Archives for posts with tag: gratitude

Almost anyone who would be reading this knows that Mr. has not been entirely well, which is one of a few things that have kept me from documenting our lives here for some time. 1L would be another one of them, as would the sun’s awful habit of abandoning its shift a little earlier each day.

This Thanksgiving break Mr. and I flew down to Washington, D.C. to see my in-laws. We love Thanksgiving as much if not more than any of the other holidays. New Year’s Eve is amateur night, loud, exhausting, and expensive, and when Christmas’ sugar-and-consumption rush wanes, I always feel a little moody. Thanksgiving requires no stressful gift giving, unless you count bringing a dish to share. It fills a home with enticing aromas for hours. It provides for conversation, for napping, and for leftovers. The only downside I can imagine is there’s only one Thanksgiving per year, which means we cannot see all three of our families on this delicious day. While we sat around three (!) tables in my mother-in-law’s dining room, sharing a meal with sixteen friends-and-family-members-and-friends-who-basically-are-family-members, I certainly thought of my loved ones scattered along the East coast: my mom, having a rustic Thanksgiving in the mountains of Pennsylvania, as she and my stepfather always do; my dad and stepmother, in Long Island with my grandmother, sharing traditional Italian-American specialties, like butter cookies, that my grandpa used to make; my other grandmother, eating Puerto Rican food in the Bronx; our aunt and uncle in Massachusetts, cooking a feast for forty-two people. It was a rich Thanksgiving all around, and Mr. and I would have felt fortunate to sit at any one of those tables.

We ate unbelievably well for the weekend. While most of you were having pizza the night before Thanksgiving (an awesome tradition in its own right) I was spoiled with oysters, pasta, and lamb. And while I never actually enjoyed Thanksgiving food when I was a vegetarian, Thursday’s supper of stuffing, mashed potatoes, buttered brussels sprouts, two kinds of turkey (one in the oven, one on the grill), gravy, and cranberry relish was the perfect fall meal. A full Thanksgiving plate will always mean a lot to us, because four Thanksgivings ago Mr. took me home to meet his parents, even though we had only been dating for a few weeks.

When we reached our apartment in Massachusetts last night I could not help but feel a little cold. Mostly because the temperature is a few degrees lower here in Cambridge than in the District, but at least partially because our home was missing and assortment family members, cooking aromas, and a fridge full of memories leftovers. Well, we could fix at least one or two of those right off. Having already booked a Zipcar, Mr. and I rushed off to Whole Foods to stock up our fridge, and came home to make pancetta, white bean, and chard potpies from Deb Perelman’s new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The book was an early Christmas present we picked out at D.C.’s excellent independent bookstore, Politics and Prose. We obviously could not wait to try a recipe or two.

By the time we were done, our house smelled amazing.

Here’s one suggestion I have for this recipe: if you have access to really beautiful pancetta (my father-in-law makes this for his restaurant), use it; if you only have access to insipid, floppy, deli counter pancetta, do yourself a favor and just buy really awesome bacon.

I am one of those people who believe that a new apartment doesn’t smell quite right until I cook some onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in the kitchen. Of course, the garlic hasn’t joined the pot yet here.

Winter greens.

Butter on its way to becoming a roux. Foamy butter mesmerizes me.

By the time the filling looked like this, I was starving, and not because it took long to make.

The finished pie had a super flaky crust. There is a little bit of sour cream in the dough, but the main aromatic component was butter. Oh dear. These were hearty, and I ate about half of one, even though we made them a little smaller than Deb does in her recipe. Oh well, that means more servings of gorgeous potpie!

How did you spend your Thanksgiving? What do you make when you’re seeking comfort? This was my very first potpie – if you like potpie, what sort do you like? Chicken? Lobster? 

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No surprise, yesterday Mr. and I stayed home all day. I am still recovering, so most of my time is spent either on the couch or in bed. I am no longer in a lot of intense, constant pain, but I do get worn out very quickly, I feel dizzy when I stand up too fast, and reaching/lifting/excessive bending are still off-limits.

Since we moved to Cambridge, we eat homemade food at home, I think, much more regularly than we have at any point in the last few years. Mr.’s family, with whom we lived in D.C. for the summer while we prepared for the wedding, eats at home most nights, which was wonderful. Still, when you have a wedding around the corner, there are always celebrations and meals out. Before that, in New York, our friends would say that we cooked a lot, and I guess we did, because our favorite answer to “What should we do this weekend?” is usually “Why don’t we…try that new ravioli filling/bake bread/perfect our french fry technique/learn make a giant Korean-style roast/you get the idea.” However, except for a long stint when Mr. would make frittatas on Sunday night that we would portion out for a week of breakfasts, most morning meals were toast and/or a medium boiled egg eaten at the kitchen counter. We usually took packed lunches to work. We prepared dinner most nights, but not every night. We succumbed to mediocre Thai delivery at least every other week. And when you’re surrounded by amazing restaurants, it’s pretty easy to convince yourself that you deserve a night off from a messy kitchen. Sometimes it’s just easier to leave the dishes for another day. There were many weeks when we took almost every night off.

