Monday, January 19, 2015

Kate and Crew 35: New Foods

35. New Foods (July/Aug)

    Over the summer Teddy gradually started eating more and more solid foods. His first experience with blueberries was a gigantic success (almost as big as the stain.) His first encounter with broccoli was an equally gigantic failure. On the whole though, Kate was pleased to find that he enjoyed trying new things and usually liked them--if not the first time, then the second or third time. (He did eventually start loving even broccoli!) He at bread and cheerios and crackers like a machine; he adored any kind of fruit; even veggies were good--especially tomatoes. She felt a little bad, taking Teddy to a church potluck. He was still pretty limited by texture, and there was a veggie tray with cherry tomatoes...and over the course of the meal, she was sure that she took almost all of them for Teddy. (And all the while, felt like Kathleen Kelly would appear over her shoulder, scoop them back onto the tray, and say "That caviar is a garnish!")
    With only a month or two left before their little girl appeared, Kate wanted to accomplish a couple more projects--in the kitchen this time. She had long since wanted to learn about Indian cuisine. And now she had the perfect opportunity! When a friend moved away, she gave Kate three of her Indian cookbooks, and since being back home, Kate had been diligently reading them. She studied the introductions and made an extensive list of spices to stock in her pantry. One book had a list of Indian stores in each state across America. For the state of Virginia, there was only one listed...and it just happened to be right next to her OB doctor's office! 
    The first time she went, she loaded up on $40 worth of spices. And she got her money's worth or more--the spices filled up two large grocery bags! The boy at the counter in the store (a family business) chatted with her and asked what she was going to make first. 
pakoras with mint raita
    "I don't know." Kate said, suddenly feeling self-conscious about her lack of knowledge. "Probably an appetizer, like pakoras." 
    The boy nodded, "Pakoras are are samosas." He said the word with longing. "My mom just went out to get some more because we ran out." 
    That evening, true to her word, Kate fished out her recipe book and found the page for pakoras. They are a fried concoction made of chopped veggies (onion, pepper, potato, and eggplant) mixed with water, chickpea flour, and spices. Kate had already studied this recipe several times a day for the last week. Normally, she didn't even use recipes! But this was how she learned a new style...this was a satisfying way to cook: being able to make something that she would order in a restaurant. She imagined herself back in the kitchen of a cozy family restaurant and she dexterously chopped and mixed and went the extra step of making some spicy Mint Raita for dipping. Having no idea of what she was doing, she scooped a blob of the mixture into the hot oil and it instantly started sizzling and turning brown. Ha! she thought. It looks just like in the book! This is FUN! she congratulated herself with a smug smile and took a bite of the first one after she pulled it out and let it cool. Mmmm...Indian food, here we come! 
one of many chicken dishes
    The true delight of the evening, however, was Teddy's response. Even though the pakoras were spicy, he held his arms and legs out and waved them around in his characteristic gesture of approval (and begging for more.) Pakoras were followed by a number of chicken dishes with exotic combinations of spices that Kate would grind or roast herself. Each was delicious and wonderful, and Kate made plans to stock up on her spices before moving away. 

Teddy with the pepperoni log
       Another cooking milestone that Kate wanted to achieve was pizza--completely homemade pizza. Kate and Mister had a favorite restaurant in Fairfax where they always went to get the Greek Pizza. Oh, it was glorious! She must have had it at least a dozen times, and she never got tired of it. It was both inspiring and daunting. Anyone can put toppings on a bit of bread dough, Kate considered. But I want to make my crust like this. Airy, flavorful, with enough crunch and stiffness to be able to pick it up. There was nothing to do but try. When they were in Williamsburg at the beginning of July, Mrs. Mortte gave her a recipe for pizza dough--but it was a bread machine recipe. Kate used it nonetheless, she combined the ingredients using Tess Kiros's method (author of Falling Cloudberries) and found that it worked well. Week after week, every Tuesday night, Kate made pizza. She gradually learned. Each week she found something that made it a little better: letting the dough rise just so, baking at 400 to get the stiffness in the bottom of the crust, sprinkling garlic over the dough instead of mixing it into the tomato sauce, the magical chemistry between red peppers and peppe roni, and eventually she put the pepperoni partly on top of the cheese and found an extra roasted flavor that it didn't attain underneath. 
    Most weeks, they would have someone over to share the pizza with them. And every week, the partakers would have to pay the "Teddy tax"--a portion of crust donated to feeding the 
    In the midst of all this eating and cooking and grocery shopping, Kate would often look around a store and marvel at the shear magnitude of available food. Canned goods, baked goods, produce, and meats, not to mention other household items. Wall to wall, products ready to make meals varied and interesting, and to make life functional, easy, and relatively clean. The same sense of wonder would come over her as she made her meal plans or sat down to eat. A typical week would include salmon, pizza, Indian, stir-fry, and soup. She had an almost endless variety and supply of spices, produce from every part of the world was available to her, and she couldn't help but be awed by the fact that, on a grad-student's funding, they could eat better than kings did in ages gone by. It was ineffably humbling. 
     Thank you, Lord, she prayed time and again. Thank you that we don't have to eat rice every day, meal after meal. Thank you for fruit and for meat and for spices and colors and flavors. For refrigerators to store things. For freezers to preserve things. For stoves and ovens to cook things. Thank you that you not only sustain us with food everyday, but that everyday food can bring such delight and interest. Thank you for such a strong daily reminder of how creative you are and how well you provide for us in all ways. Thank you for your variety and abundance of blessings, they truly are too numerous to count. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Kate and Crew 34: July 4 in Williamsburg

