Earthy, With Hints of Floral

Last night, we had my favorite agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli) for dinner. It's nothing too exceptional; just some frozen thing you can pick up at any old King or Queen Soopers for like $5.99 a package, but it's really good. It's filled with a blend of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, Romano, and the very final moments of my marriage. 

For the first 16 years of our life together, he'd been home for dinner, on average, one night a week. I'd never been able to cook dinners that included him, and I'd never had help getting the kids settled for the night, because that's just not how the restaurant industry, or addiction, works. We wives and children to chefs and GMs are widowed and orphaned by Open Table. Add vodka and wine to that equation, and we were lucky to see him at all from Tuesday morning through Sunday night.

The new job he had taken in 2011 had him home for dinner three or four evenings a week, which was new for us - and quite nice in a normal-life sort of way. It wasn't very good in the hide-the-drinking-while-the-family-sleeps sort of way, which - as these things are wont to do - caught up with us with a vengeance eventually. 

The thing with co-dependency is that we want to believe so badly that we will twist and warp reality to make it believable to us no matter what pesky facts lie in our way. He had more late tables than any GM in the history of restaurant management, his drawers would never, ever balance, he'd have to work on national and corporate holidays when no one else is the entire company of hundreds was working, the makeup bags under my seat of the car were left by thieves digging through the car looking for change or ironic Robyn Hitchcock cassettes - and I'd find some way to believe it, always.  

I'm still not sure if I believed it because I didn't want to face the reality of what he was doing to himself and by proxy me and my children, or if I didn't want to face him when and if I called him on it. I'm still not sure it actually matters. 

So when he started working mornings, when he started coming home to us at night, I found a way to believe that we'd found the answer to our prayers. He was with us during the one time he could drink himself stupid; ergo, he couldn't drink himself stupid anymore. That's called science, bitches. It's logic. I beliiiiiiiiieeeeeved it. 

And I had hope. For him, for us, for my children, for his insane dog, for all of it. There was hope for the first time in a very long time. 

Because that's how addiction to addicts works. 

So this one night - after almost a full year of pure hell in which I had watched, listened, and smelled him nearly kill himself with vodka, watched my kids realize for the first time that their father had a problem, saw him physically hurt one of our children while he was drunk, saw him repeatedly emotionally hurt another child, dodged fists that went through doors instead of my face, asked for divorce, was denied a divorce, endured his long bouts of depression followed by long bouts of rage, given up all hope of saving him or leaving him - after all of that he got this job that made him feel useful and challenged amd secure again, one that had him home with his family more nights than not almost like a normal person, one that I convinced myself could keep him from drinking even though it was a wine bar and he had every key to it, and this one night I decided to bury the hachet, be a nice human being, make him a nice dinner, wear something cute, and welcome him home like I always imagined wives welcomed their husbands home at the end of a long day in a world that I didn't live in, but wanted to. 

So I made this dinner he'd never had before, this agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli), and a big old salad that had all of his favorite salady-type-things in it. I put on a skirt and my nice makeup. I straightened my hair. I dabbed some perfume on. Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And he never came home

He never came home because if he couldn't drink at night, he was going to drink during the day, dammit, and drinking during the day means drinking during work and drinking during work at a wine bar means blacking out at 11am and not remembering anything until 7pm that night, across town, with no idea how you got there, were your car is, or how you are going to fix this. 

Because you can't fix this. Because this is your rock bottom. And it is mine, too. 

I sat on my corduroy double-wide arm chair that I loved more than just about any other earthly possession, the one I had to leave behind when we made our abrupt exodus from Texas because we didn't have enough money to rent a truck big enough to bring it, or any of my living room furniture that, I was told, was "just stuff" I "need to let go of". I sat on that chair under the warm orange glow of the table lamp I also don't own anymore and most of everything inside of me died.

It's funny how quickly fear gives way to anger, then humiliation, then resignation. 

By the time he came in the door, without a car or a job, I had already put all the children to bed sweetly and calmly, I had already cleared the table of his wilted salad and hardened pasta, and I had changed out of my skirt and sweater into the oversized sweats that had room enough in them for me and the waves of alternating panic and rage and sadness ebbing inside of me. It was over; the dream I had clutched in the palm of my foolishly-determined fist all those 16 years was finally over, and I'd finally, with finality, let it go.

He has no idea what happened to either one of us that night. I've never spoken of the details of that night with him, or with anyone for that matter. He never found the car he lost that night, and he never found the job he lost that night, and I never found the person I lost that night, the one inside of me that was willing, always, to give one last chance, to find one last reason to believe in him, in us, in that reality. 

On January 25th of this year, I made that same dinner again for the first time since that night, this time just for me and my children. I wore a skirt, I put on some makeup, I dabbed on some perfume, and I quietly counted the distance between that place I was a year ago and the reality I ended up living, 365 days later. 

Now we have it again on the seim-regular dinner rotation. It still tastes a bit like brown corduroy and grace, which will always be a bittersweet thing to swallow, but I think I am finally at the place where I like the taste of what is done, and what is becoming because of it. 

