lemons and sage

I know things have been pretty pizza and apple tart cake around here this week, and the following story is not going to fit in at all with that model, but I hope you won’t mind if I tell it anyway because, to be honest with you, I had a heck of a night last night. When I came home, pulling out lemon-sage-garlic chicken to reheat in the oven, I thought how perfectly wonderful it is to have home-cooked food to turn to, especially on awful nights like that one, and I figure you probably feel that way too sometimes, so we might as well be open about it.

I’ll start by saying that here in America, we have these really good, really important laws about being authorized to work in the country—laws that are no big deal for natural-born citizens with documentation like birth certificates and social security cards, except when those natural-born citizens lose their documentation, like I did, a couple years ago. Mostly this has been OK since I have a current passport but, come October 14, that passport is expiring, and my current employers want current proof.

So three weeks ago, I applied to get a new passport, filling out all the paperwork and getting new passport photos taken and mailing the whole package of info over to Pennsylvania somewhere via certified mail. They got the package, but I am still waiting.

I also figured I should replace my social security card, just as a backup. It’s free the first time you replace it, did you know that? Go in person to your local social security office, during daytime business hours, and, after filling out more paperwork, request a new card. Perfect. I had this past Monday off, so I planned to go first thing in the morning—until I realized you have to have a birth certificate in order to prove your identity and replace your social security card.

Getting a certified copy of my birth certificate shouldn’t be a big deal, right? After all, they are public record and, can I just say again, I WAS BORN HERE. So I go online to request a certified copy of my birth certificate, one that will hold up for employment verification purposes, and I pay the $43.00 WHERE $20 OF THAT IS JUST SHIPPING CHARGES and the system says it will arrive in a few days.

lemon-sage-garlic chicken

Wednesday afternoon, yesterday, UPS tries to deliver my birth certificate sometime around 2 PM. I am at work at 2 PM. So they leave me a note that says, Hey! We’ll try again tomorrow! at which point I will also be at work at 2 PM. I call the number on the back of the slip and a voice recording tells me I can go pick up my package, TODAY! if I want to, and all I have to do is leave my number for someone to call me back within the hour. I wait anxiously by the phone the whole hour, plugging it in the wall because it is almost out of battery, and I do dishes and start a load of laundry and bring the phone with me to the bathroom because I am so afraid of missing this call and not getting the chance to get my birth certificate TODAY!

At literally five minutes before the hour is over, someone calls and tells me I can drive about a half hour away to the UPS distribution center and they’ll have my package waiting. I ask him how late they’ll be open, and he says, Oh, we’ll be here until 9, so I grab my phone from the wall, jot down the address he gave me, hop in the car and set out to get my birth certificate TONIGHT! I still haven’t eaten dinner.

I get to the center, driving in darkness the whole way because, you know, it’s October now, and I pull up to what reminds me of the heavily industrial areas when you cross from Chicago into Indiana: large warehouses with not a lot of windows, lots of cars, huge semis driving in and out. I follow the signs through this industrial center and to a teeny-tiny office way at the end where the customer service center is located. I bring the note that was on my door, and I go up to the counter where a guy tells me some other place actually has my package because apparently it’s not at the well-lit office where customers come to get things. He asks me if I’ve been to the west wing guard house before? Why no, I tell him, no, I have not been to the west wing guard house before.

He says, pointing in darkness, Go to the stop sign and swing right, then go all the way down to a little beige building. The little beige building turns out to be practically identical to a men’s prison yard, I kid you not, with 40 or 50 men smoking and talking outside of it, all in a huge huddle, next to this little beige building with white walls and fluorescent lights inside, surrounded by darkness and empty cars and NOT A SINGLE FEMALE AROUND—except for me, of course. I pull over a little ways from them and call the number on my sheet, trying to see if there’s another way to work this out, and I get bumped back to the recording and hung up on. I curse myself for being single. I curse the time for being dark outside. I curse UPS for sending me on a wild goose chase to a crazy little building surrounded by creepy men at night time WHEN I PAID $20 FOR THIS STUPID PACKAGE TO BEGIN WITH.

I drive home.

I know there are a lot of you reading this right now who are saying I am a wimp or hysterical because, hello? it’s UPS and nothing bad is going to happen there, and to you I just say I WAS TOTALLY ALONE AND I WAS SCARED.

