Thursday, January 30 2020

dumplings, rodneys favorites, and the blanket game

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Hope you're feeling healthy and strong today. As for me, I'm feeling a little bit better. At this point, the sore throat left, and I'm just dealing with an obnoxious cough, a cold, and some fatigue. While not yet at 100%, I think I'm well enough to head into work today. I think as long as I keep the cough drops close by, I'll manage just fine.

Yesterday was a pretty alright day. I was able to keep a low profile working from home, chipping away at a ticket and eventually summoning the energy to conduct a code screen. It went well, but it took a lot out of me, and things kind of slowed down in the afternoon, but I hung in there until quitting time.

Marissa was kind enough to pick up groceries again. Having had the same cough/cold virus, I'm looking forward to the stage she is at that evidently gives you a boost of productive energy. "Today is the first day I don't feel sick at all," she said. For me, that should only be a few days from now.

For dinner, I decided to make dumplings. This surprised Marissa, since the last time I made dumplings it was kind of a big production that involved two people. But Chef John has a lazy dumpling recipe where he makes a dozen at a time by essentially just making one long saucijzenbroodje from pork and dough, then "karate chopping" it into smaller pieces. The dough was a little tricky, but all in all it wasn't so bad. You can really tell Chef John is a pro because of the way he makes do. He uses one hand to knead and mop up the extra flour in the bowl, so that by the time he's done he can just drop the dough ball in the same bowl and let it rest. My bowl, in comparison, was caked with wet flour, and I had to scrub it out in the sink before I could reuse it. I also made way too much dough.

All throughout mixing and kneading the dough in the kitchen, I coughed uncontrollably. I imagine my barking and wheezing could be heard all throughout the house, and even though Marissa and Rodney have probably already been exposed to this cruddy virus, I could only imagine how uncomfortable it must have been hearing someone cough all over your dinner. It kind of had the same energy as that scene from the Office where Dwight insists the rest of the office cough and sneeze on his things so he can develop a better immunity.

With my cantaloupe sized dough ball resting in plastic, the ground pork marinating in ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, and the white rice drying over the sink in a colander, I had a whole hour to kill before assembly. I could have probably squeezed in a nap, but I instead chose to enjoy a cup of tea on the couch and watch some TV. It felt good to just sit and not think about anything.

An hour later, I got up to finish making dinner. I flattened the dough, rolled a dense center of pork, and pinched the thin surface shut, sealing it with some water. I heated up my biggest pan with sesame oil and butter, then seared the dumplings for a few minutes. I guess at that point, they were potstickers, and true to their name, they stuck right to the bottom of my pan.

And the great thing about potstickers is that once you put them down in the pan, you don't have to touch them again. Instead of prying them free, I dumped in glass of chicken broth seasoned with soy sauce and mirin. Steam billowed from the pan up to my ceiling, sputtering and hissing before dying down to a simmer. I covered the dumplings and cranked the heat. They gently bobbed in the broth as the lid fogged up, but the smell still leaked out.

I transferred the dumplings to the only Chinese looking bowl we own in the house, then dredged them in broth. We ate it with a side of white rice, and giving the rice extra time to drain and dry off made for a noticeable improvement. I ate my dumplings with a dab of Korean chili paste.

Halfway through eating, Rodney interrupted us, proudly announcing "Hey, I like this!" He had already picked his bowl clean of any ground pork, and all that remained was a little bed of white rice and some shreds of dumpling dough. I smiled at Marissa. "That makes me happy," I said to her. "I like keeping track of what meals he likes."

"I think he likes anything with pork," she laughed. "He's pork boy."

It's true. Rodney's favorites are a high profile, exclusive list, and thus far they only include peanut butter and jelly cut into triangles, pork chops, and now pork dumplings. Occasionally, he'll ask for a soft boiled egg, but I think he's more interesting in peeling them over the sink than he is in actually eating them.

Marissa put Rodney to bed and let me get an early jump on chores. "Don't push yourself too hard," she warned. Truth be told, I don't mind putting things away in the kitchen. On most nights, cleaning up the kitchen is as relaxing to me as being on the computer. It's a form of meditation. I moved slowly between tasks, taking plenty of breaks to check in on Marissa and Rodney or push some fluids.

After Rodney was in bed, while I was waiting for oven to heat up so I could clean the stove, I decided to be a spectator of the dogs' blanket game, which is a clever game-ification of their dinner designed to teach them to respect each other's training time. Both dogs sit on a folded blanket, and Marissa will do tricks with one of the dogs, using a piece of kibble as motivation. If the other dog stays put on the blanket, they are rewarded with a piece of kibble as well. I tried playing a round. It was difficult finding the coordination to dispense commands to two dogs at once, but it was fun. I felt like a lion tamer or something. I used to tease Marissa for making the dogs to tricks for their dinner, but I could see now that they look forward to the blanket game. "They actually love it," she said. "It puts me in a good mood too."

"It's kind of like their own little game show with food," I remarked.

I'm feeling rested today. I spent the rest of the evening pushing fluids and vitamins like a maniac, and if I had to guess, I'd say I'm at a solid B right now. I'm grateful it's Thursday, and by the time I start feeling completely better, it will be the weekend. That's something to look forward too.

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a great day today.