Saturday, May 30, 2009

The potluck group.

Last month J. invited me to a potluck dinner at her house, one of the rare ones I have attended instead of my parents. I was late - my car was trying to convince me it had a flat tire, which it did not - and all evening the guests (all in their sixties or older) talked about grandchildren and teeth, and how in their day, once you emigrated to the West, ten, twenty, thirty years would pass before you went home again. Not like my generation, who fly back and forth across the Pacific ocean for every vacation. But when they asked me to join the next party, I agreed. The food is always good, and the conversation is always entertaining, even when they start talking about teeth. I volunteered to make dessert, and then forgot about it until the morning of the dinner when I woke in a panic. (More on that later).

I make a ridiculously easy chocolate-hazelnut cake, then pace around my apartment trying to decide if I could just bring the cake, or if it needed something else. A drift of whipped cream, barely sweetened. Should I buy some fruit, bring some chocolate-covered honey pecans? Then I remember, there is a pint of salted caramel ice cream in the freezer. This is an older crowd, uninterested in sweets, conscious of their dessert intake. It would be enough. I slide my cake on a gold-foil-covered cardboard round, dust it with cocoa powder, carefully place it in a pink paperboard box. It looks impressively professional, so much so no one believes I made it myself. I find a ball of twine in a drawer, tie up my box for easy carrying, and head downtown to A.'s home. People stare. I worry that someone will mug me for the cake.

A. is, as usual, bustling around when I arrive. There are peonies on the table, along with plates and cutlery. Pots are in the oven, on the stove, wine is waiting to be opened. This is, in theory, a potluck, but A. has contributed four dishes, instead of the usual one or two. (I am a "kid," so I can get away with just one. Husbands without their wives are also allowed to bring just one). I show off my beautiful cake ("I don't believe you made that yourself!") and revel in the fact that a dusting of cocoa powder or powdered sugar makes anything instantly more professional-looking. As does a gold cardboard round and a pink paperboard box. (I should have placed a doily under the cake, but you can't remember everything).

Other guests trickle in, and we get ready to eat, transferring dishes from boxes and pots and bowls into narrow, rectangular platters that fit better on the buffet table. There is so much food I can't even sample everything on my first try, so I take several tastes of things and sit down to try them all before heading back for more. There is beef curry made with Malaysian curry powder, more intense than what I am used to, not sweet like Japanese curry. A dish of fine-cut tofu noodles, slivered ham, vegetables, cool and refreshing, like a Chinese macaroni salad. There is another cool salad of translucent wide noodles tossed with more vegetables, strands of omelet, bound together with a slightly spicy dressing fragrant with sesame paste. There is smoked salmon, and homemade pita bread, rolls of tofu skin filled with ground pork, braised with Napa cabbage. I come back for the hard-boiled eggs cooked with caramelized shallots and soy sauce and finely minced pork belly, a touch of five-spice powder, and am so seduced by the savory gravy of pork belly and shallots, I go back for thirds (as if I haven't eaten enough fatty pork this week).

We eat and eat, getting up for seconds, thirds, fourths. The conversation flows back and forth, three or four conversations at a table of twelve, my mind confused by multiple threads, two languages. Y. tells a story about J., when she worried over whether or not to marry her (second) younger husband. He doesn't even have any gray hair yet! she lamented. Don't worry, riposted Y., if he marries you, he WILL. (Twenty-odd years on, he does). Then it is time for dessert. There is a Chinese dessert of cubed almond-flavored jelly with canned fruit, the fruit juices forming a slightly sweet soup, instantly cooling and maddeningly addictive. And there is my dense hazelnut-and-chocolate cake, with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream melting on top. It is dark and intensely chocolatey, a perfect foil for the darkly caramelized ice cream I made a few weeks ago.

After dessert, several of the guests get up and start dancing, at one point pushing the table back to make more room. It was a sight I never thought I'd see, my mother's sixty-plus friends twirling around, hips swiveling, arms swinging, doing their interpretation of the Electric Slide.
Small pleasures.

After the three-day marathon of cooking with Mangalitsa last weekend I was left with a long, angled plank of bone, with some meat still attached. I seasoned it with a generous sprinkling of salt and roasted it at high heat until the meat had browned around the edges, the fat rendered crisp. Then I put it into my largest pot, covered it with water, and left it to simmer slowly until I had a pale gold broth. Then I put it into the fridge and forgot about it, to the extent that you can forget about a giant red Le Creuset pot that takes up most of the bottom shelf of your fridge and practically yells "HEY THERE!" every time you open the door.