I would be lying if I said that now that we’re in law school our lives are far less busy and exhausting. I am very very tired almost every night. I do not always sleep well because the stress of processing what I have learned seems to cause odd dreams. Each day is a balancing act of homework, class time, and extracurriculars. I do think, however, that the student life is far more amenable to eating at home, together, on the couch or at the table, several times per day.

For example, we cook and eat breakfast together every morning, something I never would have imagined possible. You know how on television shows (Breaking BadI’m looking at you) the mom-dad-kids all sit down at a table and eat bacon and eggs together before work and school as though they have nowhere to be? I always thought that was a television fiction. My mom used to make me breakfast and leave it for me before she went to work. Her workday started at six am. When we were teaching, Mr. and I had wildly different morning schedules because my commute was much longer than his. (Also, I am a morning person.) I would get up, eat, shower, dress, pack, and leave, often before he had even woken up.

Right now we are lucky enough to have similar enough schedules that we actually sit down at the table and eat breakfast together before class almost every morning. Once in a while one of us has to be somewhere extra early, but otherwise, we eat something hot, drink coffee and tea, take our vitamins, and quote New York Times articles to each other while we shake off the morning brain fog. Sometimes we review the work for a class. On the weekdays we eat pretty basic breakfast foods: scrambled eggs, little egg sandwiches with out homemade chicken sausage, omelettes, french toast occasionally.

On the weekends, we make brunch, usually a cooking project like this one.

That plate of gooey-sticky-yumminess is chicken nachos, made with homemade (baked!) chips, leftover shredded chicken reheated with stock and spices, half a can of black beans “refried” with some onions and chilies, white cheddar, cilantro, and green onions. Every time we make something like this at home, I feel retroactively disappointed about almost every single plate of nachos I have ever eaten in a restaurant.

I am really going to miss it whenever our schedules no longer coincide for breakfast every day. There will always be (crossing fingers here) dinner, though, and Mr. is a real star at dinner time. He has many talents, and knowing his way around an ancho chile is one of them. I know it’s in his nature/nurture, because his father is a chef and his brother is learning to become one, but that does not keep me from feeling impressed. There aren’t quite as many restaurants here in Cambridge to try out as there seemed to be in Manhattan, so even though we’ve already worked our way a heaping handful of them, we’re not tempted to go out whenever we’re feeling lazy. It’s not like there’s a line of yellow cabs outside our apartment building waiting to take us to Marea because we’ve had a bad day. Perhaps fortunately, most takeout/delivery around here tends to shut down around 10, which means that on the kind of late nights when we would default to ordering, it’s not an option anyway. After realizing this, we stocked our freezer with homemade basics we can easily combine for meals, and stay home for dinner as often as we can. It’s better on the student budget anyway.

Last night Mr. and I made a last minute celebration. Celebrating what? I’m feeling much better. The farmer’s market still has beautiful things to eat. We didn’t need to go to the grocery store. We had some shrimp and homemade chorizo in the freezer, plenty of unctuous homemade chicken stock in the fridge, and a big pile of end-of-season fresh cranberry beans from the market. I shelled the beans.

Which was only arduous because the pods were getting a teeny bit slimy. I think it’s because we stored them near the potatoes for a day or two. Whatever evil thing potatoes do to onions, maybe they do it cranberry beans too.

And then I read articles from the current issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (which our good friends brought over as part of a care package that include the most amazing thing ever, a bicycle horn with which I can summon my chivalrous husband to my distressed-damsel-side) out loud to him while he worked kitchen alchemy. By the way, do you happen to read this column, which exposes the various sex tips in men’s and women’s magazines for their general ridiculousness? A friend of mine writes it, and it’s genius. While we laughed and laughed, Mr. was somehow able to turn our pantry ingredients into this.

Sorcery, I tell you. And since he spent his study breaks making bread yesterday…

we also had garlicky olive oil toast to sop up all that gorgeous broth.

It’s pretty cold outside at night these days, and to be honest, I think it’s going to be a little while before I feel like spending a whole day out of the apartment. So on days like this, I am grateful that I like to cook, that my husband enjoys preparing meals (and is a far better, and more patient cook than I am), so that when I feeling at my worst, I don’t have to rely on delivery or frozen convenience foods that would make me feel even worse. Between my mother roasting a chicken for us last week while she was here, and Mr.’s insistence on preparing several intensely flavorful, nourishing meals, I’m starting to think dinner might be the best medicine.

What do you like to eat, if anything, when you’re feeling under the weather? What influences whether to eat at home or go out or order in? What are you having for breakfast this morning?