How Stella Got Her Mixing Bowl Back

When I was in 2nd grade, my music teacher took notice of my Fierce Lesbian Fingers ™ and told me that I might be a decent piano player if I took lessons. He started teaching me which keys played which notes, and explained the clefs to me. After a little while, he told me it was probably time to ask my mother to teach me more at home.

I came home from school that day and told my mother that my music teacher said I was born to play piano (which he did) and that he thought I should take lessons. My mother said, "You want to learn to play piano? Here -- play this." She handed me the sheet music for the theme to The Incredible Hulk circa 197something, and opened the piano for me. 

We actually had two pianos in our house for a while, and before you go thinking ooooo-la-laaaa, let me point out that both of them were ancient, out of tune, non-functioning player pianos handed down to us by our congregation, because white people give weird shit to the poor.

One year later, I could play the theme to The Incredible Hulk, and just about anything else I wanted to play. Watching me play piano was cringe-worthy, to be generous. My fingers were in all the wrong positions, I twisted my wrists around like I was playing drunk stripper Twister, but it sounded magnificent. I taught my little brother and sister how to play, too. We's each sit at a piano and play off of each other (add overpriced, under-poured martinis and we would have invented piano bars) (I also invented pore strips around this age) (true story). It was wonderful, and I loved every minute of it. I used it as an escape -- no one bothered me when I played, my mother was kind to me while I was playing, and even forgot herself enough to pass me the errant compliment when i got through a particularly challenging piece. I played almost day, and got, while not Julliard good, pretty damn hood-good. 

And then I moved to Colorado on January 9th, 1992, and never saw my mother, those pianos, or that house again. And I haven't been able to play the piano since. 

I can't explain it, I just lost the ability to do it. It doesn't work. I can barely muddle my way through the first of Dr Bruce Banner's sad, lonely steps into the unknown future before my fingers stutter and trip over themselves and my brain remembers, 'Hey wait. WE AREN'T DOING THIS ANYMORE'.

It's no one's fault; it just happened. And it happened again a whole lot of years later, but this time it was with baking. 

I used to bake a lot. Like, a lot-lot. I've been a hobbyist cook for many years, but one day I just woke up one day and thought, "Hmm, I'd like to make a Yule Log for my in-laws for Christmas." And in three days, and a whole lot of homemade buttercream later, I did. And there was much rejoicing. 

I baked avidly for years, and then one day it just stopped. I kind of stopped cooking, too, but when things got really gong show crazy with Soon-To-Be-Ex's drinking, I just lost the will to bake. It was no one's fault, really, I just didn't want to anymore, and when I tried it flopped, and that made me want to less, and so it goes. 

But I kind of felt the twinge come back this summer, while I was in California for seven weeks working and staying with baby god-daddy & co. I think I started to remember who I was during those weeks I was gone. That's one of the hardest parts of being the enabler in a co-dependent relationship -- we take on so much of the other person's shit that we don't have room for any of our own stuff. This is no one's fault but our own, and it's a hard habit to break. 

Seven weeks a few thousand miles away from one's co-dependent isn't the worst way to start breaking that habit. 

While I was at baby god-daddy's house, his wife and I talked a lot about what she bakes (the baked goods of the Gods, in case you were wondering where to find them) and what I used to bake, and you know, I kind of started getting the itch again. She'd bake cookies and we'd think up fun ideas for ice creams to go with them. We'd eat her favourite cupcakes and we'd talk about what other kinds of buttercreams would go with the cakes. I'd watch her mixing batters and I'd start missing the smell of flour. 

So I came home and started baking again. Turns out, I still gotz it. In fact, I gotz it, plus. These? Are cookies. I made them, and they aren't dead. 

Cookies are my life-long foe. I have never successfully baked a cookie, until now. Now I spend my nights dreaming up new variations on these little masterpieces. My kids are telling their new friends that their mom bakes the best cookies on Earth. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING. I am going to have to order new business cards now, because it seems I am no longer a cookie assassin. 

I don't even know what this means for my future, but I do know that it's probably time to start posting weekly recipes again. It's been, what, years since I did that last? Yeah, we're bringing sexy back. 

Those cookies up there are Oatmeal Coffee cookies on the left, and cherry pistachio cookies in the middle. The cherry pistachio ones still need some tweaking, but I've got the oatmeal toffee ones down to a science. The recipe is based off this one from Hershey's website. Someone in my Houston Al-Anon group gave me that recipe, and I have been messing around with it for a few weeks. Here's how I altered it:

  • Use 1 cup less oats than recommended (so 2 cups total)
  • Use a little less sugar than they call for (so, like, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar - you'll have to find your comfortable sweetness level. I was going for less-sweet entirely)
  • Mix the wet ingredients and refrigerate the mixture overnight, then soften it slightly the next day, and finish the recipe
  • For sure use the coconut, since you're using less oats
  • Add 1/2 nuts. I used slivered almonds that I then chopped a little, so they'd be about the same size as the oats. 
  • Use PLAIN toffee bits, not the chocolate coated ones. They're harder to find. They are also worth it.

