Thursday, April 30 2020

old essays, sweet potato gnocchi, and ben's bread tip



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! From my flickering computer screen to yours, I'd like to wish you a happy Thursday. Congratulations on making it this far in the work week.

Rodney surprised me this morning. Normally he sleeps until about 9 or 9:30, but today as I was sleepily preparing the first pot of coffee in the kitchen, I heard him making exuberant WOOP WOOP noises from his upstairs bedroom. So I speedily sequestered him to the downstairs couch and set him up with Dinotrux while I finished getting ready for the day. I don't blame him. The rain had him cooped up indoors for most of the day yesterday. Spending that much time indoors might make you want to spring out of bed a little earlier, and have a productive morning playing with plastic tools and taking in some quiet, relaxing dinosaur truck drama.

Sip - I had a nice day of work yesterday. The no-meetings thing was pretty great. I had plenty of time to catch up on reading communications, organize some of my notes, and fix the script that I had botched the day before. I was feeling pretty good heading into my lunch break. Marissa, Rodney, and I gathered around the dining room table to heat up some leftovers.

"So I found an old essay you wrote for my old blog," I said to Marissa. "Do you remember writing that? It was called The Top 5 Ways That My Corgi Has Taught Me How to Be a Better Person."

Marissa nodded. "Yeah I remember writing that. Please don't..." But I had already begun to read it aloud at the table. I read the first paragraph with my best impression of a studious, collegiate Marissa, but the sincerity of the essay pulled me out of character, and before long, I was just letting the content do all the talking.

"Do you want me to keep reading?" I asked, pausing, looking up at the table.

"Actually, yeah - I'm kind of enjoying this. I'm not cringing as hard as I thought I would," said Marissa.

"It's really well-written. It's very analytical, and you could tell that you had the makings of a dog trainer. It's like witnessing the birth of a new passion," I added.

I finished the essay, and we paused for a moment to take it in. "You put a lot of work into this," I said. "It sounds like something you would have written for school."

"I was smarter back then," she laughed.

I finished out the work day, and around quitting time, I lured Rodney out of his room to go start on dinner. "Dude," I said following him down the stairs. "Do you want to help me make gnocchi?"

After quietly filing past a napping Marissa into the kitchen, Rodney and I got to work. We stabbed some sweet potatoes with butter knives and popped them in the microwave. Next, I set him up with making salt water in the stock pot. I instructed Rodney to add the kosher salt one small pinch at a time. We would eventually need about a full cup, but letting him work on it in small increments kept him interested longer, and bought me some time to finish making the dough - warm sweet potato filling, a spoonful of ricotta cheese, and flour.

Rodney lost interest in my saltwater diversion, and seeing that I was getting ready to take out the eggs, he scooted his ladder over to the opposite counter, ready to help. We cracked an egg into a bowl, and Rodney immediately plunged his tiny finger into the yolk, bringing a dollop of raw egg to his mouth for a sample.

"Is it tasty?" I asked, trying to hide my look of horror. Rodney licked his finger clean and nodded. "So you like raw eggs - nice one Rocky," I laughed.

I rolled the dough onto the table and we got to making gnocchi. I cut Rodney a piece off the dough ball to play with, and I got to work on mine - focusing on gently rolling the dough out into a long snake. By the time I was slicing my roll up into small doughy pillows, I was surprised to find that Rodney had copied me exactly, rolling a long snake with his own piece of dough.

"Dude - that's awesome. You picked up on that quick. Here, why don't you cut them and add them to the pile." I handed Rodney the bench scraper, and with careful precision, he cut the rope of dough into evenly sized pieces.

As we worked, it became abundantly obvious why the recipe we were following emphasized thoroughly mashing the sweet potatoes before rolling it into a dough. We found several awkward pieces of unmashed potato in our ropes, which complicated things a bit. "It's a chunky!" I yelled, setting it aside. Rodney happily joined, and our catch phrase It's a chunky! reverberated through the house.

Rodney played with his toys while I finished dinner. We had the gnocchi with bacon herb butter, and soon we were sitting around the table quiet, content, and on the precipice of a carb induced sleep. I shook off the tiredness with some chores in the kitchen. Afterwards, we put Rodney to bed, and Marissa and I made our way to the bedroom for a remote hangout with Ben and Beth, some good friends of ours from college.

"So what kind of bread are you making," asked Ben with a wry smile.

"So you're a bread making weirdo too - why am I not surprised?" I laughed. We got to talking, and Ben shared some tips for making a sourdough starter. He explained that unbleached flour was ideal because it still had natural yeast living in it. "King Arthur flour is probably the best, I would keep an eye out for it," he continued.

We continued chatting, talking about kids, work, managing things at home, and after wrapping up for the night, I returned to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. All the while, Ben's explanation of yeast and unbleached flour lingered in my mind. Then suddenly, I was struck by realization.

"The civil war flour!" I said to myself. Marissa, who was painting at the dining room table looked up at me.

"I still have a bag of that civil war flour!" I repeated. "I think it's unbleached. I can make a starter." I dashed up the kitchen step ladder and rifled through supplies, finding the orange bag tucked against the back wall.

"Look - it's even King Arthur. Man, I feel bad about ragging on this stuff now," I laughed.

"I'm impressed that you kept it!" added Marissa. "Make sure you thank Ben for the tip."

Thanks for the bread tip, Ben. And thank you, reader, for stopping by this morning. I hope you have a wonderful day.