchen, making my own meals, creating my own plates of goodness. But, but, but. There is something to be said for the man who can bring it to the table himself. I’m not talking about the guy who blah, blah, blah brags about how great his meals are. I’m not talking about the guy who sounds positively gay discussing his creme brulee, knife skills or turducken. I’m talking about the quiet guy…the guy who sheepishly says, “yeah… I guess I can try” when I mention starting up the pasta or pan searing the sausage or something. I have a soft spot for the man who, despite being scared, somehow serves something special. I love, love, love the humble
guy cook. The guy closet chef who has no clue what he’s doing…but tries anyway.
Over the course of one Sunday I served up International servings: Swedish meatballs with smooth sour cream and bright current jelly, Polish kielbasa -cooked long with spicy-sweet BBQ sauce, and Thai chicken bites with lime, cilantro and vibrant green curry. The time before that I was exploring the ocean with garlicky, clilantro-y, citrusy salmon (my first time taking a pair of pliers to a fish). None of these dishes compared to the meal already made for me. Ready for my mouth the moment I walk in the door. He says he can’t cook. He says he has no clue what he’s doing. He tastes good to me.
For Christmas I got this book…or cookbook…or whatever. It’s both and actually perfect for me. Cooking and books. Books and cooking. That combination is just as perfect as running and yoga, knitting and meditation, pickles and peanut butter. Never mind. So, where’s the trouble you might ask? Here’s the deal: I’ve decided to read every book mentioned in The Book Lover’s Cookbook in addition to Book Lust and More Book Lust. Am I crazy? Quite possibly. Luckily, quite a few of them are on my list already thanks to Pearl’s list(s). I’ve also decided to try to cook every recipe in the book as well. I think I’ve lost it.
A morning this week, despite
wanting craving heuvos rancheros I actually made “Behold! Ichabod’s Slapjacks” (Wenger, Shaundra Kennedy and Janet Kay Jenson. The Book Lover’s Cookbook. New York: Ballantine, 2003.) while reading the excerpt from Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The “slapjacks” came out sweet and cake-like thanks to sifting and sugar. I instantly regretted pouring maple syrup on them. They would have been perfect with just a light dusting of powdered sugar, a small smear of jelly, or even nothing at all. In fact, their sweetness and lightness would have made a great pairing with something salty and crunchy like turkey bacon or thinly sliced grilled ham. I’m even thinking these slapjacks could be sandwich material… I made a note in the margin, reminding myself to try that next time. A twist on a monte cristo maybe?
Not many people like change. Very few people actually want to live outside of their comfort zone…at least not on a regular basis. Tonight’s dinner was all about reaching beyond the comfortable; moving beyond the typical. I don’t know what made me do it, but I wanted to make stew for dinner. I don’t make many soups or stews of any kind and I’m not exactly best friends with red meat. Like I said – way out of my comfort zone with this recipe. In addition, I did not want to make just any stew, but chunky, healthy, yummy beef stew since I haven’t been feeling well. No pressure! Thanks to the food network I made something I could dress up or down (read- make expensive or cheaper). Here is the luxury version and in parenthesis, the cheaper version. I went for a combination of the two. Kisa had seconds despite the fact he is a self-proclaimed squash hater.
Stew for You
fresh, fragrant rosemary (dried)
fresh thyme (dried)
garlic, minced fine
sundried tomatoes, chopped (diced tomatoes)
beef broth (water)
stew beef cut into 2″ cubes, dredged in s&p and flour (cut into 1″ cubes)
portabella mushrooms, chopped (white button mushrooms)
parsley – fresh, chopped (fresh no matter what)
Butternut squash was an interesting twist, but you could go for standard-stew-inclusions like potatoes. I would like to try sweet potatoes in addition, or a combination of everything. I added the mushrooms even though they weren’t called for in the recipe. One other note – I would omit the salt in the beef dredge because the beef broth is salty enough (even if you use low sodium, which I prefer). Sop up the extra stew juice with the crusty garlic bread and enjoy a winter’s feast!