Days passed. I made lasagne with some extra mushrooms and spicy sausage and tomato sauce and béchamel, I made fried rice with some leftover Mangalitsa belly found lurking in the middle shelf of the fridge, I went out to dinner with a friend. Before I knew it Friday had come around and at midnight I was in bed with a copy of Takashi's Noodles, drooling over the pictures. I didn't have the patience - or the ingredients - to whip up any of the recipes, but I fell asleep with visions of udon noodles in my head.

Eight hours later, I woke to brilliant sunshine peeking around the edges of my so-called blackout shades. Blackout shades, my ass. Still, that means more time to enjoy the day, and that pot of Mangalitsa broth is calling my name. I scoop the fat floating on the top of the broth out before bringing it to a simmer, add a couple slices of ginger, boil a pot of water for the noodles. Rooting around in the fridge I find that all the scallions are gone (went into the fried rice, I think) but there is a bundle of spinach wilting away. Perfect. I grab the spinach and an egg and turn my attention to the boiling water, into which I throw a small handful of noodles. (Who am I kidding? I weigh my noodles, to ensure I get the right portion size, or in this case, half-portion).

In the last four minutes I add the egg into the boiling noodles to poach, then in the last two minutes I add the spinach, which gratifyingly shrinks in the pan and turns a deep jade. I drain the noodles, spinach, and egg in a mesh strainer (I have three, and use them for everything from sifting dry ingredients for baking to draining noodles and anything boiled or straining custards, and still I wish I had more. Like rubber spatulas, you can never have too many) and dump them in a bowl. In goes a generous ladle of broth, a sprinkle of salt.

It is a small pleasure, or perhaps even a great one, to sit down to a bowl of hot noodles, the faintly metallic bite of spinach, the soft tenderness of poached egg (I should have poached it less, as it is a bit firmer than it should have been - fine for eggs Benedict, overdone for soup noodles), the slippery noodles just on the right side of chewy, all against the light, savory broth. The strong flavor of Mangalitsa pork is mellowed in a soup, rounded out by the warmth of ginger, but it is still there.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kitchen adventures: Mangalitsa three ways.

It started when K. found a giant slab of Mangalitsa pork in the chest freezer. Since I am generally acknowledged (God help me) as the expert in these matters (long story) it became my job, nay, my solemn duty to work up a dinner party featuring this fearsome slab of meat (fourteen pounds, frozen). I managed to put it off for a while, but finally a date was fixed, and there was no escape. For days I tried to bounce ideas off other people, only to be met with "You're the expert. You decide." I knew I could use a couple pounds of the meat to make rillettes, but what the hell was I going to do with the rest of it?

The rillettes took me most of Saturday afternoon. I had done this before, and it was simple work to chop up the pork and let it simmer away with herbs and onions in a mixture of lard and wine. I could leave it on low heat and walk away. When the meat was tender, beginning to fall apart, I drained it and gently pulsed it in the food processor until it came together like a rough pâté, but stopped before it turned into mush. I seasoned it generously - a little too generously, it turned out - with salt and pepper and packed into a long terrine, scooping leftovers into small tubs and jars, covering each container with a thin layer of melted fat.

Sunday was occupied with lasagne, but after I came home from a dinner of fried chicken I carved up the remainder of the pork, seasoning thick slabs of meat with kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper and torn sprigs of thyme. It rested overnight, and the next morning I put the pork into a pot that was just big enough to fit the pieces in one layer, then poured in apple cider. I brought it all to a boil, then turned it down low, and then thought about what to do with the last few pounds of meat. I know! I thought. I'll make potstickers! At this point I completely lost my mind (I was probably delirious from all the cooking I had been doing), and thought it was perfectly reasonable to grind my own meat and roll out my own potsticker dough.

Not having a meat grinder, I momentarily contemplated chopping the meat by hand. A few feeble attempts convinced me to reach for the food processor. The main concern with chopping meat in the food processor, as with many things, seems to be chopping it without turning it all into mush. But by now I had become one with the "pulse" button, and by dividing the pork into a few smaller batches I had enough control over the process to make it come out, if not perfect, at least acceptable. It was a bit more irregular than meat put through the grinder, but it was good enough for me. I threw a few scallions and a bunch of bok choy that had been wilting in my fridge and chopped those up, too, and grated a fat knob of ginger. The vegetables and grated ginger went into the bowl of ground pork with a sprinkle of salt, a few sloshes of soy sauce, a few grinds of black pepper. I should have used white, but never mind. Then in with the hands, thoroughly blending all the ingredients together.