When I get home, I call UPS again and talk to a very nice girl who tells me she would have been scared, too, and she doesn’t blame me at all, but, sorry, she doesn’t know how things work at that facility, and now my package is stuck there for the rest of the week. I can go anytime before next Wednesday, but, fyi, they’re not open on Saturdays and Sundays.

So again, I am not sure how to make this more clear, but I WORK DURING THE WEEK. That’s how I got into this whole problem to begin with: my job—the one that is Monday through Friday?—needs proof that I can work here. The Monday I had off? That was this week, before my UPS package had made it to Illinois. She asks me if I have someone who can go get it for me, and I say usually I would, but they’re all busy or working their own jobs, and I really don’t know what else to do, and she says, Well, you have until Wednesday! And I say, OK, thanks, and I hang up.

leftover chicken

I try very hard not to cry while I pull my leftover lemon-garlic-sage chicken out of the refrigerator, the chicken that I made for dinner Saturday night when Jackie came over, while we laughed and talked and then tried watching one of the worst movies either of us had ever tried to watch. I stick it in the oven to reheat and I go on Twitter and tell UPS how really rotten they are. this makes me feel a little better.

Then I eat some leftover chicken, and that makes me feel better, too. In fact, eventually I am calm enough to realize that, just like every other situation that seems like it won’t work out but providentially always does, this is going to be fine somehow, too. I will get my UPS envelope. I will prove I am a US citizen. I will keep my job. Or, I won’t. In either case, at least there are constants like nice things to eat. I guess that means everything will be all right.




Lemon-Sage-Garlic Chicken
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2002

This recipe uses bone-in chicken breasts, rather than whole chickens, to achieve the same delicious, roasted flavor and golden brown skin as when you roast a whole bird. It’s perfect for me, as I like only white meat, and it’s so economical! Credit goes to my brother, Adam, who’d made it last month and raved about it—he’s always finding good recipes like these.

Ingredients:
4 or 5 chicken breast halves with skin and bones
8 very thin lemon slices, seeded
12 fresh sage leaves
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice of one lemon
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups chicken broth

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450°F. Slide fingertips under chicken skin to loosen. Arrange 2 lemon slices and 3 sage leaves under skin on each breast; smooth skin over to enclose. Place chicken inside dutch oven (I used two because I was making five breast halves, and they are large; the original recipe suggests using a rimmed baking sheet—what’s important is that it’s an oven-proof material with rims to prevent oil leaking); brush with oil. Drizzle lemon juice over each breast; sprinkle with garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup broth onto sheet around chicken.

Roast chicken until brown and cooked through, basting once or twice with pan juices and extra squirts of lemon, about 25 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter.

Place dutch ovens or cooking sheets directly atop 2 burners; add remaining broth. Using back of fork, mash any garlic into broth and pan juices. Boil over high heat until broth reduces almost to glaze, scraping up browned bits, about 4 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Adrienne

    I had the same thing happen to me. I went on to the UPS website, and for $4 they can redirect a package to another address – I had them send it to me at work. I hope it works out for you!

  2. Jacqui

    yikes, shanna! thank GOODNESS for that chicken! we all have days like those (mine usually involve cursing metra, or cursing the weather, or cursing comcast), and it’s always nice to come home and not have to cook but to have a delicious plate of leftovers that remind you that yes, there are good days, too.

    as for your birth certificate, since your work is demanding this document, it only makes sense that they should allow you a few hours away from your desk to fetch it for them. maybe explain the situation to your boss? hope all goes well with this!

  3. Vicki

    I agree, your employer should let you come in late or leave early to get the package. Oh, and I would have been scared too. Are you talking about the UPS facility in Hodgkins? That industrial park looks creepy even in the daylight!

  4. Alicia

    The fact that you went on Twitter and told UPS how rotten they are, and that made you feel better, makes ME feel so much better. Because I totally just did that about Best Buy and how buying a warranty means nothing, and that they can’t fix cameras, and that they are rotten. I’m glad that makes other people feel better too.

  5. Kim

    This is wonderful; I love the reminder that no matter how bad things get, we can always rely on good food to brighten our spirits. For that, we are very lucky people indeed!

