Friday, January 03 2020

colds, computer parts, and dinner failures



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Friday to everyone out there. We’re now officially done with the first work week of 2020, so give yourself a pat on the back if you’re out there and you made it. It’s not the first complete week of the year. For me, it was barely a half week, and it was a struggle to get through. Marissa and I are still afflicted with colds, and mine has even made a bit of a resurgence. This cold is like a Bruno Mars song - the moment I said “hey I thing we’re all done with this”, there it is on the radio again back in full force. So I’m feeling a little tired this morning, my nose is runny, but I’m still showered, dressed, and ready to rock.

I hit the chores pretty hard yesterday. I attacked another project on our board, this time gutting my closet of unneeded IT supplies. The other day, Rodney was playing in my bin, and I lost track of what he was doing, and just about every little plug, dongle and cable was dumped out and scattered on the floor. I love it when he plays in my stuff - I think that’s important - but usually I intervene before it gets to the just dump everything out phase of playtime. But rather than spending a half hour meticulously putting everything back into place, I just crammed it all willy nilly into the bin and decided to go through it later.

So last night, I finally had time to sort it all out. Ironically, the process of cleaning out my bin looked a lot like what Rodney was doing - dump everything out. It took me about an hour to sort, label, and bag all the spare parts, and it felt great. Luckily, I set up a pretty good system for organizing it sometime last year, and the system continues to work.

In other news, last night’s dinner was a spectacular failure, so for your amusement, let me take you through it. Picture this - the goal was a half sandwich and a cup of soup. Right off the bat, it sounds a little lunchy and light, but realistically I just wanted to make a simple soup with a more involved sandwich and serve them together. I went with the classic Monte Cristo and a butternut squash soup.

The Monte Cristo is basically just a ham and cheese melted onto french toast. It’s assembled on some whitebread, dipped into a savory batter, and fried nice and crispy in butter. As I was mixing the improvised batter and assembling the sandwich, I started to feel pretty good about it. Everything smelled great, and miraculously I had managed to get a squash peeled, sliced, roasted, and simmering in soup base by 6:30, so I was looking great for time. But I made a critical mistake. In all the videos I watched, best practices recommended toasting the bread before dipping it in the batter. This would make it drier, more prone to soak up batter, and more likely to come out crispy and delicious. But I didn’t do this step. Instead, I dipped the soft white bread right into the eggs and took them straight to cast iron. It made a convincing sizzle at first, but as it cooked, it just started to look like regular soft and plushy french toast.

Meanwhile on the soup front, the squash tenderized beautifully, and after hitting it with the immersion blender, the consistency was velvety and satisfying. Here is where I made my first mistake, I dumped in a whole container of whipping cream. “This won’t affect the consistency too much,” I thought. “It’s just cream.” Well, Alex, cream is a liquid too, and adding the whole carton of cream thinned the soup, and the result looked like a weird orange latte that frankly didn’t taste like squash anymore. So with the soup ruined in a swift motion, my hope was on the sandwiches.

I had decided to fry all three at the same time, so if no crisypness was happening before, it definitely wasn’t happening now. With the pan crowded with three sandwiches, the brown color was there from the butter, but the cheese barely melted. I dusted the wet, warm sandwiches with powdered sugar - a little too much. Ah, and the icing on the cake was the soup garnish. “I’ll jazz it up with a few sunflower seeds,” I thought. I sprinkled some seeds onto Marissa’s soup. And you know how denser things always float to the bottom of a liquid? The soup was so thin that the seeds plopped to the bottom. A nice little surprise waiting at the bottom of the bowl if you’re brave enough to finish it.

So sandwich and soup night was a learning failure. But if we’re honest, it was doomed from the start. A Monte Cristo sandwich is much “brunchy-er” than I expected, and it made for a weird pairing with a fall soup - or squash flavored milk.

Even though dinner didn’t turn out great, it was still a fun exercise. I think the next stage of learning to cook is starting with ideas instead of explicit recipes. There was probably nothing that would have saved the sandwiches, but being the only one to taste the soup before I ruined it, the soup was promising. “I’ll eat anything weird, as long as you’re learning and experimenting,” said Marissa commending me.

Sip. Busy week. I’m really looking forward to the weekend. It sounds ridiculous that I’d be tired from only working two three days this week, but my body doesn’t lie. Tonight, we’re hanging around the house & making a pizza. Tomorrow, Rodney got us excited about going bowling. “There should be more bowling in our lives” is the closest thing our family has to a New Year’s Resolution this year, so we’re putting it to work on the first weekend of the year.

That’s what I got today. Take care of yourself today. You probably got ambitions for the year, and if you’re like me, you’re in a hurry to make 2020 as cool of a year as it sounds, but let’s make a resolution now to take our time and let 2020 develop it’s own mood.

Have a great Friday, everyone.