34. July 4 in Williamsburg

     On July 4, Teddy turned 10 months old. Kate and Mister were staying in Williamsburg for a few days with their dear friends, the Mortte's. It was truly their home away from home. The house and furniture were familiar. Kate helped around the kitchen, scrapbooked a little, took naps when she could, tried to take some walks and played the piano. She felt enormous, and the baby kicked often. She found herself grateful that Teddy was starting to walk. She knew it wouldn't take long for him to be zooming around and getting into things, but she felt that would be easier to deal with than having to carry him everywhere! 
    The Mortte's invited Kate, Mister, and Teddy to join them for the fireworks and concert in Colonial Williamsburg in the evening. At first, Kate was skeptical. She remembered their first July 4 in Virginia--2010, it was. They had walked over to the big hill by the Netherland's Carillon which provided a good view of the National Mall...they and about ten thousand other people. It was 9:30 PM, nearly 90 degrees out, zillions of people everywhere. Horrible. That's what it was. It was all she could think of now, people everywhere, hot temperatures, being stuck and pregnant! But her almost bottomless love of fireworks won out in the end, and the whole crew drove over early to the lawn in front of the Governor's Palace in CW. The found a spot (barely!) squished between blankets and chairs and set up their own modest accouterments.
     Kate watched with tired eyes as Teddy instantly started investigating their neighbors. To the right was a family with a couple teens playing Dutch Blitz. Teddy watched in awe as they picked up and slapped down their colored cards. She tensed as he scootched closer and closer... until Mister scooped him up. Kate closed her eyes briefly. She should be enjoying this. Of course she was enjoying this. The weather was, in fact, absolutely perfect. The sun was up, the air graciously cool. Her son was adorably cute, and her husband was doing all the running after him that needed to be done. Nevertheless, she had a vision of her life a few months ahead, and it made her feel tired, maybe even incompetent. No! she insisted, I need to enjoy this. This, the beautiful life that God had given her, was meant to be loved and appreciated. She would seek the joy, and she was confident that somehow, God would grant it even in the midst of tiredness. After all, she reasoned, one CAN be tired and joyful at the same time...even if it's not ideal. 
     In front of their carved out territory, sat a pair of stout over-tanned grandparents. They cooed at Teddy as soon as they saw him, and exclaimed over his beautiful blue eyes. He obligingly batted his lashes, grinned up at them, and patted the grandmother with his hand. Kate tensed again as she reached over and picked him up. Should she object? It felt awkward having strangers pick up her baby. She felt instinctively that she was being silly--after all, she was sitting close enough to grab him away without even getting up! And of course it was fine--the lady bounced Teddy expertly and talked about her own grandson, and Kate was relieved that there were so many child-friendly people around her (another element lacking in their first Virginian July 4 experience!)
    They talked and waited and watched Teddy play and then the concert started. There was a concert before the fireworks! American music, of course...the best of Copland, John Williams, Sousa, and a few folk songs thrown in. Kate sat in a blissful trance as the family melodies rolled over her and the sun sank lower and the faces around her began to be shrouded in twilight. Then, at the final chords of "Stars and Stripes Forever", the first fireworks exploded in the sky. 
    Watching Teddy was almost as fun as watching the fireworks themselves. It was well past his bedtime, and the music had almost put him to sleep; but at the first crack, he was completely entranced. Each subsequent explosion was better than the last. Kate's favorites were the starbursts that left long golden tails as each bright dot drifted toward earth. But they were all wonderful--each many-colored sparkle burning brightly for just an instant against the black sky. Motherhood had given Kate a heightened sense of symbolism. These are the joys of my life, she thought. Bright, brief, coming in quick succession, and always changing. I must not be wishing for the ones I had before. I need to focus on what's now, in front of me, and is completely delightful.  
    Two more months of an aching back and stiff joints and being kicked in the middle of the night didn't sound completely delightful. But on the other hand, the kicking was special in its own way. Teddy, of course, was special in every way, growing and changing so fast. And Mister...well, he was incomparable. In this difficult season, he was always serving and loving faithfully. And God gave her this blessing to share adventures with him, side by side! Well, she amended her previous insight, I suppose not ALL my joys are changing. Mister was always there, dependable and steadfast, a bright explosion of dust all over her life.