The hardest part was making the potsticker wrappers. The dough was soft and sticky and seemed to attach itself to everything - my hands, the wooden board I was using as a work surface, the filling, the plate I used to arrange the finished dumplings - and by the time I made it to A. and B.'s house I had about two dozen recognizable dumpling (ugly, but recognizable) and a lumpy, amorphous mass of filling and dough. The latter I sliced into roughly dumpling-sized blobs and fried in a thin film of lard (achieved by searing the rim of fat running down each hunk of braised pork until some of the fat melted away), and amazingly enough, they held together. The pork was incredibly good, the strong flavor of Mangalitsa pork balanced by the soy sauce and ginger, a touch of scallion, the slight crunch of fresh bok choy. I have to work on my wrapping skills, but the filling was perfect.

While all that messing around with sticky dumpling dough was happening the rest of the pork had been braising away quietly in thyme-scented apple cider. I took it out when I thought it was tender enough and reduced the braising liquid into a brothy sauce, then packed everything in a wide assortment of jars and boxes. Later, just before dinner, I held the fat side of the meat against a hot pan until the surface browned and some of the fat melted into the pan (which I used to fry the potstickers - no waste here). R. sliced it all, arranged it in a deep dish, and let it sit in the warming oven. Before serving, we poured the warmed sauce over the meat, and everyone dug in. It was good, the meat rich and intense, sweet with apples, scented with thyme, the fat surprisingly light to taste.

I am still not sure what part of the pig I was working with - I suspect it came from the shoulder, but honestly, I have no idea. In any case, it was delicious.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lasagne x 3.

E. does not like to cook. She is a beloved patron of a bakery near her home which provides her with blue cheese macaroni and cheese and Southwestern-inspired casseroles, and cakes and tortes and tarts dense with chocolate or fluffy with coconut or layered with marzipan or filled with custard and fresh berries. But she does not cook, so once a year she asks me to make her my signature lasagnes, one layered with wild mushrooms and béchamel, another with spicy Italian sausage in tomato sauce and ricotta swirled with fresh basil. (I could make them in my sleep).

The mushroom lasagne is one I regret introducing to a wide audience, because it is a pain in the ass to make. There is just so much chopping. (The first time I made this I had to finely chop two pounds of mushrooms by hand, and by the time I was done I was ready to kill myself. The second time I made this I borrowed someone's food processor). So when K. caught wind of my plans and asked me to make her another mushroom lasagne I thought, oh shit. But I cook out of love, out of a need to give pleasure that is both my strength and my weakness, and so I say yes.

Actually, chopping the zucchini is a pain in the ass, too. The recipe specifies a 1/4-inch dice, and how you are supposed to dice a practically cylindrical object is beyond me. What I come up with is mostly 1/4-inch triangles with the occasional accidental cube. I soak dried mushrooms (a medley of wild mushrooms, when I had meant to get porcinis...whoops) in boiling water, drain and chop them. The mushroom liquid is reduced into a dark syrup, while I quarter two pounds of mushrooms (creminis, white buttons, Portabellos) and pulse them in my food processor. The pulse button and I become quite intimate over the weekend.

Doubling a recipe isn't just as easy as making a single batch. It's twice as hard. It isn't two pounds of mushrooms, but rather, four. Instead of cooking the mushrooms in three batches, there are six. There is a battalion of bowls and pots marching up and down my kitchen, shreds of onion skins and sprigs of thyme on my floor, and a light dusting of flour all over everything, including me. But I press on, and very soon I have the first mushroom lasagne in the oven while I put together the spicy sausage one. This recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated and is meant to be whipped up in no time at all on a weeknight, so it comes together very quickly.

Sooner than I thought possible I have two steaming, bubbling pans of lasagne ready to take to E.'s house. I drive over carefully with my precious cargo, and am greeted joyfully at the door. E.'s house is warm and cozy, and she offers me a drink and a snack. But I have another dinner party tomorrow, and I must prepare.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tuesday happiness.

