A Good Day To…

There’s one bird chirping, a sad, snippy, repetitive chirp,—a chirp that says, maybe, “You made me fly back from Florida for THIS?” The sky is gray; rivulets run down either side of the street, and the rivulets are pa-pinged by the insistent fall of a relentless Friday rain.

It’s a day for a hot breakfast. We pull the last of the ham chunks from the freezer, chop them up, and sauté them while the eggs are beaten frothy. The eggs join the ham in the big skillet; I grate sharp, hard cheese.

The omelet cooks quickly; before it’s quite done, I sprinkle the cheese in, flip it folded, turn the heat to very, very low, and put the old, dented aluminum lid on top. Within a minute, we have cheese ooze. The toaster dings, and Mark pulls out his bread, nicely charred—Zanghified, we call it. The boy likes a little carbon on his toast.

Jim clatters downstairs, and his eyes light up at the thought of an eggy hot breakfast. We share up the omelet, sit at the table, let the rain serenade our morning meal.

And then the boyos are off, Mark dashing out the backdoor to the carport, holding a file over his head, Jim scurrying down the front walk to the minibus that picks him up.

Doors slam on both sides of the house, and a certain quiet settles in.

I had thought of taking my umbrella and walking outside, but the streets flow and the ground, in this weird-weather week, is sodden. (This week, I got caught in a hailstorm on the drive home from the library. The sky was split in two: one half was a normal, cloud-scudded sky, with even a little blue peeking through; the other half pushed along a curled wave of murky white clouds, like the roller on an old-fashioned window shade. Beyond the roller, the sky was black and roiling.

“Let me get home; just let me get home,” I muttered or prayed, but five minutes away from my house, the roller shade surged overhead, and rain started pelting. It was pelting sideways, and I felt a clutch of fear, waiting five cars deep at a light.

By the time I moved forward, the rain had turned to hail, and the lights in the houses and restaurants on the street I normally take were snuffed out. Blind traffic lights swung crazily, and I took the first left turn, hoping that the side streets might somehow be more protected.

The hail was big. It pounded the roof and the hood and the sides of my car: POCKPOCKPOCK…an overwhelming and frightening noise. I thought once of stopping to wait out the siege, but I was afraid the hail would break my windows…and there was no getting out of the car to run.

I crept along, crunching the hail beneath my tires, struggling to see. In one part of the street, the skeleton of a trailer—the kind you pull a boat on, maybe—rocked back and forth in the righthand lane, escaped from its weighted perch, no doubt. Turning around was not an option; I nudged as close to the far side of the street as I could and, blessedly, didn’t scratch against the errant thing.

“Just let me get home,” I implored again, and somehow, I did, catching my breath in the carport before dashing to the back door. There was a cascade sluicing off the roof of our little back entry; hail was piling in glistening heaps. In the ten seconds it took to run inside, I was drenched and battered. And safely thankful.

What a storm. Mark’s car was parked outside while he worked; my little car suffered through the hail on the ride home. They are pockmarked, both cars, but we are the lucky ones. Friends lost windows in their houses and chunks of roofs or siding. The power went out in bizarre and random, patternless fashion. Across the street, our neighbors’ houses were dark until the deep of  night. Our power never flickered.  

So lucky. And so completely intimidated by the rage of nature unleashed.)

But now it’s Friday, and the rain is vertical, relentless, but gentler. Still, even with an umbrella, it’s not weather to walk outdoors. I grab my five-pound dumbbells and I march around the house for ten minutes. It’s a day to walk inside.

It is a day to do laundry, too. I go downstairs to throw in a load of towels, and then I open the new upright freezer by the basement steps. It is frigid and pristine inside, having chilled all night; I move the food from the old chest freezer—bought, probably, 15 years or more ago. It has been a good little chiller, but these days, the mechanism that holds the lid up is weakened. So I stick my head in, rootling for the pork chops I need, the pork chops that are, inevitably, on the very bottom of the freezer, under the turkey breast and the beef roasts, under bags of peas and broccoli and containers of frozen chicken stock.

And, as I rustle around, the lid gets gleeful. “This is fun!” it says. “Let’s wrassle!”

And it slams down on the bumpy, bony, back part of my neck. I yell words I won’t write here, and I smack the little freezer with chunks of frozen meat, which doesn’t help at all.

But: we waited out the supply chain freezer issues, and now we have our reward.

Now I can open the freezer door and see exactly where the pizzas are, or the bags of berries, the cool whip containers, or the sausage patties.

I empty out the little freezer and the even smaller freezer over the downstairs refrigerator, and I stand back to admire the space and organization of the new appliance.

Today, this rainy day, is a good day to be thankful for little, oddball things.