 

27 8X10 Color Glossy Pictures

I love Thanksgiving. It's my #1 favorite holiday ever. Here's why

In a nutshell, that link takes you to the story of the very first holiday turkey I ever cooked, which was kind of significant because we didn't exactly celebrate holidays, or have money for food. Oh, and that I was eleven, cooking a turkey. My son is eleven right now, and I simply cannot imagine.  

Basically, the food bank people know who the relgious crazies are and don't bother bringing them the bags of food that people donate at the grocery stores and the food drives. One year, someone accidentally left our family on the list, and two white people showed up at my doorstep with dinner.

The fact that two white people came into my neighborhood is story enough, really.

The other important fact to note is that the canned goods and groceries and money you donate actually do end up going to people, and you can be a Judgey McDickerson  all you want about grown-ups not being able to feed their kids, but it's no child's fault they are born into poverty. That bag of food changed my life. Without it, I wouldn't be writing this post right now about fancy-pants Thankgiving turkey, this much I guarantee you. Tis the season, and stuff

Moving on...

This is the year I figured out how to clean as I go with the cooking. It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only late bloomer. Because of this, I was able to take 27 8X10 color glossies with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, explainin what each one was, to be used as evidence against my Thanksgiving dinner, but of course I took most of them on my phone, and of course the day after Thanksgiving my phone's memory card decided to reformat itself. Because fuck my life. 

Bygones. 

I can still tell you what I made, and how I made it, pictures be damned...and it's all after the jump.

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Things I Suck At, and Things I Don't.

NaBloPoOhWhaaa?

Turns out, I'm just too lazy to post on my blog every day. So it goes. 

It's been a long time since I've posted a Super Saturday Supper, mostly because it's been a long time since I've attempted to be a blogger, and somewhat because geez, food blogging blew *up* and I am after all poor, humble hipster, but partly because I've been guilty of more of this than I care to admit.

I'm trying to do less of all of those things.

So I cooked some this week, and this

turned into this

and it's all the Pioneer Woman's fault. The recipe is here and it is *stupidly* good.

As for tonight, well, let's just say that maybe I hate bacon, but I sure do love me some dead pig.

There is no recipe for that. It's made of win and brown sugar and some other shit.

I suck at food blogging.

Next week, the full Thanksgiving menu goes up, even if it ends up just being soup. I'm kind of on a soup kick. Sue me.

My standard Thanksgiving full menu is here

My variations of the turkey and potatoes are here.

Super Saturday Suppers the A Day Late and a Carbohydrate Short Edition

It's not Saturday, and it won't be Saturday all day today, but here I am posting a Super Saturday Supper recipe on top of a Weekly Winners post.  I have an excellent excuse...I re started a diet two weeks ago.

Do you know when you start that low-carb diet, how they tell you to lay off the booze for a while?  Do you know why?  It's not because booze is packed with sugar, it's because proteins do not absorb vodka as well as a bowl of pasta would, and if you decide to sit down with a good movie and a rather large glass full of your favorite cocktail, you probably won't remember much between your third slurp, the bird's eye view of your toilet, and your pillow.

However, being O+, I function much better in life if I drop the carbs.  Too bad I'd rather have mashed potatoes than oxygen.  Sucks to be me, yo.  But when I stepped on the scale two Sundays ago, a year and a half after rocking some very hot size 4 jeans and saw 160?  I decided to break up with Ding Dongs.

So, here I sit, down 10 pounds already, watching JFK on the tv (45 years already?  Dag) trying really hard to will myself out of a wicked hangover, and posting this a day late.  Maybe I should get to that already, huh?

Chicken Parmesan is my mostest favoritest dinner in the whole freaking world.  Not so totally compatible with a low carb diet, though, unless you tweak it a bit.  You dredge chicken breasts pounded thin (or sliced in half through the middle, I'm lazy) in eggs and flour.



Normally, you'd also dredge them through breadcrumbs, but I had to leave out the bread crumbs *sob* so I subbed them with grated parm (just the Kraft stuff), salt and pepper, and extra basil and oregano.



By the way, it's really nice to hide yourself little messages in your kitchen that will totally crack you up when you stumble on them later.



You fry those chicken breasts in a pan with hot olive oil until they are JUST done, no more than that.  After that, you load the chicken breasts into a 9X13 glass pan, pile them up with marinara and cheese (I use that 4 cheese Italian pre-grated blend, also lazy)



and bake them until the cheese is really melted and a little brown on top, maybe 10 minutes?  Since I'm on that stupid diet, I didn't make the pot of pasta I'd usually throw under the chicken before I served it, I just made green beans instead.  And you know what?



It kicked ASS.  See all Lotus' Weekly Winners here, and all the Super Saturday Suppers recipes here.