A few days ago I found myself with two fat stems of rhubarb and no idea what to do with them. Fortunately, another food blog saved me with a recipe for poached rhubarb; it would be terrific, she wrote, over rice pudding or cottage cheese or yogurt. Best of all, it called for rosé, which I conveniently had in my fridge. M. and I had opened it for movie night last week, and had left it unfinished. I would fiddle with the proportions - more wine, less water, a touch more sugar - and chop the rhubarb more finely, and whoops, inadvertently cook it too long. Oh well. The rhubarb was sweet and tart, soft and melting, infused with the sparkle of rosé and the warmth of cinnamon and vanilla. The recipe had called for half a vanilla bean, but all I had was some vanilla sugar lurking in the back of a cupboard; when I poured the sugar into a cup a few shards of vanilla bean fell out, which was just what I needed.

The rhubarb made a divine breakfast with a scoop of whole-milk yogurt, two mornings in a row, with or without a sprinkle of raw sugar to smooth out the tartness of plain yogurt. I wanted more, but it was all gone. Then I took the reduced syrup, still heady with rosé and spices, poured it over ice with fizzy water. It was sweet, but complex enough to make up for the sweetness. I turned to some lemons rolling around in the vegetable compartment. Voilá! Rhubarb-rosé lemonade! I drank some over ice last night, then with fizzy club soda tonight. It was cool and refreshing, and I am itching to buy more rhubarb, more rosé, more lemons, and start all over again.

Earlier in the afternoon I left work and headed to the park. I wanted a hot dog, but the hot-dog vendor was nowhere to be seen. Alas. I went instead to Molly Moon, which was reasonably empty - no lines! - and smelled of freshly made waffle cones. I think heaven would smell like freshly made waffle cones. I ordered a scoop of balsamic strawberry, and walked back across to the park to find a bench, licking my ice cream as I walked. The balsamic is thick and syrupy, and drips on my hand as I make my way past the playfield, along the fountain to an empty bench. The sun is shining, it's a beautiful day, made even more so by the ice cream in my hand. And stomach.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weekend markets.

I went to the U-District market yesterday; I needed sausage, and vegetables for Mother's day dinner. I got some spicy Italian sausage from H., and tangled bundles of asparagus for D., as well as purple-skinned potatoes (and a bag of Yukon Golds). I bought bags of salad greens and bouquets of spinach and bok choy, some leafy chard tied into a fat log. Then I bought flowers, a dozen purple irises, a dozen red-and-yellow tulips, a bunch of lilac stems. The irises and tulips made a madly colorful arrangement on my dining room table, and the lilacs sent out a heavenly fragrance in the living room and next to my bed. I ate leftovers for dinner and thought about how to spend my Sunday.

Today brought the opening day of the Broadway farmer's market, a bit less than a mile away. It was mostly flat; I could manage the walk, so long as I didn't buy any more potatoes. The sun was out, the perfect day, and the market was full of people with their dogs. The stalls where I buy potatoes and meat and vegetables at other markets have spots here; excellent. But all I need today are some scallions, three dollars for two fat bunches, and some lunch. I stop at a stand for a cheeseburger made with local organic grass-fed beef, on a hunk of organic baguette from the place where I often buy bread. It takes a little while, since everything is cooked to order, but it is a nice day to stand around and watch the people walk by.

I take my cheeseburger to the nearby park and sit next to the fountain to eat, as small children go running up and down through the water, splashing me as they go. I suppose it is my own fault for intruding on their impromptu water-park. After my lunch I head home, passing more children splashing away, people with their dogs, a white guy doing t'ai ch'i very seriously. I want ice cream. Amazingly, there is no line outside Molly Moon, and in practically no time at all I am walking home with a waffle cone of maple walnut ice cream, which is absolutely fantastic.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday night. Palace Kitchen.

I have been thinking about cheeseburgers for a while now, debating over and over in my head whether I should make them, or go out to eat. Should I try the Hunt Club, tucked in the Sorrento Hotel, just down the street? Head over to Quinns, which I have not visited since last fall? Firmly fixed in the back of my mind was Palace Kitchen. I wish I ate there more often, but the neighborhood is hard to find parking, and I have never gone there alone. But it is Friday, and C. and I are out and about, and I persuade her to head over there. There is no street parking, with all the construction going on, not to mention the fact that it is Friday night, and there is a long line of people outside the Cinerama theater, waiting to see the new Star Trek movie. Finally we find the last spot in a pay lot and walk into the restaurant, where there is just one table for two in the main room.

