Cabin Feverish

I was in a long line at the grocery store, feeling mild contempt for my fellow store-goers – and if I am being honest, the contempt extended to myself. I had done what I swore I would not do (again with the doing and the swearing) and popped out for a last minute trip as the snow was setting in. This was my second last minute trip after my second to the last, last minute trip.

I wandered around the store, glassy-eyed, on the first go-round, and left with the following emergency preparedness items: wine and butter. Criticize all you like, but two of my girlfriends (one who even keeps stashed vitamin C in case a catastrophe leaves her subsisting on frozen pine cones) texted me this: “You have wine don’t you?!?!?” Yes, and butter!

When I emerged after my second trip, (this time I had mandarins and a savoy cabbage, lest you think I don’t know what I am doing) the storm had built up a good head of steam. People were driving in mad defiance of the parking lot arrows, already casting aside all social convention in a post-Armageddon-we-feed-on-corpses-now-because-we-have-no-choice fashion. In short, everyone skipped straight to panic, no build-up. Evidently, no one in the south sound area has ever seen snow, or coping skills. The town owns one snowplow, and it’s missing a tire.

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I fetched my children, who were released early from school. After I located the matches and flashlights in case we lost power, I texted my husband to come home so we could get a jump on being cooped up and sick of each other. He was at the gym getting in a workout before it closed early. Ok, that’s practical. If the end was nigh, he might as well be toned, in case he’s in charge of repopulating, or chopping wood, or something.

The next morning we were greeted by a gorgeous blanket of snow, and my youngest daughter’s flu virus. She ran a temperature intermittently for four days, missing all the winter fun, but watching copious episodes of The Vicar of Dibley. Like her mother, the flu doesn’t do much to dampen her appetite for food, or BBC.

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The first morning, I baked banana-coffee muffins and my favorite cookies, just in case we were going to lose electricity. Later, I roasted sweet potatoes, made black beans in the slow cooker, and grated up an Asian slaw. My husband made excellent tacos with all that – plus some avocado and lime – and the sweet potatoes made it into sweet potato biscuits a few days later.

The next day I baked a chicken pot pie and my older daughter made thumbprint jam cookies (good thing I had that butter). On what felt like day 44, I made steel-cut oats and green smoothies. If school was cancelled, and we were trapped with my daughter’s death rattle cough, I thought we should have something to look forward to.

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As time wore on, the meals actually got healthier, culminating in this tofu, sesame and orange salad I made for just myself. The bowl is 12 inches across. If I was going to catch the flu, I just wanted to live large while I could (which, for me, means eating salad from a very large bowl).

It’s funny, you would think the seclusion and lack of outside commitments would result in a forced, but welcome, period of productivity. Why shouldn’t I emerge, after the thaw, fluent in Spanish, with knife-edged folded laundry, dust balls running scared, and abs of steel? But storm or no storm, I once again found myself to be…just me, with all my sloth and excuses intact. I did organize my pantry, but only after watching an entire season of Damages while pretending I was busy backing up my hard drive.

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The snow turned to rain and it’s still slushy out there; it’s still winter, and I am still my same scattered, last-minute-trips-to-the-store, unproductive self. Is that why we were all wandering around Fred Meyer, weeping and driving like idiots? Because we were afraid of being trapped indoors with our shortcomings? Well, I suggest we bundle up Eaters, and settle into our flawed selves. Until that one-wheeled snow plow comes to dig us out, we are stuck with us. In the meantime, learn a little Spanish for me, and eat something with butter.

marycake

 

 

 

 

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I cooked for my mother and…

…she liked it! Inspired by a trip to the food coop, I planned a fallish menu. I have been mad for figs ever since my parents had a sprawling Calimyrna Fig tree in their yard that produced generously, but briefly, every August. For two or three weeks, gobs of fruits hung from the branches. These trees have to be netted, or you will find yourself transformed into a person you don’t know, one who thwacks birds with a badminton raquet and screams, “Mine!!”

So I made a salad with mission figs, leaves from the Lettuce Eat Salad Farm – couldn’t resist – and humanely raised bacon. I apologize to my vegetarian friends and must say that goat cheese would have gone well here in lieu of bacon. But my mom doesn’t like goat cheese, and she fed me for decades, and quite well I might add. Plus my firstborn, who has many fine qualities, does not really like my cooking, and I needed some tidbit to lure her to the table.

I made a dressing I learned from Jamie Oliver’s fig salad that has long been a stand-by of mine:  fresh lemon juice, olive oil, honey and coarse salt. I like to add cracked pepper but instead I gently place the grinder on the table to keep my older daughter from weeping.

I cubed and roasted some yams and carrots with sliced onions and a few smashed cloves of garlic. This I added to quinoa, tossed with olive oil and topped with currants and pistachios. Note in the photograph the wee dish of cardamon on the side because I love that spice and I love tiny dishes.

For dessert we had banana cake – my mother’s recipe with a few of my own touches. Banana cake is not autumnal, (an apple dessert would have been seasonally appropriate but my mother is the Mistress of Pies and so anything I offered would have simply been an embarrassment) but it is delicious. I offered the chocolate frosting on the side (see the final scene of When Harry Met Sally) and vanilla frosting as well because – you guessed it:  that’s what my mom likes.

Kate’s Banana Cake

1/2 cup of unsalted butter minus one Tablespoon (coconut oil could be substituted for half of the butter here)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup overripe bananas (about 2 and as brown as possible)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup almond meal (you could substitute flour if you like)
3 Tablespoons flax meal (if you don’t have it simply leave it out and add in that missing Tablespoon of butter)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

After allowing all the ingredients to come to room temperature, drop the butter and sugar into the Cuisinart and pulse until smooth. Add the eggs and bananas. Pulse. Mix the dries separately, drop them in and blend until smooth. This all goes in an oiled 8×8 glass cake pan or a glass bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, check after 20 minutes and turn the pan. Remain stalwartly, obsessively next to the stove, checking cake every five minutes after that.  You may need to drape some foil over it to prevent the top getting too browned. Banana cake is moist, and takes its sweet time getting done all the way through. But once it crosses the threshold of doneness it becomes almost instantaneously dry. Eternal vigilance is the price of a moist cake. This is not the first or last time I will write those words.

marycake