Wednesday, February 12 2020

mac 'n cheese, trick shots, and indian food



Dear Journal,

Well, good morning everyone! Hope you’re all feeling good today. I find it hard to believe it’s only Wednesday. I feel like I’ve already put in a week’s worth of work, and I’m craving a weekend right about now. I’m fantasizing about the next time I can fall asleep on the couch, or at the very least hide under a blanket and watch TV, but I think I still have enough resolve to soldier on. I’m feeling grateful that this will be one of those weeks that peaks with Thursday night’s kids code, followed by a well-earned lazy night where I do all of the above.

Yesterday was a quiet day. I spent most of the day writing code and listening to Kesha’s new album. For lunch, I snuck out to Starbucks and sat at the table attached to the bar, gobbling down a chicken and bacon panini and washing it down with an iced tea. My phone buzzed. “Rodney is the happiest he has ever been right now,” Marissa said in a slack message. A photo appeared, loading on the screen, showing Rodney flashing a grin and a thumbs-up siting at the table in front of a hot bowl of Paw Patrol Mac n Cheese - a new obsession that has overtaken his pallet. It’s pretty remarkable how quickly a kid can get hooked on mac ‘n cheese. I bought those boxes with Rodney the day before. He approached the mac ‘n cheese wall ceremoniously, and stood for a minute deliberating between the Chase box and the Marshall box. When we got home, as I was cooking dinner, he ran up to me and pleaded, “Dada, um… one box of pAH-trol mac-cheese. Please please please?” I laughed. “Mac ‘n cheese isn’t a snack, dude. It’s a meal.”

I too was feeling happy, hiding at the end of the Starbucks bar polishing off a bag of chips. Maybe not as happy as Rodney, but it was my own much needed solace before returning back to work.

The rest of the day was pretty kicked back as well. I had a one-on-one with my manager. We bundled up and went for a walk around the square, completing two laps while we chatted about our team and our work. Before heading inside, we stopped by Walgreen’s to pick up some gum for our team’s communal gum & mint stash.

Taking the bus home and entering the house, I got to rinsing two cups of rice before greeting Marissa, who was coming out of an afternoon nap on the couch. “Rodney is pretty tired, but I think he’ll feel like going out,” she said before I quietly traversed the stairs to his bedroom. Rodney’s head shot up in bed. “Hello Dada!” he said from underneath his covers.

Together we drove to Hy-Vee, Rodney filling the car with stories about his day. For making some poop progress, he earned a spiky, light up bouncy ball. He was also still reeling from his Mac ‘n Cheese lunch. “You should have seen him in the kitchen,” recounted Marissa later. “He was standing on a chair stirring in the butter into the noodles, and he was humming the Paw Patrol theme song to himself.”

We shopped around Hy-Vee, picking up chicken thighs, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and a pack of pita bread. I planned on making chicken tikka masala, and anticipated the last few ingredients turning into a bit of a treasure hunt. Rodney and I perused the organic aisle. A Hy-Vee employee turned to us, asking “Can I help you find anything?”

“Actually yeah,” I said. “Two things - coconut milk and ghee.” The employee took on a panicked look, darting into the back aisle toward the milk while Rodney and I followed. She directed us to a carton of coconut milk - technically correct, but I was looking for a small can. I’m not sure what I would do with an entire carton.

“Perfect,” I said. “Now what was that last thing?” she asked.

“Um… ghee? Clarified butter,” I hesitated.

“What’s that?” she questioned. I nervously shifted on the balls of my feet. “You know what,” I added. “I’m going to skip it.” The employee looked at me in horror. “Are you sure?” she questioned.

“Yeah totally,” I assured her. “You can make it at home, it’s just an extra step.” From the corner of my eye, I saw another shopper wheel her cart closer, poised to interject. “It’s also known as ghee!” she interrupted. “It’s shelf stable. I bet it’s by the Indian food.”

“Thanks, I can go without it,” I said, now addressing what felt like a gaggle of unwelcome influences in me and Rodney’s shopping trip. “It’s OK, I have a back-up plan. I’m calling off the search.” And it’s a good think I did. On the way to the checkout aisle, Hy-Vee did indeed carry ghee on the shelf - a whopping ten dollars for a jar the size of, well, the can of coconut milk I was hoping to buy before I settled on the family sized carton. “No way dude,” I said to Rodney following close behind me. “Let’s just melt some stinking butter instead.”

Back at home, I set Rodney up at the table with a snack and got to cooking. I tossed the chicken in spices, then melted some butter in the bottom of my dutch oven and skimmed the fat onto a paper towel. I seared the chicken slices in the thighs. They turned crispy, releasing a fragrant bouquet of smells into the air. I moved the chicken aside, adding onions, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes, then simmered it gently with chicken stock and coconut milk. Everything turned out great - except of course for the rice. As is tradition in my kitchen, putting way too much focus on the meal, I botched the rice. “So I know the rice is bad,” I said, offering a taste to Marissa in the living room. “But I just need a second opinion to confirm that it is edible.” With a mouthful of slimy, undercooked white rice, Marissa gave a thumbs up before trotting up the stairs. At least we had plenty of warm pita bread to make up for it.

We sat at the table for a while, digesting our food and watching Rodney’s antics, before cleaning up and watching a few trick shot YouTube videos on the couch. Marissa joined us, then, initiation clean-up time, I switch to some loud music. We all got up off the couch and started to pick up toys. Rodney was flipping his toy cars behind his head, aiming to get them in the box in his play corner - his own brand of clean-up themed trick shots. “Let’s GOOOOOOO” he exclaimed, running in circles after each small success.

We put him to bed, and after knocking out Dutch and exercise, I did my best to overcome Indian food induced sleepiness while cleaning up the kitchen. “These spices are brutal,” I said to Marissa while clearing the stove top. “I just want to sleep right now.”

“Remember we used to eat at that Indian restaurant on Sundays and just nap the whole day?” added Marissa.

“Yeah,” I replied. “We would all wake up at like 7 PM, and not know what to do with ourselves.”

I rinsed my Dutch oven in the sink, forming a pool of shimmering orange liquid around the train. I was so captivated by the color of the tumeric reflecting off our white cast iron sink beneath the bright kitchen light that I stopped to take a picture. It’s a shame these spices make you so sleepy, because they look absolutely fantastic and they smell amazing.

I fixed myself a coconut milk and tequila smoothie, then joined Marissa at the project board for a quick sync up. The plan is to finish our tasks by Friday, then we’ll take the whole weekend to paint the basement. And we’re doing great - right on track to hit our goal for this week.

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