Magic Miso Dressing

February 3, 2021

Yeah, so I know I haven’t bothered posting recipes in a while. When the whole pandemic started, cooking felt so cozy. I spent March and April making afternoon popcorn on the stove with plenty of butter; stirred chocolate chunks into brownies, had chicken noodle soup bubbling at the ready.

And then. You know what happened. It happened to you, too. Cooking ennui and downright burnout happened. I could blame myself but I don’t. Both girls were home and had completely different schedules, as did my husband, who has been going through the work equivalent of Chinese water torture. This resulted in a lot of extra meals made at weird times for different people. It still isn’t over.

People at my house are also depressed and despondent on different schedules, so at any point one or more members of the family lose their appetites altogether. The only living thing in my house who still appreciates food is the dog.

These are dark days for a cook, I tell you.

But one of the good things that came out of the pandemic are recipes like the one I share here. It’s easy. It’s versatile–I mean, this shit is good on anything. It’s especially magic on any kind of vegetable or rice bowl or protein. You can quadruple the recipe and just keep it in your refrigerator for whenever. It’s not too spicy or assertive for most kids. Add it to stir fry and viola! Your job is done.

So here’s my latest Mommy’s Little Helper (it’s legal, so yay).

 

 

Miso Ginger Sauce for Broccoli, Snap Peas or other Damn Stuff

serves 4

 

Mix together:

2 tablespoons white miso

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon honey or pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sliced scallion (optional)

dash of chile flakes, if desired

Set aside (or you can double/triple this and keep in your refrigerator).

 

Heat 2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, peanut etc.) in a skillet and add 8 cups broccoli florets (or a mixture of any veg–mushrooms are brilliant, as are Brussels sprouts, snow peas, zucchini, sliced onion, blahblahblah). Cook 2-3 minutes until starting to char. Add about 3 tablespoons water and cover/steam 2-3 minutes. Add miso mixture and toss to coat. Top with sesame seeds and scallions, if desired. Hoover down. Try to relax and really taste it. Do not ponder the futility of it all.

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We Can’t Lose

January 26, 2021

I’m sitting at the kitchen table snapping green beans while Mama works on the dreaded meatloaf for dinner. My sister, unsurprisingly, is nowhere to be found. That girl. Whenever there’s any kind of work to be done around the house, she Shazams! herself right outta town. Normally I would resent this, but I like to keep a sharp eye on Mama when she’s making meatloaf. Meatloaf is the devil’s instrument; you can hide ANYthing in there. I need to keep an eye on things, just for safety reasons.

Daddy’s at his desk, going through the mail.

“Hmmmm,” he says, studying the piece of paper in front of him.

Mama doesn’t bite. She’s got dinner to fix.

“HMMmmm,” he repeats, scooting back in his chair.

She continues to ignore him.

He clears his throat.

Nothing. Nada. Snap, snap, snap of the beans.

Daddy sighs a little and then hoists himself off the chair and wanders into the kitchen, paper in hand.

 

“Mary,” he says, “I have something interesting here.”

“Mmmm?” She is kneading carrots into the dreaded meatloaf. I can see it from my seat at the table. Gross.

“Yes,” he says, jovially. “Mary, we’re winners!”

“Is that so,” she says.

“Yes! Lookee here!” He waves the paper for emphasis. “It says right here! We. Are. Winners!”

She finally looks up at him and stops manhandling the meatloaf. “Okay, Ronald, if you say so. What, praytell, did we win?”

“Well, that’s the kicker,” he says. “We won’t know until we come to collect it, but it says we won one of three things.”

She grabs a paper towel to dry her hands and walks over, peering at the paper. “A diamond ring OR a new car OR a boat with motor,” she reads.

“Right?” Daddy-o chortles. “Those are some amazing prizes, that’s for sure.”

Mama raises an eyebrow. “A motorboat. Ronald. You can’t swim.”

“That’s not the point! We won’t win the motorboat, Mary. And if we do, I can sell the thing and make a profit. I’m betting we won the diamond.”

“I imagine there’s a catch here.”

“Not really!” he protests. “We just show up with this paper on Saturday, give them the number in the left corner and walk away with our prize! It’s simple!”

Mama looks over at me. “This sounds like one of his schemes, doesn’t it?”

I nod. “Crazy schemes,” I say. “He’s sort of known for them.”

 

Over dinner (my sister has magically appeared and is scarfing down meatloaf, that weirdo), my father works on Mama.

“I mean, really,” he says. “What’s the harm in just going to check it out? It won’t take long and those are three great things we could win. I mean, any one of those and we’d walk away happy.”

“I think this smells, Ronald,” she says.

“Awww, Hell. You’re just a pessimist,” Daddy says. “I never win anything. And this will be fun.”

Mama sighs and rubs her forehead.

“Mary. Trust me on this one. We can’t lose!”

 

Saturday morning, while my sister and I are watching cartoons, I hear Mama fussing at my father.

“Why can’t you just go pick it up?” she asks. “Can’t you just do that? Go pick up your fabulous gift and leave me out of this whole affair? I have about a million things to do.”

