Saturday, February 04, 2012

A little lighter

After sleeping most of last  night, not well, but way better than the night before, and after reading blog comments, and, after the editor's request to see Salmon, and after good news about my friends' baby in the NICU (oxygen sats at 99%!), I'm feeling a little lighter, light enough to change the subject, at least.

Before the semester started and before I heard the news about my friends' babies, I was in the desert with my friend Misty. She had rented a house smack-dab in the middle of it and invited us to join her and her in-laws for the weekend. So we did. It was an awesome house with a good kitchen and a huge dining room table. The bedrooms wound around a courtyard full of Palo Verde and possibly geckos. Each room had its own bathroom--possibly the best thing about any rental I've ever seen ever.

This place was good. So good, we didn't leave for two whole days. We came bearing carne asada and pickled onions, eggs for breakfast, 48 Cuties. We sat outside. We had a margarita. We had some wine. We grilled the steaks on a charcoal barbecue. The next day, it was a little colder but we still sat outside. We hid Cuties for Zoe and Louisa like they were Easter Eggs. Misty made toast and Zoe ate it like she'd never been fed before. Misty made more toast. Louisa and Zoe finished off the Cuties. Later that night, Misty's dad and her aunt and uncle were coming to dinner too. How to feed 8 adults and 3 kids in the desert? Mexican wedding soup. Erik did leave for the store and John (her husband took his dad to the airport. He had to go back to work) but Misty and I stayed. We hot-tubbed with the girls while Max slept. Then, when everyone came back, we hiked up the wash. The girls collected 75 pounds of rocks. Max insisted on walking--no baby-backpack for him.

That night, and this is the point of this post, Misty and I made dinner.  Misty is one of the few people in the world I can actually cook with. Or, rather, one of the few cooks who is willing to cook with me. My sisters and Misty and that's about it. Once, when Misty and I were first friends and we were at her parent's house in Spokane for Thanksgiving, we got in two separate fights over peels. She wanted to leave them on, first for the mashed potatoes, second for the apples for the pie. I won the fight for the mashies. She won it for the apple pie. This is why, and also why my sisters, can cook with me. Most people won't do it. Most people think I cook so much and that I care so much about it, that they usually just leave it to me. But Misty and my sisters: they don't back down. Misty cut the red bell peppers into such precise, tiny cuts, I thought, I've been cutting red bells wrong my whole life. She added escarole! Escarole to regular salad. Delicious. In the morning, she sauteed zucchini and cooked eggs on slow (she told me after reading Julia Child's biography that she cooked her eggs slow now). Delicious! She holds her own in the kitchen, ignoring me and my opinions. The best thing is, when I taste her food, and that of my sisters', because a) I already know its entire flavor components and b) the food because of their knife cuts, because they use escarole instead of lettuce, because their pinches of salt are different than mine, because they'll take a risk and leave the peels on, (wrong as that may be) it  tastes different than anything I'd make. It's always a surprise.


Lisa B. said...

Desert houses are the best. After our two visits to the house we've rented in Joshua Tree, the historian and I are investigating renting it for a whole month, and maybe two. Secondly, and this is the point of this comment, I hope one day to cook with you. Because it sounds like so much fun, and it's fun to learn from someone who knows what she's doing enough to have strong opinions. (once I got into a fight--a little one--with my mom about whether you wanted citrus in the guacamole. I have since come around to her point of view to some degree--I say a little, she would use more--but I am sorry that I made my mom feel bad in the kitchen about lemons. that was wrong of me.)

Jackson Connor said...

Hell of a week, Nik. Does it help you to think of such times as incubation periods for your writing? That's what I tell myself. Some days, it works. Some days, it tells me to go to hell.