If I could sit beside you in a worn down diner, I would. We would sit at the cracked counter, balancing on wobbly, spinning stools and peer at the menu, already knowing what we want. Nowhere to put our coats and hats, we’d drape them over our knees. Before the day is over I would lose a glove, dropped to the snow-melted wet floor, trampled on before it’s even missing and missed. But, before then we would order plates of runny eggs and almost burnt toast. We’d let steaming cups of coffee sit untouched at our elbows, too hot to sip. Conversation would be silent because enjoying each others unusual company would be all we need. You would eavesdrop on the couple behind us, nodding knowingly; wise to their hushed argument about buying a bigger truck. The exclamation, an outburst of sorts, “but, it’s New England!” would make you smile small. The corners of your mouth would barely move, but the barely contained laughter would still show in your eyes. You want to say something, but would busy yourself with fixing my coffee the way I like it instead. You would even stop to test its temperature, your tongue knowing exactly how I can take it. “It’s cool enough” you would indicate with a small nod, pushing the cup towards me, eyes still laughing. Thank you, I would acknowledge you are right. Again.
Getting up to pay the bill. That’s when I’d lose the glove. I wouldn’t notice it slide off my lap, bounce off the stool leg and land soundly in the cold puddle of slush created by my too-big black boots. Instead I would trudge my way to the cashier, my coat bunched under an arm. You hand over the check and wait for change. “Ready?” you would ask with your smiling eyes. Yes. And out of the diner we would go. If I could, I would.
For three months now I haven’t wanted to cook. I have come home feeling exhausted, worn down and depressed. Kisa asks a one-word question “pizza?” and my only response is another question “order out or make in?” I’m not feeling guilty about the laziness. We got a pizza stone and peel for our wedding and I truly enjoy making fresh pizza at home. But, but, but. It’s not what I consider cooking. I’m not really making anything when I lay down a crust with sauce and cheese.
Tonight, all that ended. I shook off the blues and I’m back in the kitchen. My first recipe to ring out the old year is chourico/turkey sub sandwiches in honor of the Saturday night Patriots game.
chourico, red and spicy, stripped of casing and chopped small
sweet vidalia, chopped tiny
zesty tomato sauce
ruby red tomatoes, diced
crunchy, bright jalapenos (I cheated with jarred because I prefer my friend, Mrs ‘Fro), chopped smaller than small
black pepper (fresh cracked, of course)
big black olives, sliced
monterey jack cheese, shredded
fresh, fresh, fresh rolls, guts taken out
crunchy tortilla chips (I like red hot blues)
I prefer to cook the turkey and chourico in batches, alternating between the two. End with a batch of turkey so it can soak up the crusty bits of chourico left behind. This method also gives the otherwise grayish turkey a deeper color. The whole thing stews for 6-12 hours so the flavors can have a lasting relationship and not just a one night stand. Serve with plenty of napkins and water for the wimps.
This was my first time hosting something trivial, something small. The parties I have thrown in my life can be counted on one hand: a shower for my sister, my own wedding, my post race party and mom’s surprise party this past summer. Last night was different. It was the first time I had an intimate tv party for no reason at all.
Just the right amount of people came (the perfect people for such a party, I must add). It was fun to snack and laugh, saving the serious conversations for later. Just the right amount of food (although the meatballs with Parmesan crisps ran out). I loved making the pecan pie (my first) and Freezer Pie, but the sun-dried tomato/feta cheese ball was my favorite. Just the right amount of Merlot with beautiful but mismatched long stemmed wine glasses. Just the right amount of room in the cedar/pine scented living room (although we always have room for just one more). Just the right amount of coziness with the candles, candy and twinkle lights on the tree decorated with holiday cheer.
My mother-in-law brought her Brenda bag and I, my YouLookGuilty tee shirt (pic coming soon). We all hushed for the show but cheered for the Patriots (thank someone they won). As the night winded down, everyone was ushered out with a hug, chocolate covered pretzels and Mama’s Southern Pecan Pie recipe. Indy hid upstairs until every last guest was gone.
Finally, it was just kisa and I in the quiet. We cleaned the kitchen in tandem, taking turns opening and closing the dishwasher door; wiping down counters and hand-washing wine glasses.
As we turned off the Christmas lights, blew out the candles and turned down the heat I thought of Brenda when she said, “I don’t like it when I’m ordered to be festive.” Me neither so I’m glad last night was so much fun…naturally.
I want a real tree for Christmas – the smell of pine and cinnamon – traipsing through along the trails.
I want sequined soldiers and candy cane horses – twisting and shining on the limbs.
I want pastries warmed on the back of the stove – nothing sweet to catch fire.
