Saturday, August 3, 2013

Experiments in Domesticity (with recipes) Part I

Shannon didn't marry me because of my potentiality as a housewife. I never really valued domestic skills, as I always thought they would be a trap into traditional gender roles that I rejected. Sure, I started to see the value of being crafty over the years, but I never fully embraced it.  But here I am, at home while he works, caring for our son and our home (and enjoying it while it lasts). 
Overall, the biggest teacher this summer is pacing. Every day I clean the kitchen, and every day it gets messy again. Some days I fight that and feel very frustrated, other days I embrace it as the zen practice it is. The high chair gets used every few hours, gets dirty every time and needs to be cleaned every time. I AM starting to create systems for myself, which is something I think has always made Shannon crazy: he has a system for everything, from recycling to keeping receipts, and I go over the same issue--losing something, cluttering a drawer, etc.--repeatedly without ever thinking I need a system. Finally, it's the sheer amount of "time-on-task" that is forcing me to figure out systems. And it feels great! 
There are some areas that I am getting better at, and while it feels a little silly to share my newly-acquired knowledge with people who figured it out long ago, I consider myself a student displaying my own work (and I suppose, the teacher facilitating the learning as well...) So while I have a long way to come in the areas of sewing, de-cluttering and ironing, here are some of my recent accomplishments, mostly in the kitchen: (OH, PS: I'd like to think that my life experience thus far has informed some of my creations, for instance, my time in Japan has definitely influenced my kitchen work.)

The O-Maki: a kid-friendly "sushi" roll that is fun to make and eat

1 egg
yogurt (whole milk, organic--for kiddos)
rice (optional, small amount)

Directions: using a small pan (cast-iron works well) and some chopsticks, crack an egg and whip it smoothly as the pan heats. Use the chopsticks to pull the egg back from the edges, cover and cook mini-omelet on low heat.  Chop cucumbers into thin strips. Pick up little omelet with chopsticks and lay it on a flat surface. spread with yogurt. Spread cucumbers along the middle, all the way to the edge. Add small amount of rice (makes it harder to keep together). Tightly roll egg up. Slice into small sushi-sized pieces. 
Variations include almost anything: avocado, cream cheese, cooked carrots, canned tuna or salmon, quinoa, etc.)

Cross-cultural O-maki: 
corn tortilla (refrigerated versions do not contain as many preservatives)
cream cheese
1 egg

Warm tortilla, cook egg as above and slice into strips, spread cream cheese on tortilla, lay avocado in a strip through the middle, add egg strips, roll tightly, slice.

Garden-Fresh Recipes: 

Eggplant casserole
Eggplant (from someone's garden)
1 fresh tomato
tomato sauce (with some flavor, either made by you from last year, or store-bought
lunch meat or proscuitto
polenta (easy option: the polenta sold in a tube in various flavors)
fresh basil
olive oil
Optional: ricotta, provolone, or cream cheese to fill spaces)

Slice and "sweat" the eggplant--very thin slices, possibly with a mandarin slicer. Salt it on a rack and let it sit until it starts to sweat. Wipe dry. Layer ingredients in an oiled pan, starting with polenta (already cooked), then eggplant, then other ingredients how you choose. Most tomatoes will make it watery, so use sparingly. Top with cheese.  Bake at 400 degrees, covering with tin foil halfway through. Eat when eggplant pieces feel cooked, no longer rubbery. (Option: grill or saute eggplant first, then cook for a shorter time.) 

No-Cook Hot Day Asian Noodles

Rice Noodles
Bottled Peanut (or Pad Thai) sauce
2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded 
2 cups fresh spinach
green onions or cilantro, depending on taste
sesame seeds (optional)
fish sauce, soy sauce, hot sauce, whatever you like to enhance your bottled sauce. 

This is a no-cook dish if you boil water in a kettle and pour it over the rice noodles in a glass bowl, then let it sit for 7-8 minutes. Put spinach in just before you strain the noodles. Toss noodles with spinach, add peanut sauce, add chicken, add green onions/cilantro. Serve warm or cold. 

Other domestic discoveries: 
These tricks I have learned are probably quite obvious to most people. But maybe there is someone out there with domestic inclinations as hopeless as mine, and maybe I am saving them a few minutes or one more frustrating day...

  •  I try to have times that it is OK for the kitchen, living room, house to be a bit cluttered. Mid-project cleaning is for the birds! While I'm learning to be less messy, I get too distracted when I worry too much about the mess while I'm in the midst of something. Cleaning up right before my husband comes home or before going out feels more satisfying.
  • I have a number of "yes" places for a toddler. A balcony can be a safe place with proper supervision and the right things to do. One or more kitchen cabinets can be a lifesaver to just say yes to (there are tupperware lids under our rug every day. We just look for them there). A small broom can come in handy as a toy... Allow more help than is really helpful. 
  • I have learned to plan high chair time strategically. Recently, I've discovered that O can spend much longer than I had thought in his high chair if he has fun foods, a toy, or just music on in the background. I don't leave him here forever, but if he's content, it allows me to clean up the kitchen after a meal, finish unloading the dishwasher, or finish cooking something.
  • I start prepping dinner at lunch time. Never thought I'd say that. It relieves the hardest part of the day: pre-dinner, when O is getting tired or hungry, I am too, and Shannon has just come home to feel torn between snuggling his kid and getting some down time after a hard day. 
  • I can clean the bathroom or fold laundry while O is in the bathtub. 
  • I have started to save the salad greens plastic containers for future salad greens, toys, bathroom organizers, outside scoopers, etc.
  • Other people have told me that in the kitchen I should try these things: prep more than one meal at a time, double recipes and freeze half, clean while cooking (you know how I feel about that), keep a bowl for garbage/compost on the counter to make less trips to the trash/compost, shop smart and have the ingredients for some basic meals at all times. Also, someone's suggestion was pre-shift cocktails. That one sounds dangerous to me, but I should probably test it. 
  • Please feel free to comment here on my blog (smileyface) and leave your suggestions for domestic success. 

1 comment:

  1. Dear Willow---I am almost crying with the joy (and my memories) of you sharing this with the world! thank you so much! My kids are in their 3"s as I like to tell people. Son is 33 and daughter just about 30 but I think I will try some of your recipes. What fun!

    I think the reason I almost cried is because I remember SO well the constant picking up and cleaning with small children at home. You never quite feel that sense of accomplishment. And of course I had the hubby (now former) who though I did NOTHING all day! Oy!

    Love love love this blog post!

    Love to you and Shannon and Ollin on your wedding anniversary. wooohooooo!