I don't really need the menu - I have been thinking about cheeseburgers for weeks, and it would totally disrupt my plans should I order anything else now - so we order our food, and drinks, sangria for C. and a Red Pearl for me. Some bread arrives with our drinks, with a little dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread comes from Dahlia Bakery, a few blocks away; all but one of Tom Douglas' restaurants are within a three block radius of the flagship that contains the bakery, Serious pie., and the Dahlia Lounge. Across the street is the Palace Ballroom, where you can have a wedding or some other grand event. But right now I am only thinking about food, and my drink, which is a glass of Prosecco with a deep red pearl of Negroni syrup at its heart.

Our burgers arrive, medium-rare and juicy, with some Beecher's cheddar on top of the patty and a soft bun enclosing it. I ignore the lettuce, the slices of onion, the green tomatoes. The fries are skinny and crisp, and there are little pots of ketchup and some sort of garlicky mayonnaise. It, like my cocktail, is just what I needed after a long week at work. But then it is time for dessert, a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream for C., a banana cream pie for me. The pie is a small individual one, all buttery, flaky pastry, containing slices of banana, chocolate ganache, custard, and whipped cream. Mostly it seems to be whipped cream. I feel as though I have never been so full, or so happy.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Soup and bread.

Some odds-and-ends have been knocking around in my fridge for several days now. Three broccoli stems, their leafy florets long gone. Four or five leeks, some fat, others spindly, their leaves yellowing and wrinkled at the ends. Half an onion, peeled and wrapped in plastic. One red potato. One Yukon Gold potato. A pot of chicken broth from last week's roast chicken. (I ate the wings and drumsticks, then the thighs and other bits of dark meat, then some of the breast, then froze the rest of the breast for...something else). Time for potage aux legumes. Also known as clean-out-the-vegetable-drawer soup. But first I have to get the bread going.

The bread dough has been rising away since last night; when I stick a spatula in the dough it pulls away in stringy threads. After some folding and stretching and sprinkling with flour, it forms a round ball, which I dust with more flour and dump into a bowl. On to the soup. I chop the onion and leeks, and peel and slice the broccoli stems and potatoes. The broth simmers away; I take out the bones, ladle out about a quart of broth to freeze for later. The chopped leeks and onions are caramelizing in a little butter, and when they are ready I slide them into the broth with the potatoes and broccoli. I scrape the bread dough into a preheated Pyrex pot, and it hisses as it settles into the hot pot. It goes into the oven, and the soup continues to simmer away. In an effort to turn over a new leaf, I start cleaning up the kitchen now, instead of...tomorrow night. Hunger overtakes me, and I break for a handful of almonds, a few potato chips.

While the bread finishes baking I puree the soup in my food processor. It takes no time at all, and soon I have a thick, creamy soup, which I eat while watching The Enchanted April, a movie I have not seen for many years but is as lovely as I remember it. The bread is not quite ready as I eat my soup, but finally it has cooled enough for me to slice open (really it should cool for a couple of hours, but I don't have that kind of time). This time I used a two-quart covered Pyrex dish, much smaller than what is recommended, so the dough filled the entire pot, pushing against the lid, taking on the perfect round shape of the dish. The bread had a fluffy, slightly moist crumb; still warm, it didn't even need the butter, but I ate it with butter anyway. It was delicious.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Experiments with Mangalitsa.

The two-pound block of Mangalitsa pork belly has been staring at me reproachfully from the freezer for several weeks now, falling off the shelf every I reach past for the frozen peas, every time I move it to make room for the ice cream. I had to do something, with the belly and with the four pounds of back fat that still needed to be rendered down into lard. (The lard I took care of on Saturday, and it left me with a couple of pints of clear fat that solidified into hard white cakes, one in the freezer, one in the fridge). I left the belly in the fridge to thaw, then forgot about it until I came home from work today without any idea of what to make for dinner.

Last time I tried to make dongpo ro I did it incorrectly, with pre-cubed pork belly, and without blanching it first. This time I blanched the neat square of belly briefly, then pulled it out and sliced off about half an inch from one end, so it would fit into my smallest Le Creuset pot, about 1 3/4 quarts. The big square went into the pot with chunks of spring onions, a few pieces of star anise, and a couple of sloshes of soy sauce and rice wine. I would simmer it slowly, then eat it another night. Tonight needed something different.

I sliced the leftover piece of belly into somewhat irregular lardons (I would probably get kicked out of culinary school in about two days), then tossed them with a little soy sauce and a sprinkle of raw sugar (which is what I use in my tea, and when I don't have any yellow rock sugar on hand. A real Chinese chef would throw a cleaver at my head, but I don't have any real Chinese chefs standing around in my kitchen). I scrambled some eggs (a gift from my boss, not the eggs we bought this past weekend, but from the last time she was down there, a few weeks ago) in a small pool of lard, and scraped them out of the pot when they were partly set, partly still liquid. In went a little more lard, and then the chunks of belly. They caramelized a little around the edges, began to melt, and I threw in the defrosted peas (I nearly always have frozen peas in my freezer) and a big handful of chopped scallions.

