Friday, March 02, 2007

Eating. just the two of us.

When my parents are here the burden of decision-making is lifted; I still do most of the cooking, but I am not responsible for the shopping, which is my least favorite part. Well, aside from the cleanup. Instead my mother goes to the supermarket and comes home with bags full of vegetables, styrofoam trays of fish, cuts of pork not ordinarily found in your nearest grocery store, and at least six kinds of tofu. I come home and open the fridge and a white limb of daikon radish falls out at my feet, followed by a bag of fried tofu puffs. One drawer - which was, I believe, originally intended for fruit - is packed with dried...things. Honestly, I don't know what they are, except for the bag of (easily identifiable) dried shrimp. There are knobs of ginger and bundles of scallions and bulbs of garlic shedding its papery skins across the countertops.

And then my mother returned to Taipei, leaving my father and I to our own devices for another ten days. There is something admittedly furtive about the way we eat when my mother is not here; let's just say our meat consumption rises rapidly, and our vegetable consumption decreases sharply. We used to go out for a steak dinner with another friend of ours, L., whenever the respective wives were out of town. L.'s wife, J., like my mother, is an excellent cook but leans towards the slightly more vegetarian lifestyle, although she is well-known for her braised pork belly (and my mother is not too shabby either). But it is not too comfortable, sometimes, eating meat under someone's piercingly disapproving eye, even if they did cook it just for you.

There is a small but perfectly tuned repertoire for when it is just my father and I (although we often make some of these dishes even when my mother is here): roast chicken, rack of lamb seasoned simply with rosemary, salt, pepper, and lemon, pan-seared steak, pasta (usually linguine) with mushrooms, caramelized onions, zucchini, and steak, all sautéed together and simmered at the end with a little red wine, and broiled salmon with parsley and dill, and shrimp cooked in white wine with scallions and ginger. When I was growing up my parents were seldom apart; it is hard to remember really being with one parent or the other except for in the car going to and from school or soccer practices and games. Now I am grown, and our schedules and lives split us so that you have to catch at moments together whenever you can, wherever you can.

Today my father has gone down to the Pike Place Market and come home with a piece of wild white salmon, which I season with salt and pepper and parsley and dill and a squeeze of lemon juice before broiling it, as we have been doing for some twenty years. There are sausages from DeLaurenti, the Italian deli/yuppie specialty store where we have bought pâté and other bits of charcuterie and pasta and fancy olive oils and imported chocolates for those same twenty years. I've sautéed diagonally sliced asparagus spears with green peas and warmed a loaf of crusty rosemary bread in the oven. This is our last meal together for a while, after weeks of meals at home or in restaurants, with friends or just the three, and finally just the two of us. Tomorrow I will go back to eating on the couch in front of the tv, hunched over a plate while typing away at the computer, back to letting the rice cooker gather dust and half-empty boxes of pasta falling out of every cupboard. That other life will have to wait until summer comes, bringing my parents with it.

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