  6. Shannalee

    Oh, you are all so kind! Thank you for coming over and empathizing with me. I was telling the story at work this morning and literally started crying because it wasn’t just about the birth certificate; it was about how hard things feel when you’re on your own, like I felt, very much, last night.

    I told God I was out of strength and didn’t know what else to do – and then, tonight, I came home to this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/givengrace/3994318006/.

    And I have nothing left to say but that there are tears in my eyes tonight for a different reason.

  7. Niki

    I can’t believe that your company needs proof that you are an American citizen now… Haven’t they already verified that? I’m confused on why that needs to be verified now if they should have known that when you got hired? Companies don’t even check to make sure an immigrant is currently still legal, so why check for an actual American Born citizen? It’s not like the gov’t is gonna decide all of a sudden that even though you were born here, they are going to strip you of citizenship? I’m sorry, this is a hot topic for me. These things aggravate the hell out of me. I’m sure if it was me, I probably would have had a complete meltdown

  8. Shannalee

    Kathi, Yes. Tears of JOY! this time.

    Niki, Your comment made me laugh out loud. I love how passionate you got about it! You’re right – our country/businesses have some crazy rules, and I’m just happy I’ve got this task behind me. Oy!

    Angela, YES! Exactly.

  9. jessiev

    WHEW! i am so glad your passport came.

    i also can’t blv ups and their idiotic way of doing business. i’d have turned around, too. i am SO GLAD you had that lovely, lovely chicken to come home to.

  10. Shannalee

    Jessie, Me, too! I know. If you’d seen me Wednesday, you would have heard all manner of detailed frustration with the inner workings of UPS. Today that feels like such a long time ago, though!

    Ingrid, Yes, praise God. My passport arrived in my regular mail, just like that, isn’t that funny?

  11. Kate

    If this is the UPS place I think it is, it’s the same one I had to go to several years ago at Christmastime. They didn’t redirect me to the building you had to go to, but it was still an awful experience. It was dark and cold and for a little while I thought we were lost because, um, IT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A UPS BUILDING. Then we had to sit inside for an hour in a makeshift waiting room (you know, in the middle of the warehouse area) while we waited for our name to be called along with 50 of our closest friends. Sister, I totally feel your pain.

  12. Shannalee

    Kate. Oh my goodness! Your situation sounds ten times worse – waiting an HOUR for your package??? Does not compute. I’ll admit I’m glad to know I’m not alone but, seriously, that stinks! Did you ever call and complain or anything?

  13. postcollegecook

    I totally do not blame you for not wanting to forge through the den of creepy men! Maybe next time you could ask the guy working in the store to escort you? Hopefully there won’t be a next time…

    Either way, sometimes situations like these are good reminders of God’s providence. How great is it that He is in control?

  14. Shannalee

    PostCollegeCook, I definitely should have asked the guy to escort me but I think was embarrassed. It was like, I didn’t want to get out of the car but I didn’t want to admit I didn’t want to get out of the car, which sounds silly now. Anyway, YES about God’s providence. I loved that you said that. As much as this whole thing frustrated me, I am thankful it happened because God showed me His love is such a tangible way.

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  16. Sarah

    Ugh, I totally know what you mean. Being a single girl living across the country from my family, i’ve been in many scary situations like that. it’s better to be a wimp and be safe! try bon appetit’s brick chicken that was on the cover a few months back (september maybe?) it’s the juciest, crispest chicken ever! i made it for my friend whose parents used to run an asian resturant, and even she was impressed!

  17. Janet

    I totally know how you feel about driving in darkness all alone in a very industrial zone. It’s happened to me when I was an intern new to my internship town and drove the wrong way home in the dark and ended up in a very middle of nowhere freaking out and crying in the car. So I turned around on the highway, kept driving and praying I would see the city soon.

    But I’m writing this after having climbed a rickety ladder to the top to hang some photos at the cafe. I couldn’t ask anyone to hang them for me because I suggested the idea! So I got on there step by step and just remained calm. But now that I’ve gotten over my fear I’m settling down to something easy and calming – bread. Heh.

    Your stories remind me those of us who are single are not so alone in how we feel! Thank you!

  18. Shannalee

    Janet, Thanks, as always, for the empathy. It is nice to know that even in loneliness, we are not alone, and also, to hear how others have gotten through crazy nights driving or walking up ladders or baking bread.

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