Saturday, February 15 2020

pinkeye, back-up plans, and white rice



Dear Journal,

Hello, everyone! Happy Saturday. I hope you’re taking things slow today, and finding plenty of time to lazily soak up a morning while staying warm inside. Currently, we’re about as relaxed as you can be. I woke up around ten, hearing Rodney call out in the hallway. Helloooo? Anyone there?. The two of us, followed by the dogs, made our way downstairs. I set Rodney up by his chalkboard with a cold cup of apple juice, brewed some coffee, and prepared a Dutch baby in the kitchen while putting things away. Later joined by Marissa, we enjoyed a late breakfast with some cut up fruit. Currently, Marissa is painting in her studio, Rodney is playing with playdough in the living room, and I’m upstairs writing with a cup of coffee.

Yesterday was a great day as well. I worked through the morning, and for lunch we went out to eat with the Security team, sitting at a long table in the back of Tavernakaya. Seated across the table from me was Forest, a new hire and recent transplant from the bay area. I had a great time getting to know Forest. He’s a recent football fan, has plenty of hobbies and opinions, and he likes spicy food. Talk about kindred spirits, right?

I worked through the afternoon before jumping on a bus. At home, the house was empty. I even trudged up the stairs into our bedroom talking to the dogs, only to find that they were missing as well. After cluelessly spinning in our bedroom like Jon Travolta in Pulp Fiction, I remembered that the dogs had a vet appointment. I decided to make the most of the alone time and crash on the couch, enjoying some YouTube. Extended the length of the couch polishing off a handful of cheese curds, I enjoyed a compilation video of the 100 best catches of the 2019 NFL season, which had a decent Bears representation. It’s no surprise - we had a pass heavy offense this past season, and between Robinson and Gabriel, there were lots of great snags in the backfield to choose from.

Marissa and the rest of the family pulled up in the driveway. The door cracked open, and the dogs ran into the living room followed by Rodney. “Ziggy has pinkeye,” announced Marissa.

“Oh no, is it contagious?” I asked.

“Actually the vet, didn’t give me a straight answer. I asked if it was contagious, and she was like, ‘you’d have to really get in there to catch it from her’,” she said. We grimaced at the same time.

“Does the vet know how much… physical contact we share with her? She should have probably gone into the specifics,” I laughed.

“Yeah,” Marissa said, nodding. This morning I woke up with her face literally pressed against my face. I think our eyeballs were even touching.”

We crashed on the couch as a family for a bit, then finally packed the dogs up and jumped in the car, headed for the bowling alley. The bowling alley was packed. “You probably wouldn’t be able to get a lane until like 8:30,” said the young kid behind the counter, shrugging. A bit disappointed, we jumped back in the car to discuss a back-up plan.

“I’m trying to figure out why I’m so frustrated,” I said as we made are way over to the Ale Asylum to play pinball. “I think it’s because I’ve never been turned away from a bowling alley. Who expects a bowling alley to be busy?”

“That’s true,” said Marissa. “I mean it’s Valentine’s day. Why is everyone out bowling?”

“Excactly! On Valentine’s day, no less. What is everyone doing bowling?” I replied. “It’s like if you went into a 7/11 to grab a slushy, and there was a line out the door and you had to go somewhere else.” Ironically, Rodney was probably handling the change of plans best. After we explained to him that bowling was going to pan out, he jumped into his car seat and nodded off.

We found a table in the back of the Ale Asylum and ordered food. We chatted while sipping on beer, diet coke, and lemonade. Rodney started to get bored, waiting patiently in his chair. “Want to play with my phone, dude?” said Marissa, opening the Solitaire app and sliding it over to him. Rodney eagerly started to poke and jab the screen.

“He’s a nice boy,” I said, watching him patiently occupy himself. “I think he’s almost ready to have a gameboy - that might be a fun new toy to get when he gets a new brother. He’s a nice boy, and he deserves something fun and special to bring along on outings.” Although I never had a gameboy, I have lots of fond memories of escaping into the basement after a busy day of school and mentally recharging with some video games. “He likes to sit and focus on things,” I added. “I think he would really take to video games.”

We ate our food, then ordered desert - a chocolate covered Belgian waffle with a chaser of porter. I sipped the beer while the plate practically disappeared before my eyes. By the time the waitress returned, all that remained on the plate was a chocolate smudge and a single raspberry. Rodney and I left the table to go make change, meeting Marissa by the pinball machines for a quick game before returning home and putting Rodney to bed.

Marissa spent the rest of the evening painting upstairs while I put things away in the kitchen and cleaned the fridge. We had a tube of pineapple that just barely didn’t fit in a smaller tupperware container. I sliced off a chunk and diced it, throwing the pieces into a bowl. Soon, a bag of chopped kale and some spare klemintines joined the fruit, as I began mixing an impromptu fruit & kale salad, adding sunflower seeds and the last of a bottle of balsamic dressing. As a finishing touch, I fried a piece of stale pita bread in butter and olive oil and cut it into a heart. “It’s a Valentine’s day salad,” I said, handing the bowl to Marissa in her studio.

“Did this all start with you trying to move the pineapple to a smaller container?” she laughed.

“Yeah, that’s pretty much it,” I laughed. She knows me well. In between assembling the kale salad, I also made a batch of white rice. After ten minutes of simmering the carefully measured ratio of rice and lightly salted water, a wave of panic washed over me. Lifting the lid, I could see there was still about an inch of water in the pan, and tasting the rice, it was crunchy and far from finished.

I’m just going to have to wing it, I thought to myself, shutting off the oven timer and cranking the heat. I let the rice boil for ten more minutes, occasionally lifting the lid to sample it on a fork. “That’s just you cooking,” I said aloud to myself, repeating a recurring catch phrase of Chef John.

When the rice was tender, I swiftly dumped it onto a silpat and fluffed it with a fork, releasing plumes of steam into the air. I added a splash of mirin, tossing and fluffing the rice. The rice was sticky, but fluffy, flavorful, and still held together. Despite the exact timing going off the rails, this batch was a success. Chef John is right. Sometimes you have to abandon prescriptive instructions and just go by taste, sound, and the way things look. That’s just you cooking.

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