after such a night

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.

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Away from Here

tender chicken

Saturday afternoon, I went to Jamaica, from the comfort of my own back patio. I didn’t need a plane ticket or a passport, and there were no hotel costs involved. Instead, after preparing a chicken marinade the previous night—a puree of spices, oil, chopped garlic, minced onion and diced jalapenos that made my hands burn (wear gloves, friends, anytime you touch the inside of jalapenos!), I stood over a white-hot grill and cooked an authentic Jamaican jerk barbecue, a little faster than was recommended but with excellent, tender, flavorful results.

Destination Dinners

The meal was the result of a recipe kit sent to me by Destination Dinners, a California company that specializes in making international cooking attainable and educational. Packaged in a pretty red box reminiscent of a Chinese takeout container, my kit came with a recipe, a shopping list, background information on my destination and, importantly, all the dry ingredients and extra supplies I would need, from spices to plastic gloves (yes, that I didn’t notice until after I’d created burning jalapeno hands) and a Ziploc baggie for the marinade.

inside of kit

Met with rave reviews, the entire delicious meal was gone by Monday, which, by the way, was the day I’d end up spending time visiting the hospital, where I’d walk through halls of dim rooms, patients illuminated by glowing television screens, regulation blankets piled high on their thin gowns, the string-tied ones that open in the back. And when I’d catch someone’s gaze, accidentally, I’d first imagine that person walking strong and healthy, far from beeping monitors and blinking screens, how different and right; then imagine instead myself in the bed, unable to leave, alone. I’d be thinking how hospitals are maybe my least favorite places and how, if I were a patient in one, I’d want to be anywhere but there.

You know, I wonder if maybe another reason people travel—beyond wanting to broaden perspectives or even change themselves—is because, sometimes, they want to escape, like I did in the hospital, from their cubicle or their neighborhood or their routine. Maybe that’s also why they cook—at least, I know it’s part of why I do. Assembling ingredients, particularly new ones, is part adventure and part escape—a way to explore without leaving your kitchen, to be exciting without blowing your bank account.

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back to normal

malibu chicken

Well, here we are: Monday night.

Friday seems, honestly, like it was a minute ago to me—do you feel that way? It’s as if somehow the sum of everything—a fast dinner at Steak N’ Shake, $1.99 latte bowls at Anthropologie, a friend’s birthday brunch at one of my favorite places, Saturday movie marathons, bacon-wrapped dates, long walks in warm sunshine, free Starbucks, bunches of Cool Ranch Doritos, bonfires with homemade s’mores, couch-shopping, a lot of driving and two new pairs of shoes—doesn’t add up somehow.

No matter how well, or with how much, you fill three empty days, they still end, and you have to return to normal again. And, I don’t know about you, but I’d like to find a way around that reality.

No matter how we look at things, tomorrow is typical Tuesday morning, but then, that isn’t entirely bad. I mean, for one thing, this week will seem short. For another, this is still May, and whether you’re watching it from the inside of your office window or while standing in an open field, you can’t miss the beauty.

So let’s talk normal. Like everyday, routine, weeknights. Like dinner. Do you know what you’re having?

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