I want my mother’s sweet potato casserole – you peel the potatoes, I’ll cut the apples.
I want giggling children excited by sleigh bells and flashlights – silly stories and big eyes.
I want warm blankets and fuzzy slippers to lose my toes in.
I want Silent Night sung by candlelight – a community drawn together by acceptance.
I want shadowy outlines of horses by dawn – their imaginary hoofbeats running over frozen ground, steam rising from flared nostrils.
I want to watch the winter surf with kisa by my side – my hand in his pocket, fingertips numb.
I want to count down the days – may they fly – by advent calendar of yesteryear.
To be HomeHome again. I’ll be there.
Just last night I was joking with the in-laws about the Closer House Party. I am nowhere near the House Partying kind of girl, but for what it’s worth, I’m getting excited. No one likes the Closer as much as my mother-in-law! She suggested a theme like chocolate…something about fondue. We were all giggles about a fondue fountain…and the fact that her bag looks exactly like Brenda’s.
Ironically, my Closer “swag” came today! The box included some really fun stuff: Closer napkins, Closer plates, Closer thank yew cards, a recipe for Mama’s Pecan Pie, a Closer Christmas wreath, a Closer tin of something yummy, A Closer DVD to watch before the show and…a “you look guilty” Closer tee shirt! The same thing I wanted to buy when it first came out! The whole package was a great surprise!
So now, I’m rethinking the menu. My father-in-law is an amazing cook. He’s offered to make something…I just might have to tell people to come hungry, hungry, hungry!
9 days to go!
We’ve started to talk about Thanksgiving. They talk. I listen. I find this time of year tiresome. Who goes where and for how long? Can we split up the time? Can we avoid the time? What is the time? My mother-in-law is stressing about keeping the kid. Defiantly announcing, “I get the kid.” Okay. Definitely. Two years ago I brought up having a “schedule,” some sort of flow chart to keep our obligations straight. Somehow it became a discussion about something else entirely.
We have never had a holiday, just the two of us. I’ve never cooked a twelve part meal with only him in mind. Turkey, (garlic) mashed potatoes, cajun sweet potatoes (with pecans), that green bean casserole, cranberry sauce (homemade), creamy pearl onions, stuffing (two kinds), honey wheat rolls, the gravy I don’t touch, three kinds of pies… There’s always been someone else. Or a few someone elses. Not that I don’t mind family. I just miss him.
It’s insane how much we try to divvy up family time. Time with his family – both sides- time with mine. What about the other in-laws? Where’s their time? Everyone wants a piece. Who gets the turn this year? Well, where were we last year? We’ve never hosted Christmas, nor have we started our own (private) traditions because we haven’t been here. My kitchen remains cold because we’re always cooking somewhere else. I’m about ready to sell my serving ware.
This year I may not even bother with the ornaments, the decorations, or even the tree since we won’t be here…again. I was in such the spirit last year that I put everything up….only to have it sit silent while we went somewhere else.
Here’s my wish for the holidays. I want my home away from home to be so warm that I feel like I’m where the heart is and I’m happy to be there. Regardless of where that is.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to recall a book. Something in my childhood that I held dear. I’m thinking it had to have been written by Charles Schultz because I distinctly remember Snoopy and the gang. It was called “Happiness Is…” and within its pages were pictures and proclamations of what made someone happy. “Happiness is…a warm blanket” with a picture of Linus or something like that. I’m guessing. It’s a murky memory at best.
Throughout the years I have played the “Happiness Is…” game, filling in the blanks whenever something made me happy. Happiness is…whoopie pies fresh from Moody’s Diner. Happiness is…my husband massaging my feet. Happiness is…finding a great pair of shoes…chai tea…nanook slippers…You get the point.
Lately, I’ve been playing the game a lot. Happiness is talking to a friend for four hours and not noticing a single second. Happiness is hearing from Ohio and talking about the talkative. Happiness is two pumpkins, one smiling, one frowning, on my doorstep. Happiness is Halloween and everything it brings. But, most of all…last but nowhere near least, happiness is…acceptance when you least expect it.
I talked to my mother on Halloween night for two hours, 20 minutes and 19 seconds. While I struggled with hurt, she helped. While I struggled with disappointment, she didn’t try to tell me differently. She let me feel everything I needed to and thensome. I’m not saying things are perfect. Things rarely are. But. But, I’m on the road to good and that makes me happy.