Y’all. I’m so out of control. So far this weekend, I have: baked these scones, this brioche (which yielded two hella-good hamburger buns and one bundt pan’s worth of sweet bread fortified with Amaretto-soaked raisins) and my new favorite banana bread, made a fresh batch of yogurt and these really tasty oatmeal pancakes, assembled kickass homemade hamburgers, baked sweet potato fries, prepped a few things for this week’s lunch, and rendered lard and made tortillas for the first time.
Are there other things I could be (six months ago I would have said “should be”) doing? Of course. But I can’t remember the last time I had this much time in my kitchen, nor do I know when I will have this much again, and right now it feels really, really, really good.
Jill is having surgery on Friday; we are done with chemo (for right now and hopefully forever) which means it’s time to remove the tumor that chemotherapy did manage to shrink down a bit. Her procedure, which necessitates the opening of the chest and the cutting of the breast bone, is common in the broad sense, but of course completely uncommon, to us. And in moments completely terrifying.
Here’s the thing about terror—it’s real. It’s real, and it can mess you up. But it can also, I think, be useful. The thought of losing Jill, of living my life without her, of her no longer existing in the world? Probably the worst thing I can imagine. Actually, after my dad died, all I did was imagine it. Endlessly, as I sat talking to her over the phone, I would disappear it all in my mind: her voice, her being, our conversation, our togetherness. That terror kept me at arm’s length from her for some months.
But eventually you have to choose: arm’s length or terror. So while I swirl around in this kitchen, while we invite friends out for “We’re Going to Be Boring For a While So Come Do Fun Things With Us Now” dinners, while we eat and laugh and even manage to watch a Netflix DVD we’ve had since January, you’d better believe that terror is along for the ride. He’s not the focus of our conversation; every once in a while we acknowledge that he exists. And while he may not be the most glamorous houseguest, his presence can morph the most ordinary day into the most extraordinary one.
SPICY PORK NOODLES
adapted from Ruth Reichl
Because, let’s face it, noodles are wonderful.
As the original recipe states, the key to making this successfully is to have all of your ingredients assembled ahead of time. After that, things move quickly and you’ll have big portions of an intensely satisfying, tangled dinner ready to serve in about twenty minutes.
1 package thin rice noodles
1 lb. ground pork
1 bunch scallions
½ cup crushed peanuts
¼ cup each: sugar, fish sauce, white vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic
red chile flakes
peanut or canola oil
Cook the rice noodles, then drain and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
Dice the scallion whites, but mince the greens; keep the two separate. Mince the garlic. Combine the sugar, fish sauce, & vinegar. Mix in the juice of one lime.
Now, to start. Coat a large wok with a thin film of oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the pork, scallion whites, and garlic, stirring until the pork is cooked and no longer red. Toss in the cooked noodles, stir gently, then pour in the fish sauce mix and cook over high until the liquid has been absorbed (5-7 minutes).
Add the eggs one at a time, cracking them directly into the wok and stirring quickly until the egg is fully cooked.
Remove the wok from the heat, and top the noodles with the scallion greens, chile flakes, and crushed peanuts. Serve with wedges of lime & Sriracha.