The middle of the night is four o’clock in the morning. It’s a fuzzy time to wake up, often accompanied by a sense of tremendous joy or overwhelming anxiety as I’m pulled from the edge of a barely remembered dream. It is one thing to float out of sleep still cresting on the thoughts of my dreaming life. It is another to be dragged from sleep by a two year old crying out for her juice.
We don’t usually give Luci juice. There isn’t much nutritional value in it, though there is a lot of sugar. “Once you start with the apple juice,” my mother told me, “you’ll never hear the end of it.” So Luci drinks water instead. She’s especially taken with seltzer.
Juice, in this case, is what we call Pedialyte. The doctor recommended it for an extra measure of hydration, since Luci has a stomach bug. I don’t know why we started calling it juice. There’s no real fruit in the sickly sweet electrolyte syrup mixture. My mother, an advocate of health food before it became a trend, became inspired during her last visit, adding half a Pedialyte popsicle to the almost full sippy cup, turning Luci’s juice into a fancy cocktail. It’s the only way she’ll drink it now. At this point I don’t care, as long as she stays hydrated.
As Luci continued to cry for her drink, I got out of bed, shushing slippered feet across the living room rug and into the kitchen. I did not turn on the light. My aim was to fill the sippy cup, watch her indulge, then crawl back to bed, back into whatever dreams I’d been having. I believe I knit ideas in my sleep, as well as untangle problems that feel knotted like delicate necklaces. I’m both knitting and unknotting every night.
I opened the refrigerator and reached for the Pedialyte. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of the rose petals from the arrangement my husband gave me on Valentine’s Day had fallen to the counter. It was a large rose petal.
It began to move.
Fully jolted out of sleep I screamed, as a bug the size of a baby lobster figure skated across the counter toward me. I ran to the corner by the stove, screaming louder. I don’t handle bugs well.
I took off a slipper, ready to pounce, before deciding I didn’t want bug guts embedded in the grooves on the bottom. Then I put my shoe back on and thought about making a run for it.
In my silence the bug retreated back toward the flowers, while my husband appeared to turn on the light. He remained calm. He knows me, he knew why I was screaming. He surprised me by smiling and commending my efforts to kill the bug. I didn’t explain my attempt was lame; I was just pleased he saw progress in my phobia.
The next morning I began cleaning out the kitchen. It wasn’t really dirty, and I have since learned that those stray waterbugs do not care about food, but I cleaned anyway. After sweeping crumbs from drawers and shelves, I emptied the freezer. I threw so many cold ingredients into a pot, making a soup from frozen noodles handmade at the Italian market across the street, a bag of vegetables, chicken breast on the bone, and cubes of stock. Over a high flame it thawed quickly, and soon it was bubbling away, beckoning.
I have perfected my system, the way I like to live. Food goes in, and words flow out. This is the way my body and mind have always functioned. I love sampling different textures and flavors, experimenting to see how a pinch of spice diminishes or perfects a dish. And writing, this has always come easily to me too.
Then I had my daughter, and whether it was a hormonal shift, or a mental one, something changed. Now the food still goes in, clinging to my hips and thighs in a way it never did, but the words don’t come out as easily.
I don’t believe you have to sacrifice one thing for another so I don’t understand, why am I am feeling stagnant in my work? This is what I have been trying to figure out out in my sleep. There is a connection, I am sure, to why many of the dishes I’ve made lately haven’t turned out perfectly. My snowy day cookies were too floury, the stir fry I made last week tasted round and not textured with the contrast of broccoli and chicken. Even the bits of garlic clinging to the top of the wok did not reward me with a crisp bite when I scraped them off. They were soft too, and I am frustrated.
So what did I do? I cleaned my kitchen, I cleaned my house. I made a soup of the leftovers, which turned into it’s own thing, and not just the separate ingredients that comprise it.
Maybe this bug, this jolt, was just what I needed to wake me up.
Do you wonder what they’re eating at the Olympic Village? I wonder every time I watch an event.
I imagine they have eggs for breakfast, the real ones, not the egg mixture that comes in cartons and is popular for foodservice, and oatmeal. I picture lots of oatmeal in the Olympic Village.
I also wonder if the cafeteria serves dessert. Wouldn’t that kind of be a waste on the athletes, to put out little dishes of chocolate pudding and tiny plates of cake? If they do, I would think the majority would remian untouched, with the exception of the athletes who’ve lost that day, and need a little comforting.
I am obsessed with the figure skaters, and I can’t imagine those long, lean lines, those graceful spins, have anything to do with dessert. I worry about how those young girls are disciplined, how they discipline themselves, when it comes time to eat.
This morning I woke up with the above picture on my phone, texted to me by my dear friend Zoe in Maine. My dinner last night, she wrote.
My dinner last night was soup. While it was colorful, it looked nothing like this beautiful bowl Zoe made for herself, mostly from leftovers. She’s a whiz in the kitchen, and when I called her for the recipe, she explained the inspiration came from what was sitting in her fridge. She started with rice and black bean soup from several nights ago, then layered that with fresh pork cutlet and topped with a fried egg. She topped it off with a dash of Sriracha.
I would make this with chicken or beef, but I bet a vegetarian version would be good too. Have you recently turned your leftovers into a gourmet meal? What ingredients did you use?
When I was in Baltimore this past week, at least every other day one of my meals consisted of bagel, cream cheese, and nova. Sometimes, for variety, I added a slice of tomato, or a thickly cut chunk of purple onion. Purple onions remind me of my father and grandfather, and I can never eat one without thinking of them.
I’ve heard that salmon is great for your skin. Mine was a complete mess before the holidays, and now that I’m back in New York, it’s cleared up. Is this from the nova? I’m not sure. I do know that I was still craving it today. Since my mom’s deli has the best nova, I don’t even attempt to buy it in New York. Instead, when I need a salmon fix, I get sushi.
My favorite roll is the Philadelphia roll, made with salmon, cream cheese and brown rice. You can’t tell me that someone Jewish didn’t invent it. Some people do not consider it to be real sushi, but I don’t see how they can say that. It’s the perfect kind of sushi. I love the way the cream cheese and tangy soy sauce meld with the wasabi, the salmon adding smoky and salty all at once. I also love anything with jalapeno in it. Spicy is my thing.
Today I had simple tuna and salmon rolls, made with brown rice. It was a funny choice on such a cold day, but a delicious one.