When the peas were done, I added the cold leftover rice, smushing it down with my spatula, tossing it with the pork and vegetables. When every grain had separated from its fridge-cold clumps, in went the eggs, salt, pepper. It was perfect, the pork salty-sweet and chewy, the taste of Mangalitsa coming through the dark flavors of soy and caramelized sugar, the rich fat light on the tongue. I may never use bacon in my fried rice again, except as a last resort.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weekend musings.

Yesterday morning, I put together some no-knead bread dough. It bubbled away quietly, silently, on the dining room table. Then, late in the afternoon, I was surfing around the internet and feeling the pangs of hunger again, when I stumbled upon a recipe for English muffins. Almost before I knew it I had a bowl of yeasty soft dough in my hands, scooping it into a hot non-stick frying pan (to take the place of the griddle I do not own, nor have the space for), leaving it to brown and cook through. Quickly I split one of the fresh muffins with a fork (as directed) and toasted it, lavishing it with butter when it was done. It was strangely tasteless. I thought about it, and realized that in my haste, I had forgotten to add salt. Whoops. Next time. I made a bacon sandwich with another English muffin, and lay back, content.

Sunday morning, and I had to work. But what to do about the rising bread dough? It was a teeming, bubbling, damp mess. I scraped it out onto a floured counter, added more flour until it was still amoeba-like but not a wet puddle. Dumped it all into a floured plastic container, and then shoved it into the fridge. It could wait. I had work to do, a wedding to go to, and it could just sit there until I came home that night. I made myself a cup of tea, and a fried egg sandwich on one of the failed English muffins, and headed out.

We were almost to Tacoma when K. had the bright idea of going to the chicken farm where she has bought eggs, several dozen at a time, twice now. But none of us had any money on us, so what were we going to do? R. called her brother, told him to lend us forty bucks. That would cover plenty of eggs. We were in business. Sooner than I thought possible I found myself driving through winding roads until we wound up at the first farm, where a small refrigerator held cartons of eggs (you paid according to an honor system) - both duck and chicken. We took all the duck eggs that were left, two dozen, and headed over to the second farm, which besides chickens had a kennel of corgis, a goat, and a baby calf. The corgi danced excitedly around me as I stood in the yard, in my favorite little black dress and heels that cost, well, lets just say many dozens of eggs. Goodness knows what the owner of the farm thought of the three of us, dressed for a wedding.

Later, we drive over to A.'s house for a simple dinner of rice, soy-sauce chicken, broccoli, and fried eggs, from the same farm where we just bought ten dozen eggs. They are eggs, bright orange yolks, which taste nothing like the ones you find at the supermarket. They are the best eggs I have ever eaten, and they are worth driving for miles and miles on a sunny Sunday afternoon in your favorite dress and best heels.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday happiness.

The nice thing about coming into work early is that usually it means I can leave mid-afternoon, and today is no exception. All day long sunlight has been pouring into the atrium (which is the only natural light we have, except for a little that filters in through the blind that covers the front door). When we leave at 3:30 it is still a glorious spring day, and we head down to Molly Moon for ice cream. The line snakes out the door, and we attach ourselves to the end of it. It moves slowly, and we debate over flavors for what seems like hours (it is about thirty minutes) until at last, it is our turn. I taste the salted caramel, choose the Birthday Cake, one scoop in a waffle cone. It is creamy white with specks of yellow and pink, and it tastes like frosting, the birthday-cake frosting of my childhood.

I love frosting, whether it comes in a can or from my own kitchen, and I love this ice cream. We take our cones across the street to the park, and find a bench near the pools. There are children and people with dogs, and guys who do not understand that while the sun is shining, it is not really hot enough to justify taking off their shirts. But still, it is a beautiful afternoon, and I have the weekend ahead of me, and ice cream in a freshly-made waffle cone. We see people that had been waiting in line with us at the ice cream shop, and other people who eye our treats enviously.

Later I curl up with a book on the sofa and think about dinner. I could make a frittata, or I could make pasta. I turn to the leftover roast chicken, and make myself a plate of chicken fettucine Alfredo, which is creamy and cheesy and just the right thing to end the week. Happy Friday.