Monday, May 3 2021

ramen, sand, and old stuff

page banner

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday. It's an honor to be here together, cracking open a new and exciting work week. My calendar looks promising. Barring any more evening work emergencies, sudden vaccine side effects, or untimely drives to Racine, I should have much more focus time to work with.

Sip. So how did your weekend go? Ours was full and exciting. I have a lot to tell you about, so as a reward for the dedicated reader, why don't we go in order of least interesting to most interesting?

For starters, we invented a new chore. About a week ago I added "laundry round-up" to the electronic chore wheel, and even though none of us knew what exactly that meant, Marissa and I were in agreement that something needed to be done about the lose articles of laundry floating all over the house. Bibs, towels, socks, pants, and hoodies. Some days there were so many clothes on the ground that our house looked like we had just thrown a party in the LaHaye and Jenkins universe (big respect if you caught that buried reference).

As for the "laundry round-up" chore, the system is thus: grab the laundry basket that is the most full, take one lap around the house to collect abandoned clothes, and start the washer. Marissa was enthusiastic.

In other news, we had ramen for dinner last night. I didn't make a big to-do about it, but it turned out amazing. The meal was born out of a hasty impulse I felt while staring at a frozen pork shoulder bone in the back of our freezer. I started a batch of stock, and I couldn't think of anything else to make with the fresh batch of pork stock than tonkatsu ramen. I braised sliced up pork shoulder in soy sauce and mirin. I soft boiled a few eggs. Just before serving, I reduced the braising liquid down to a dark syrupy color for the makeshift tare.

As a home cook, nothing beats the feeling of returning to a recipe that used to frustrate you only to find that all the roadblocks are gone. In the early days of cooking, ramen was a fixation of mine. I used to spend hours in my kitchen fiddling with ingredients like seaweed, miso, and bean sprouts. I planned the ramen days in advanced, slaved away in the kitchen, and it always came out so bland and unsatisfying.

But not this batch. The pork melted in your mouth. The noodles were chewy. The broth was drinkable, and it even shimmered with those beautiful translucent surface bubbles from the pork fat.


It was also a weekend of nostalgia. While cleaning up from Rodney's dining room fossil dig, Marissa felt inspired to grab her sand collection out of the basement. She joined me on the patio, carefully arranging a set of glass vials each labeled with a different region. She explained that she used to trade these with other kids that went to the museum.

"My favorite part is that the collection is like 'Tunisia', 'Bangalore', and then 'Maine.' I actually have a bunch from Maine," she laughed. "One time I was bringing this collection out to show some people that were over at our house, and I walked right into the sliding glass door. Four of these broke."

"Which ones did you lose?" I asked.

"Probably just Maine," she replied.

Marissa even had a small vial of dust labeled METEORITE. I held it up to the patio light, marveling at the new fact I had just learned - that we actually owned something that used to be in space.

"Think of how old that stuff is," said Marissa. "How far it's probably traveled just to reach us."

I slipped back into the house and returned moments later with my own bin of old things. I don't have a sand collection to my name, but I do own a lot of sweet knives. I proudly arranged them out on the table.

"I always forget you're a knife guy," said Marissa.

I also dug a glass coke bottle out of my bin. It was still filled with coke.

"This is from a trip we took to the grand canyon. I was probably in middle school," I said. "We were riding a scenic train and my parents bought all three of us a coke. Sarah opened hers and drank it right away, and just to tease her Kelly and I made a pact to never open ours."


How do you like that, Sarah? Bet you're feeling pretty dumb right now for drinking your Coke so fast.

I retrieved a thick binder from the box. It was filled with our shared letters, school milestones, and photos. The last forty-five pages was dedicated to all the sappy correspondence Marissa and I wrote each other when we were first dating. We braved the cringe and read through some of them.

"It feels like we're reading thoughts from totally different people," I said. "What does Michael say about David Wallace when he visits his house, again?"

Marissa was quick to fill in the Office quote sized gap in my point. "Well that's not the David Wallace that I remember. That is some sort of weird creature that lives in David Wallace's house," she recited. "We were infatuated with each other," she smiled. "It's cool how love changes over time."

"The best part of that time was that I don't remember ever sitting over a letter struggling to find words to say. When you're that in love with someone, the words just pour out - it's like turning on a faucet and letting the water rush out," I remarked.

We left out all the old stuff for Rodney to look at the next day. He wasn't very jazzed by the sand collection or any of our old memorabilia. He did enjoy flipping through my childhood sketchbook, though. Oh there are gems in there, but I'm saving that content for another entry.


Chump of the week comes to us from the Dover Eyota girls basket ball team - the Mystics. What a fine group of athletes.


They look fierce, ready to take the court and dominate at a moment's... is that girl in the front row wearing denim shorts? Those aren't even the official team shorts, they say GAP on the front. Why does she get to hold the basketball? Listen here, frizzy haired girl in the front row. It's picture day. You're front and center, representing your school's basketball team. The least you could do is put on the whole uniform ya CHUMP.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great Monday, everyone.