“Nope, sorry, it says we both have to be there. And you aren’t that busy. Too busy for a diamond ring? C’mon,Mary. It’ll be an adventure. It’ll be great.”

She mutters something akin to the Lord’s name in vain, puts on her coat and goes to find her shoes.

Daddy is gleeful. “Girls, we’ll see you in a bit,” he promises. “Won’t it be exciting to find out what we won?” He opens the front door. As they leave, I can hear him say, “I’m serious, Mary. We can’t lose!”

 

*four hours later*

 

“What’s taking them so long?” my sister asks. We have consumed nearly an entire box of Sugar Corn Pops.

“I dunno,” I say. “Dad said they just had to collect the prize and skedaddle outta there. Maybe they went to Shop-n-Bag for groceries or something.”

My sister snorts. “Without us? The ones who have to bag all of the groceries and haul them in? I doubt it.”

Finally, we hear the sound of the garage door opening. Then we hear a heavy slam of a car door and my mother’s brisk footsteps. She barrels into the house, throws her coat over the banister and stalks to the kitchen.

You can feel the steam coming off her, she’s so mad. She opens a cupboard, slams it shut. Opens another, slams it. Clanks loudly through the silverware drawer, slams that, too.

My sister and I exchange a look.

She’s muttering in there, still slamming away, and decides to hack a head of lettuce to bits. “Mumblemumblemumble…half the damn day…mumblemumble.” The hard whack of a knife.

 

My sister and I head out to the garage to see what Daddy’s up to. He’s got the trunk of the Travelall open and he’s sitting in the back of it, looking hangdog and sheepish.

“Dad! What did you get?” my sister says.

“Mom’s acting weird,” I say.

“Yeah, well, it took a little longer than we thought,” he sighs. “Before we could collect our prize, we had to listen to a huge presentation about Florida time-shares. I didn’t know about that little detail.”

“Who cares?” my sister says. “What did you win? Is it the diamond ring?”

Daddy shakes his head and gestures to a box behind him. We crawl inside the back of the TravelAll to take a look.

Behold.

We are awestruck.

We spy a yellow, flimsy looking blow-up raft with something teeny-tiny on the back of it.

“What the heck is that?” my sister says.

“What’s on the back of it?” I say. “An egg beater?”

“Oh my God,” my sister says. “It does look like a friggin’ egg beater.”

My sister and I look over at Daddy. He is trying to remain solemn but his shoulders are starting to shake and his mouth can’t hide his grin.

“Holy cow, no wonder she’s so steamed,” I say and my sister and I begin to cackle, and then Daddy loses it altogether and we sit in the garage, laughing so hard that tears run down our faces.

“Your mother…” Daddy gasps…”Is not…amused.”

“No, Dad,” I say. “She’s madder than Hell.”

“I know,” he says and then we just start laughing harder.

 

We sit outside for a while, marveling at his bad fortune.

Daddy gets out a handkerchief and wipes his eyes. “Girls,” he says. “Go in and get your mother. Tell her I’m taking you all to lunch. But do NOT laugh while you’re in there, okay? Sober up.” And then he loses it again. “Damn.”

“Okay.”

My sister and I head towards the house, but Cindy can’t help herself. “Hey Dad!” she snickers over her shoulder. “I’m really glad we couldn’t lose, eh?”

“I promise, eh?” I add.

“You girls are terrible,” he says, hoisting the raft and egg beater out of the car. “I’m just gonna hide this away for a while,” he winks.

“Go get your mother. And don’t you DARE laugh.”

 

(for you, Michele Parsons)

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The Gentle

January 4, 2021

She lurches down the stairs with only one sock on. She has a thick, fluffy blanket wrapped around her, cloak-like, a trademark of a girl who is always cold. And other things.

“Hey, Bunnybunny,” I say.

This actually means something in weirdo parental language. My antennae is up.

She withers me with her eyes and bangs herself into a chair.

She is fifteen.

 

When all else eludes you as a parent, try carbs.

Wordlessly, I pop an English muffin into the toaster and spread it with a generosity of butter. I slide it her way.

She doesn’t smile.

Okay.

 

“How did you sleep?”

Shrug.

I let that sit there a while, listening to her crackle into her breakfast.

 

“Hey,” I finally say. “You okay?”

Hard shake of the head to the side.

“You wanna talk about it?”

DEFCON glare– “no.”

“Okay.”

Her eyes well up and that makes her even more pissed.

“So I’ll be gentle with you today, okay?” *pause* “I promise.”

She nods and goes back up the stairs, blanket tight around her shoulders.

 

Frankly, I don’t know if this does any good, but never, not ever, as a teenager was I allowed to signal that I was having a bad day and be treated with understanding.

“Jesus. Get your head on straight.”

“You’re too young to be tired.”

“Put some lipstick on the pig.”

“Get over yourself.”

 

I am probably the least competent parent ever, but I can do this. I can be gentle for a day. I can say that I will tread softly. There be wounds here.

 

It is not every day, thank goodness.

 

But today, we need a kinder touch.

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