Tag Archives: Monday

Columbus Day

It’s amazing how many things can go differently than expected in a single weekend–late office departures, pharmacy complications, detours and traffic, rain throughout a half-marathon, and much, much more. When a long-expected celebration ended up being called off at the last minute, it was the icing, so to speak, on the wedding cake.

But we are resilient creatures, we humans.  We revise.  We reconsider.  We adjust. We go on. We console our friends. We offer comfort and a place to stay. We know it isn’t enough, but we try.  And when we have done all we can, we say good night and head sadly for home.

She had brought home perfectly lovely cider donuts from an apple-picking trip with her parents.  But on a cloudy, hard-to-navigate morning, a little extra sweetness seemed appropriate: chopped Macoun and Honeycrisp apples were softened in a tablespoon of melted butter, caramelized with a little brown sugar and dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg. Halves of the donuts, gently warmed and slightly browned in the same pan, were sandwiched with the apples and drizzled with a little whipped cream.

Columbus was looking for a route to India when he found the New World.  We cannot know what world our friends will find in the coming days. The one certainty is that a workday-off due to a civic holiday–and with it a fire in the fireplace and a decadent breakfast–has never come at a more opportune time.

Sometimes donuts are lilies just waiting to be gilded.

Sometimes donuts are lilies just waiting to be gilded.

Quiet Dinner for One

I’d had an early-evening meeting, and got home with about an hour before her train arrived. She met a friend for drinks and snacks that turned into dinner. I heated some pasta and her rustic tomato sauce, adding a big handful of broccoli florets and a little mozzarella cheese and maybe a teaspoon of diced pepperoni. While the microwave worked its magic, I fed the cats and packed breakfast and lunch for Tuesday. I ate dinner at the table with a proper napkin, good posture, and an interesting book I bought months ago thinking it might possibly become a musical. It might, or might not, but I’m enjoying it either way. I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like, so it was nice to spend time with a story on paper. A glass of wine would have been nice with the pasta, but not after a long day–and not before driving to the station to meet her train.

A bowl of pasta and a book. Laundry folding and conversation about our days. Domestic. Tranquility.

Manhattan Pancakes

She’d had a rough morning, I’d had a rough afternoon, and breakfast-for-dinner seemed the only way to go.  She replied to my iMessage asking what she’d like:

Ooh! Pancakes? Plain, topped with peanut butter and butter?

I agreed.  It was, in fact, what I was hoping she’d choose.

Meanwhile, knowing that comfort food was on the horizon, I posted jokingly to Facebook that I was having pancakes, and wondered

…what’s an appropriate wine to pair with them. Or perhaps the best hard spirits. Or both.

My friends enthusiastically rose to the challenge.  Suggestions included hard cider (apple or pear), moonshine, beer, various German wines and a couple of sparkling wines, blueberry schnapps, and “honey-infused rye whiskey.” This bunch clearly takes their pancakes-and-drinking seriously.  Or maybe they were just ready to help a friend in need.

The comment stream amused her as much as it had done for me, but that “infused” comment made her sit up and take notice: “We could just pour bourbon over the pancakes.”

All of a sudden I was in the act, too.  “Wait–what if we made some simple syrup…”

“…and added bourbon!”

Now, neither of us is really a drinker. I can mix a Manhattan, split it into two glasses, and there’ll be some left in each glass at the end of the evening. But, as with the one-spoon-sundae that has become a favorite dessert, sometimes just a little taste is enough.

There was no bourbon in the cupboard after all, so she flavored the syrup with rye and a splash of scotch. I mixed batter and heated the griddle. One pancake got the last of a batch of homemade maraschino cherries (the kind where real cherries have been infused with maraschino liqueur, not the candied-and-dyed fakes). We cooked some sausage, deglazed its pan with a little more rye and thickened it with a bit of butter, and drizzled that sauce over the sausage. All the while, she sang Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

“…drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry,
and good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye…”

Nobody got over-served.  We each had just a bit of the sort-of-cocktail syrup over very fluffy pancakes. Even so, neither of us was driving anywhere. The miserable parts of our days faded away in the giddiness of doing something silly in the kitchen, and in its unusual and tasty result.

“Who needs ‘American Pie,'” she asked, “when you’ve got cake!”

There’s quite a lot of the syrup left, but we’ll probably save it until we’ve both had a really good day at work.

Breakfast for Dinner for Grownups

Breakfast-for-Dinner for Grownups

Running out for Pizza

She sent me an email one day, a long time ago.  (I believe she sent the same message to many friends, but I could be misremembering.)

My doctor said I should get more exercise.  I’m going to try this thing called Couch to 5K.  Care to join me?

I figured exercise was a good thing, since I basically sit for a living, so I followed the link she included, looked at the plan described there, and thought:

5K?  Five kilometers?  3.1 miles? I can’t run from here to the corner!

But then I read further, and realized that on the first day of the program I’d have to run (or jog, or waddle, or whatever) for 60 seconds, then walk for 90 seconds, and then run for 60 more, walk for 60 more, and so on.

