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food for thought : me in my kitchen  
6pm, monday a personal essay |
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I close my eyes and picture homemade noodles, fat and chewy and eggy, tossed with mixed mushrooms, no make that pesto, no forget the Italian, slurp them down in a spicy Chinese beef broth instead. Or maybe not noodles, but rice, and the beef sliced thin, then stir-fried with crisp blanched broccoli in oyster sauce. Or, oooh! Ė scratch the beef, keep the broccoli, smother it in a salty-sweet hot peanut sauce, with little nutty chunks.

Grrrrrumble -- my stomach emits a low complaint, and reminds me that, as tasty as all my fictional foods may be, Iím currently lacking in ingredients. And apparently no amount of earnest visualizing is going to cause dinner to magically manifest itself in front of my eyes because by 6:30, after several openings and closings of my refrigerator door, Iím still nowhere near on my way towards being fed.

So when Ash walks in Iím standing in front of the cupboards, gazing up into the air while I hold a can of beans in one hand. Iím thinking about black bean chili now, dark and spicy, maybe with a dollop of the aforementioned chipotle paste. Everyone should have a recipe or two that they know inside and out, that they can whip off using ingredients that they nearly always have on hand, and for me, the latest Iím-too-tired-to-get-creative-recipe happens to be chili -- canned pintos or black beans or, if Iím really desperate, even cannellini beans, dumped into a saucepan with canned tomatoes and sautťed onions and garlic, all liberally seasoned to taste with chili powder, cumin and cayenne. Last year, it would have been pasta with tomato sauce, homemade but with canned diced tomatoes, but that was back when Iíd had two thriving basil plants and a steady, free source of my favorite herb. Chiliís even better though because itís a one pot meal Ė easy clean-up.

Ash interrupts my chili daydream with a kiss, asks, "How was your day?"

"Iím hungry!" I say, and that answer actually makes sense in my food-focused little brain. But as I taste the flavors of an imaginary better-than-canned chili in my head, I shake my head with wrinkled nose and realize that no, not tonight, that favorite easy standby of mine will not do. I remember I cooked chili last week; I crave something new. I dive into the cupboards again to replace the rejected beans, to forage around for more food ideas.

"Nothing, nothing!" I continue when I emerge, hands waving like a madwoman. "Thereís nothing to cook -- help!"

"Leftovers?" he offers, heading towards the fridge.

"Not enough for both of us," I counter, blocking his path.

"Curry chicken?" he suggests hopefully, his favorite of my easy meal offerings.

"I canít wait an hour to eat," I respond.

keep moseying this way ...

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