Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Charles Dickens Can Suck An Egg

This past weekend played out with dramatic contrast between the high points and low points, which kept bringing to mind Tale of Two Cities. My not particularly logical conclusion was that Dickens can suck it, but I should say that by the time this morning rolled around, I was feeling rather hostile. Dickens seemed as good a target for my hostility as anything (or better. He's dead and unlikely to object).
The Best of Times: It was sunny. Kids in the neighborhood swarmed outside; people smiled at one another on the street. In the kitchen, the highlight for me was an apple tart the kids helped me with. I took Alice Water’s tart dough in The Art of Simple Cooking out for a spin, and it was fab. The dough was shaggy-looking going into the oven but flaky and crisp coming out. I brushed the tart shell with apricot jam, filled it with apples, which I then glazed with a combination of apple juice and calvados cooked into a syrup, brushed butter over the syrup, and then my boy sprinkled it with some vanilla sugar. Several of these flourishes were plucked directly (also, they're pretty traditional variations) from Waters’s many suggestions for variations on an apple tart, except instead of just picking one, I went baroque-o-rama (Restraint is over-rated.) and did three (I would have done four, but... made a mistake). It was a lovely tart. We took a picture of it before it was cooked. After... well, we wanted to get to eating it.I did a satisfying amount of cooking, without cooking consuming the weekend. There was tagliata (sliced steak with a garlic-rosemary-olive oil sauce), for which I decided to make the garlic sauce closer to a mojo de ajo (and I posted the recipe). We had baguette from Bakery Nouveau (I am growing increasingly certain that they put crack in the dough), and my boy spent quite a bit of time mopping up his sauce with the bread. The photograph shows a dandelion anchovy salad, which is a salad I love and is usually a great match for steak of any sort. It was still a good salad, but not the best match for this steak. There was a lovely red lentil soup with lemon juice, finished with argan oil (argan oil may remind me of vitamin E, but in a deeply tasty way), roast salmon with an herb butter, a very Italian salad with slender carrot batons, mixed greens and pomegranate, potatoes fried with lardons and garlic (at some point that food-porn delicious dish will have to simply be dinner, with red wine and a green salad), and, and, and. There was puh-lenty of eating, and we relished the food and even talked about it a bit, but it wasn’t the focus.

We took the kids to a pool on Sunday morning. The pool we went to gets a ton of natural light, and we swam around with sunshine sparkling, and Curly doing belly-flop after belly flop before she finally nailed a rather sleekly efficient racing dive and my boy paddling around and swimming some laps and generally, it was all happy happy love, love.

The Worst of Times: Kitchen-wise, well, I have my share of mistakes. I had intended to make an apple quince tart. Except… I forgot that the quince was poaching in the sugar syrup. Really, reeeally forgot. My husband had the questionable joy of scraping scorched quince and blackened, carbonized syrup off of the pan. I made a farro salad, and cooked the farro in the same pan that I cooked the quince in… and forgot that the farro was cooking. It was painfully overboiled, lending it less of a deliciously nutty taste and more of an oatmeal made in a bad hospital cafeteria taste. Kitchen mistakes with me are frequently due to absent-mindedness, and my realization that I’ve made yet another often starts with the thought: “what’s that… smell?”

My boy, who is usually fairly sweet-tempered, was a gigantic, surly, skinny pill (maybe he's growing, or fighting off a virus, or both, but... oy) on and off all weekend. Look kid, I know it’s outrageous that you’re expected to put your own dirty clothes in the laundry hamper, but I strongly suggest you hop to it without any more lip. Or else (usually I add the “or else” without thinking through what "or else" might be, and then I find myself madly hoping that I won’t have to think up an “or else.” While trying to maintain a stern expression). Curly had more serious problems.

Charles Dickens can suck it: And then there was the genuinely rotten. Curly and I spent the last two nights making a tour of Seattle-area ERs. Sunday night we talked with her doctor, who said to take her to the ER. We returned home at 5am. In our follow-up visit to our doctor yesterday afternoon, we finished with instructions to head to a nearby ER. Unfortunately, the temperature had dropped, and the driving, viscous, ice-flecked rain had turned to swirling, wet, icy snow. Fun! We arrived to a full ER, with a jam-packed waiting room. I felt terrible for Curly, who I could see needed to be there, but (on both nights) was clearly going to get taken after the grimly urgent cases.

I have to admit to a surfeit of judginess in the ER regarding the order in which patients were taken. I wanted to create a special category for people whose own fault it was that they were there (which coincidentally would have involved Curly going ahead of them), like the guy who'd mostly severed his own finger doing home improvements (although I'm not sure that covering something in blood is an improvement), or the not-very-bright (I was seated near enough to make that unkind assessment) punk chick who had a gnarly infection from a piercing gone wrong.

I wish that there was an option, with bad luck, to find way to absorb our children’s (a la Sydney Carton, although he did it for romantic love) . I can’t say I’m anxious to be as miserable as Curly is (was. She’s asking to make a snowman this morning). But I would so much rather it be me than her. She may be a crazy little nuisance sometimes, but I prefer her eyes alight and her a-wiggle instead of limp, whimpering and curled up in my arms.


chris said...

I feel the same way regarding people who are there by their own accord. Same thing happened to us on Sunday--I had one of the babies with me (he had an ear infection, it turns out) and in limps some hero with his girlfriend, probably drunk or just stupid. Of course, they took him right away.

Meg said...

Usually (and I should be, since I'm a klutz AND a flake), I'm pretty sympathetic to other people's mishaps. I still have a scar from scalding myself, after all. Even in the ER, if it's me that's waiting (although since my usual reason for going is that my lungs conked out again, I rarely have to wait), I'm pretty sympathetic. Mistakes happen. But when it's one of the kids waiting, I am murderously hostile towards people who've done it to themselves and then are treated ahead of my child.