*****************************

It’s a day to use things up, too. James and I went on our bi-monthly trip to Sam’s Club yesterday. We brought home cases of canned tomatoes and kidney beans, big cases of vinegar jugs, industrial sized boxes of cereal, and a great big vat of spring greens. Goodies, somehow, crept into the oversized shopping cart, too, and when we got home, I stood on the stool to put M&M’s on top of the cupboard, and I marveled that we have an old, opened container with M&M’s still left in it after a two-month lapse.

This morning I decide to use up that aging candy. I’ll make peanut butter oatmeal cookies, a lovely cookie that contains nary a drop of wheat. I clipped the recipe from a newspaper many, many years ago. A long time passed before I used it; I just had no faith that these cookies would hold together, be a treat.

The trick, though, is to let the mixture settle for an hour; then, I think, the oats drink in the moisture and expand, and the cookies plump up perfectly. This is not an “Okay for a gluten-free recipe” cookie; this is a cookie everyone in the house just loves.

While the dough settles, I check email and switch laundry over, and march around the house some more. Then I preheat the oven and plop sticky, chocolate-studded doughballs onto cookie sheets; when the oven’s ding announces its readiness, I slide two trays into the oven, and wander away.

Soon the scent of hot, sweetened peanut butter floats richly into all the corners. I sit at the dining room table, reading a book about life in Hong Kong; I am there, and I am marveling. Then I am here, and I am switching cookie sheets, then flippering hot cookies onto the giant pizza pan where they settle and cool.

I eat a hot cookie; the oven chiggers and sighs its hot nutty breath, and I grab the dumbbells and march around the house for another ten minutes.

****************************************

I discovered, when I moved chunks of frigid food from old freezer to new, that we still had a piece of beef brisket. And this is a perfect day, I think, to have a braise, a long, slow, moist cooking; the result a tender, almost shredded chunk of meat to serve up on mashed potatoes.

I settle in with recipe books and decide to use Alice Waters’ method in The Art of Simple Food. That process, she writes, “combines the best of roasting and braising into one method to produce a meltingly tender, mouthwatering golden roast with a rich deeply flavorful sauce.”

We had bought a huge chunk of brisket, cut it into manageable portions, and eagerly anticipated the feasts we would concoct. But our first foray, involving smoking and barbecue, left us sadly disappointed.  The meat was tough and stringy.

The next time out, we tried a long, slow braise—guided by Alice Waters—and the result was fork-tender and amazing.

Today—this rain-softened gray day,—is the perfect day for a patient braise. I pull down the roasting pot, and I defrost beef broth.

*********************************************

And the rain falls, and I grab towels, hot from the dryer, fold them into neat squares and rectangles—such a simple, soul-satisfying job. Now the house is scented with a rich, beefy smell, and I grab the five pound weights and walk some more, noticing…

  • The goodie bag Jim brought home from his TRiO orientation, with a T-shirt, a custom notebook and pen, and a plastic vial of hand sanitizer;
  • The goofy game Matt forgot to take home with him when he visited, a game he picked up for 94 cents at a Goodwill store, and I spy a box it would just fit into;
  • The gleeful, joyful, tomato plants, seeds from last year’s bounty surging into life;
  • A stack of books, some library, some ‘home’ books. (Jim texts from work to pass on a recommendation from his boss, Janelle, who has found tasty gluten-free chocolate chip cookies at Trader Joe’s in Easton, and he ends by writing, “You should grab a book and a cup of coffee and sit in the chair and read!”)

I think that Jim gives good advice.

Tomatoes plants are raring to go…

It is a day to enjoy the slow roast, the hum of the dryer, the taste of a fresh-baked cookie, and the rain-mandated diffusion of pressure,—a ‘count my blessings’ kind of day when ordinary and homely things snap into clear focus, reminding me that humble, humdrum parts of life are pretty important, too.

******************************

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

(I clipped this recipe from the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch many, many years ago. It was submitted by Miriam Beachy.)

½ cup butter, softened

¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¾ cup crunchy peanut butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

2-1/4 cups quick-cooking oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

8 to 12 ounces M&M’s or butterscotch chips

–Cream butter, sugars, eggs, and peanut butter. Beat in vanilla, oats, and baking soda.

–Stir in peanuts and M&M’s.

–LET MIXTURE STAND AT LEAST ONE HOUR. (If it’s left to stand longer, please refrigerate.)

–Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop dough by tablespoonsful onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes.

5 thoughts on “A Good Day To…

  1. I was going to email you and get the recipe but you’ve included it! So thanks for that as I have a gluten free friend. As to the hail it can be totally intense and very scary. I would take a full day of that kind of rain though because it’s very dry here in the Canadian prairies. Bernie

  2. Those cookies!!! Yum!
    The rain sounds lovely to me. We don’t get enough of it. But when we do the husband acts like the sky is falling. Nobody can leave the house. No taking cars out in the rain. Unless it’s urgent and then HE needs to drive. A loss of control thing maybe?

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