60 seconds–that’s the lightning round on Password.  I can do anything for 60 seconds.

I finished my work for the day, put on some old shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of sneakers, and went outside to give it a try. Although by the fifth or sixth repetition of that 60-90 cycle my butt was well and truly kicked, I kind of enjoyed the experience.  Half an hour, three days a week, nine weeks.  Let’s do this.

I was into week 5 of the program before I learned that she’d hated it and given up long before. But I finished–in 16 weeks, not 9, but who was keeping score?–and was encouraged by the success and the thought that if I could do that, what else could I do? I continued, with a program called Bridge to 10K. And then trained for and ran a half-marathon. And another. And another. I haven’t tried a full marathon yet, but I hope to one day. I gave up old sneakers and cut-off shorts long ago in favor of specialized shirts and shorts and socks, and I actually have a favorite brand and model of running shoe. Eventually, she took up the program again; now she’s done 5K races with me and by herself, and we run together whenever we can.

There’s a Labor Day race in New Haven–20 kilometers, the national championship at that distance.  That’s not far from the Country House, so I signed up to run in it, and she came to cheer me on. To say that it was humid in New Haven on Labor Day does no justice to the drippiness of the runners in that field. My running clothes aren’t as wet when I take them out of the washing machine as they were when I took them off when we got home.  Drippy.  Disgusting.  Although my finishing time was not my best, it was very satisfying to finish safely under such nasty conditions. Which means, officially, that I am the 1327th fastest person in America at the distance of 20 kilometers.  (Well, at least of those who entered.)

As she drove us home, we saw a billboard.  “Is that the place with the awesome pizza?” she asked. Yes, it was; not the original location where we’d gone after shopping trips to Ikea, but another restaurant owned by the same family. “Wanna get pizza?” “Always.  Especially after a race.  But I’d like a shower first.”

We continued home, I cleaned up. We did some gardening and cleaned up again, and then phoned in our order.

We arrived at the restaurant to find the doors locked. There were plenty of customers inside, and closing time was listed as two hours away, so eventually we got the attention of the hostess who unlocked the door for us. I went to the counter to ask if our order was ready and waited patiently while the hostess discussed something with the cashier.  After several minutes, the hostess looked up and was startled. “Oh!” “Yeah, me.” “I thought you were looking at a menu.” “No, just waiting.” I gave her my name, she pulled the boxed pizza off the rack; I paid and we headed home.

I’m not going to name the restaurant, because I’d like to think that what we experienced was an anomaly.  I don’t want to believe the owners think that when your pizza is world famous, shoddy service is acceptable. It isn’t. We’ll try again someday. If it’s another bad experience, names will be named.

World famous or not, the pizza was excellent: thin crust, topped lightly with tomato, mozzarella, mushrooms and sausage.  (My salad, made with the last of this week’s CSA greens and green pepper, cherry tomatoes, and an avocado vinaigrette, was crisp and refreshing alongside it.)

Was this pizza better than we could have made at home? Different, certainly, considering they have a coal-fired oven that gets to 1600ºF, and we don’t. Also, we make our crust a little thicker. But on one of the hottest nights of the summer, after a long run and a lot of gardening, excellent take-out was worth the drive and the questionable customer service.

I’ve registered for a race over Columbus Day weekend in Hartford. Wonder if there’s good pizza there…

This Dinner Brought to You by iMessage

There are dinners you plan weeks in advance, snuggled on a sofa with cookbooks all around and steaming mugs of tea nearby.  (I’m pretty sure there are such dinners, anyway; the nearest we’ve had have been conversations about Christmas and Easter meals, although I don’t remember the steaming mugs of tea, and in our case “cookbooks all around” means searching on Epicurious.)

There are dinners you plan by opening the fridge and hoping not to find new cultures of penicillin.

Most days, dinner is somewhere in between.

On Monday morning, I received an iMessage:

Car unloaded.

(She had made a trip to the storage unit to retrieve some items from a “miscellaneous” box that should have come into the house.)

Also, dinner sourced.

Oh? I replied.

Tomato and mozzarella sandwiches on bagels. With whatever other veggies we have.

After a successful workday, several hours of unpack-and-sort (cleaning products, hats and gloves were the day’s projects), and guest-room-tidying in preparation for a visit from her dad, it was dinnertime.

Lightly toasted asiago bagels were spread with a molecule-thin layer of mayo, layered with thick slices of ridiculously good tomato from the CSA and dairy-fresh mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and a few fried basil leaves, and served open-faced alongside sautéed green beans.

It’s not the sort of thing I grew up eating. I didn’t like uncooked tomato until college, and the only cheese I knew was square, pre-sliced, and wrapped in plastic. It’s a fine and glorious thing to discover things you thought you didn’t like.

Tomato and cheese sandwiches. Who knew?

Yum.

* * *

(No photos last night, particularly not of the leftover burger I offered my breakfast-and-lunch-skipping dinner companion as a protein boost alongside the bagel. It was, as predicted, considerably past well-done. Instead, here’s one of the planned-well-in-advance boeuf bourginnone she prepared for Christmas dinner last year.)

Boeuf