Wednesday, July 8 2020

curbside pickup, poached fish, and practice cake



banners/2020 07 08

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Wednesday. Fill up your favorite mug with a fresh cup of coffee and find something to stimulate your brain into wakefulness. That's easy for me to say, but truthfully I probably just yawned three times while typing this paragraph. Marissa and I were up late decorating the house and making provisions for Rodney's birthday. We hung banners and posters, set out his presents, and blew up exactly as many balloons as Ziggy would allow us to - just one.

Snacks, games, presents, and prizes - we have a fun day planned for Rodney, but while getting the house ready, I couldn't help but wonder what Rodney's actual perfect day would look like.

"I bet if we just did regular stuff, but referred to him as sir all day and let him eat on the couch, he would talk about it for the rest of the year," I laughed.

"What if we just ate crappy bars for breakfast, lunch, and dinner," laughed Marissa.

"We can just set out a giant platter of crappy bars and eat them all day," I added. "And then we could just sit around with long socks on our hands.

Today is Rodney's actual birthday. And since the real family parties aren't until this weekend, we're treating this like a dry run as well as an opportunity to have some smaller, private birthday fun.

Sip. We had a great day yesterday. While I cleaned the house, Rodney polished off a crappy bar and chased me around the kitchen. Later in the morning, I set him up on the couch. He was in the mood to try a new TV show, so the two of us enjoyed a few episodes of Batman Beyond. It's kind of a neat premise - it's about how a young hot shot kid stumbles into the bat cave where a grumpy, very elderly Bruce Wayne reluctantly takes him under his wing. The important part is that the new Batman drives a motorcycle, and truthfully that was all that Rodney needed to see.

For lunch, we threw together some turkey sandwiches and picked at the leftover pork, potatoes, and sprouts that were sitting in our fridge. I treated Rodney to a glass of chocolate milk.

"MORE MILK PLEASE," he yelled, slamming down his glass. I hadn't even sat down at the table to start eating.

"Is he really finished?" I laughed. Marissa picked up his glass and shook it. Empty.

"Dada more chocolate milk?" begged Rodney.

"You can have water," I corrected him.

"Chocolate water?" Rodney asked.

I laughed. "Well, would that be crazy?" I pondered aloud. "It's just chocolate sauce, I suppose you could mix it with anything."

Marissa retched at the thought of chocolate water. "Please don't make that a thing," she pleaded. "I don't want another icecream milk incident."

"Hey," I said leaning around the corner into the dining room. "Icecream milk was a huge hit. You know he still asks me for that sometimes?"

"Of course he does," laughed Marissa. "It's just a glass of milk with a scoop of icecream in it."

After wrapping up lunch, we packed the car and embarked on a long errand day. Between party decorations, shipping supplies, and groceries, we had a least five different stores we needed to hit - and thanks to the modern day miracle of curbside pickup, we hit all these without even getting out of the car.

"I like this a lot better than regular shopping," said Marissa.

I'm a little torn on curbside pickup. I love the ritual of walking up and down the aisles at Hy-Vee, and I enjoy the sovereignty of picking my own vegetables, fruit, and meat. But a shopping day like the one we had yesterday would have taken us pretty much the rest of the day if we were on foot, and it's hard to complain about making that much ground without even getting out of the car. I didn't even have my shoes on. I guess at a certain point, it's naive and perhaps a little selfish to turn your back on technical progress just for the sake of preserving a beloved ritual. Long live curbside pickup. I'm sure I'll find a new ritual.

The long afternoon shopping excursion left little time for rest. After putting Rodney in his room and taking a quick timeout to unwind, I jumped in the kitchen to start on dinner. The other day, while perusing through my online French Cooking course, I noticed a whole section of final challenge recipes. My enthusiasm for the course kind of fizzled out last month, and while I probably wouldn't go through the trouble of making official photographed submissions for the certificate, I would be remiss if I didn't at least try one of these dishes off the final exam.

And so yesterday's meal was Filets de Poissons Duglere, or poached cod finished in a white wine reduction. The recipe appeared simple at first glance, but slowly as I progressed through the steps of buttering my biggest frying pan, arranging the fish on a bed of thinly diced onions and shallots, things got hectic. The trickiest part of all was finishing the sauce. While the fish was still warm, the recipe called for the broth to be reduced to half the amount - the diced tomato garnish collected in a sieve, then re-added at the end. The recipe was difficult, but all in all, successful.

poached fish

Not pictured: a kitchen buried in dirty dishes and a patient, hungry family waiting at the table.

After a zoom session with the family, we put Rodney to bed, then Marissa and I started working on Rodney's decorations.

"So you have to bake a cake next?" I asked. "Would you like me to mis en place?"

"That would be great, actually," said Marissa, busy filling in the webbing on the giant Spider-Man cutout.

I read the cake recipe and proudly laid out all the ingredients on my cutting board.

"You made this so easy," said Marissa joining me at the counter. "I can literally just throw the cake together." I sipped a beer while Marissa flicked through the recipe on her phone. She mixed the batter and poured it into two cake molds.

"That's funny," she said. "It doesn't look that chocolatey. You measured out the cocoa powder?"

"Yeah - you were using cocoa powder instead of espresso powder, so one teaspoon," I added defensively.

"I was skipping the espresso powder and just adding more cocoa powder," Marissa cautiously corrected.

"Uh oh," I said. I looked at the recipe over her shoulder. "OK, so I shorted you by... three quarters of a cup. That's probably where all the chocolate went." That just figures - I was so blinded by confidence after the successful intermediate French entree, I omitted most of the chocolate from a simple chocolate cake recipe.

"It's OK," said Marissa. "This is just the practice cake."

"And plus, we're just eating crappy bars all day tomorrow, right?"

Thanks for stopping by today. If you happen to see my son, wish him a happy birthday today.