Sundays are often a day where I spend several hours cooking and cleaning to prepare for the week ahead. It is Family Day here at Casa De Nail (I forgot to mention that one of my favorite nicknames is “Nail”, courtesy of my friend Jenny; I’ll probably go by that nickname here full time). This weekend was unique in that the ratties came home after being gone for the past six weeks. My friend Todd was kind enough to take care of the boys for me so that I could focus on self-care and keeping the dog alive in the aftermath of my mom dying. This was a gesture that I will probably never be able to repay, and while I am eternally grateful, I am also so glad to have my whole brood back together. The rats were timid at first, as they tend to be wary of new situations. I thought it might take me a while to win Fenton over, and that I’d have to do so on his terms. He’s delicate and finicky that way. Surprisingly, their timidity was short lived, even Fenton’s. After a quick sniff of my hand, they were both ready to party and glad to be home.
Oliver was the first to come around, which was not altogether surprising. He tends to be more curious, more concerned with being outside his cage and knowing what’s happening in the world around him. As soon as I opened the cage door, he came out and started checking out all the things that have changed since he’s been gone. In the past six weeks I have gotten a new couch and a new coffee table, several new plants (one of the positive consequences of funerals), and have integrated a variety of my mom’s belongings into my living space. For a rat, this is a shit ton of new information to process. Curious though he may be, Oliver was quickly intoxicated by the newness of it all and was like, let me back in my cage so I can nap, woman!
Fenton was not so quick to check things out. He also played a little hard to get with his mom. He is the kind of boy who is perfectly content keeping to himself, reading his poetry, writing in his journal, not being bothered. When he leaves the cage it’s rarely to explore. The only “exploring” he does is finding the best spot in which he can to hang out and take naps. When I finally convinced him to come out of the cage it wasn’t without a great deal of exaggerated effort.
I suppose I can stretch and yawn and force myself to leave the comfort of my deliciously soft and warm and snuggly cage situation in here if you insist. Seriously, though, Mom, get off me about it, would ya?
Josie was unsure of what to think of them being home, though it didn’t take her long to determine that their presence meant she needed to guard her bone. And her food. And her water. And her cage. We have been a little bit lax on crate rest lately, since it’s just the two of us and she is pretty good about staying in one spot when given a command to do so. Usually I let her out of the crate, put her in one spot, and she stays put. This a more restful and healing situation for both of us because she’s not in the cage crying about how she desperately wants out, and I’m not outside the cage crying about how much I want to throw her and the cage into the dumpster.
I cleaned the whole apartment today, and cooked lots of food. It was in doing this that I realized I want to write posts about cooking from time to time. I often stumble across blogs while I’m looking up how to cook certain dishes, and I see it all the time on Pinterest: seemingly perfect people cooking seemingly perfect food taking perfect pictures with their perfect cameras. Everything is shiny. Everything is clean. Everything works out just right. I understand the purpose of these posts. I get why it’s necessary to not show all that is happening in the background, why maybe the screaming toddler and the barking dog and the pot boiling over is not pertinent to the recipe. But I think that this feeds into our insecurities as a culture, our constant sense of not feeling good enough. It’s the Facebook effect, that notion that everyone else’s life is shinier, happier, better than ours.
Here is my recipe for a gluten-free, vegan, heart-healthy dish where all the ingredients are 100% sustainable, and I only used rainwater while cooking, plus I compost all my family’s waste. My children never cry and they are never sticky, my heteronormative relationship is as happy as can be and I am totally fulfilled in my life.
Give me a break. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people who write posts like this for the viewing pleasure of those of us on the intorwebz, I struggle with eradicating the capital-R Reality from things, with taking away the human factor. So I’m going to post things about my cooking endeavors once in a while, but I am going to be totally honest about our life. My relationship with you is built on honesty, and I plan to be true to that honesty, come what may.
Today I decided I would make a vegetable soup with lentils because I had a bunch of vegetables that were on the verge of going bad (see this post about my relationship with the grocery store) and I wanted to use them up to stave off the guilt of wasting food. The first step in this process is to prepare the lentils.
I do make efforts to be healthy in my cooking, but no real hillbilly child can ever be fully removed from the use of bacon grease as a cooking staple. As such, the next step for preparing a soup like this is to throw the lentils into some broth with a ton of garlic and bacon grease. Add some green onions for extra flavor, too.
Lentils are actually a great way to bulk up your diet with tons of nutrients and plenty of protein without breaking the bank. An average bag runs anywhere from $1 to $5 and you can easily get several meals out of one round of cooked lentils, which is only 1/3-1/2 of the bag at a time. Make sure you put away unused, uncooked lentils in an airtight container. Because I am a filthy hick who is unconcerned about the state of the environment, I use a sandwich bag for this. Sometimes. I might use a tupperware container. It depends on my mood. I suggest you follow your own instinct.
The next step is to throw in whatever random vegetables you have lying around that are shriveling and threatening to wither away and instill in your existence a pervasive and nagging shame at your ineptitude for not making optimal use of all the food you buy at the store. Even when you cook the vegetables and save them from being thrown away, you might still experience some pretty intense shame, given that they’re probably not all organic. This is a good time to start day-drinking to avoid having to think about your failings as a human being.
I recommend adding bacon to this soup if you’re into that sort of thing. It adds lots of flavor, plus it lends depth and protein. You should probably get side tracked while you’re cooking the bacon, burn it, discover that you don’t have paper towels, and end up letting your scorched bacon drain on one of your kitchen towels.
Go ahead and try to choke down one of the more burned pieces of bacon to save the pot of stew from having to sustain it. You’ll be sort of disappointed, but sort of confused at how much you don’t hate it because even though it’s burned, it’s still bacon. Crumble it up however you feel is appropriate and toss it into your soup. I like to throw tomatoes and tomato juice into the mix because I love tomato based foods. I also added parsley, a bay leaf, oregano, rosemary, white pepper, black pepper, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Plus a little worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and chicken stock. Oh, and a pinch of brown sugar to cut the bite of the tomato flavor. I recommend you do whatever you feel like doing. The flavor you’re going for might be different. My soup was heavy on cabbage and shredded carrots, and had a reasonable amount of broccoli.
I also did a lot of other cooking today, but I did not thoroughly document it. One thing I discovered – the hard way, of course – is that my strainer is not fine enough for couscous.
That is, indeed, a dishrag beneath the strainer. And that is tiny, uncooked pieces of couscous stuck in the mesh. Because I do not have the wherewithal to check the size of the couscous against the size of the strainer before I just dump a bunch of it in there. We did manage to rinse and cook the couscous. Ultimately I overcooked it. Figures.
There is one recipe that I started today that I am super excited to share, but I didn’t actually finish it today. I just cooked one ingredient for it, and stuck it in the fridge. Sometime this week I am going to finish it off and post it here with actual instructions, assuming it turns out correctly. After we did some hardcore cooking, we spent the afternoon cleaning this gypsy wolf den from top to bottom. Joseph spent the majority of the afternoon and evening obediently sleeping in her crate. The rats’ presence is actually beneficial and entertaining. Because she has no concept of when they are in their cage locked up versus when they are roaming free, she operates on the assumption that they are always lurking about, just waiting for the right moment to steal all her precious earthly treasures. So she actually wants to be in the crate, protecting it from those d-bags. But, as it turns out, protecting your bone and all your stuff is really hard work.