SMALL VICTORIES

Last night, dinner was perfect. I cook dinner every night except for the few when we are away from home, order in, or actually go out to dinner. Not surprisingly, I spend a lot of time pondering what to cook.

When we lived in Boston, we ate out. A lot. There were so many good places to eat, too. A lot of our choices took us down to the wharf where they had some great places for fish and lobster and clams. A lot of them were shorts and sandals kinds of places and some of these rather rough little restaurants had the best seafood you could imagine.

Dinner, anyone?

Then came The Big Dig. Between the construction which seemed to have closed every street in Boston and turned the usually difficult traffic into a calamity, those restaurants disappeared. Some of them reopened in other places in the city. They kept the same name, but they weren’t the same restaurants. They got fancy. All the effort that had previously gone into creating great food now went into dining room decor.

We left Boston. Of the many things we never imagined we’d miss was food.

The Blackstone Valley has its wonders. A beautiful place … with such pathetic restaurants. It must be something about we the people. Food is drab. No spices. Anything stronger than salt is regarded with deep suspicion, so bland is the name of the game. When anyone asks what we’ve got in the way of dining, I say “white bread and brown gravy.” But that’s not fair. A few places also make really good hamburgers.

We stopped going out to dinner except for very special occasions. I’m pretty sure there were better restaurants some years back, but they closed down. So we eat at home and periodically, we develop an intense boredom with food. It isn’t lack of appetite, though we don’t eat as much as we used to. It’s more that I can’t think of one more way to make chicken that doesn’t seem drab.

My goal in home food preparation is to keep feeding us without boring us into starvation.

Last night, I made “breakfast for dinner.” We don’t eat breakfast. We have coffee. I have an English muffin too. Garry just drinks a lot of coffee. Sandwiches suffice for lunch. This week, we’ve had chili, one of my standards. Sweet-and-sour chicken. Baked salmon. Shrimp with onions and peppers over rice. And frozen pizza.

I had cheese, bacon, and eggs in the fridge. Time to do something with them.

I make bacon in the microwave. Do not judge me. I do not like cleaning grease off half the kitchen after frying bacon, so I have developed a way of cooking it in the microwave that skips most of the grease and still turns out a pretty good platter. Timing has been the major issue, but last night I got it perfect. For 8 slices of bacon, two layers of paper towels on a platter (make sure it is small enough to rotate). Another double layer of towels on top of the raw bacon. Cook at full power for five minutes. Let it sit for a minute or two. Turn it back on for another 2-1/2 minutes at full power. Perfect and not all wrinkly. Chewy, but not raw. Everything was still hot when it got to the plate —  a small miracle in its own right.

Even the cheese omelets were perfect. I was still congratulating myself on dinner as we were going to bed.

It has been a long month and it’s not over. This was a little victory, but a victory. One dinner where each piece was as close to perfect as it could make it. Easy to clean up after, too. If I have to spend an hour cleaning up the mess, I feel a lot less victorious.

It’s the small things, you know? Big things can be overwhelming. These days, in a time when there is far too much “big stuff” blowing in the wind, my world is complete if dinner is perfect. Small victories help keep the wheels of life rolling smoothly.

9 thoughts on “SMALL VICTORIES

  1. It is difficult to come up with a new idea. Especially week-end often repeat themselves. I don’t really enjoy eating out, am too suspicious of how it is behind the scenes. I cook some veg in the microwave, mainly cauliflower or broccoli, as it needs no water and I suppose keeps the vitamins better. I cook potato in the microwave for the same reason. We always have the main meal at midday. I do not like spending time in the evening cooking and I have a perfect team that clear everything away afterwards, Mr. Swiss and no. 1 son in the evening. If I want to help, it seems I am in the way.

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    • Garry usually cleans up, but I clean as I cook, so there’s not much to do and on a day like this when Garry did the laundry and looks tired, I do the dishes too. Sometimes we miss lunch and eat dinner early, but usually we eat supper whenever we get hungry. I cook veggies in the microwave too. I actually think they come out better. Right now, I working my way through the summer squash I got from the plumber.

      I do get pretty tired of the stuff I cook. I’m not really ambitious in the kitchen, but if I can find a new way to spice something without it being a big deal, I’ll try it. A lot of life seems to be about finding another way to cook chicken.

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      • We seldom eat out either. One trick with chicken is to cook it with salad dressing on top. I make a basil salad dressing that is green (because of the basil) and it is really yummy. The eternal dilemma – what are we going to have for dinner?
        Leslie

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  2. Lovely post! My hubby and I both cook. He fancies himself as a Master Chef so tends to do most of it. But as you so rightly point out – the worst part is deciding what and how to cook the meal. We tend to repeat the same things over and over. Braai (Barbecue) is the thing in South Africa and we do one at least three times a week. We braai fish, chicken, lamb chops, boerewors (beef sausage) and anything else. We have a thing called a kettle braai in which you can roast leg of lamb, pork, chicken etc. We also do veggies in the microwave or wrap them in tin foil and cook them on the fire.

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    • It’s funny how quickly you can get tired of the same food. I try a lot of different seasonings, so even if it is the same basic stuff, it tastes different. We are lucky that there are a million ways to cook chicken! We have a little barbecue, but it turns out to be an awful lot of work for a very small amount of food — though, to be fair, the food tastes really good when I bother to do it 😀

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  3. Love breakfast for dinner! My mom did it in France when my dad was away. We would have pain perdu. That’s French toast in French. And here I did the same with my kids. More often with crepes that they adore.
    I lived in Boston when they started the Big Dig mess, so I feel your pain. Too bad you don’t have at least one or two small good restaurant close by. I mostly eat out when away from home but it’s still nice to have a place to go once in a while.

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    • We keep hoping. Every time they open a new place, we hope it will escape the jinx of the valley. There’s one Asian place that’s not bad and one that’s very good — but also very expensive. MORE expensive than similar place in Boston, so we don’t go there much anymore. We were among its first customers, but the prices have more than doubled. I suppose being the only good restaurant for miles around made it easier.

      It must be that people really want bland, dull food. It can’t be entirely accidental.

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