Curious Cook: Here’s to a new life


I’d had a couple glasses of wine.

The Kid had a beer and two cans of hard cider.

I’m a laughably cheap drunk, so I was tipsy. The drinking had been over a few hours, so I assumed The Kid was sober.

Then my child stood up.

He had the rolling gait of a greenhorn sailor on a storm-tossed clipper ship, and as soon as I saw these subtle yet hilarious signals, I nixed the idea of departure. I informed The Kid that there would be no leaving until a couple of hours had passed, and food and heavily caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages were consumed. So, I made a post-midnight charcuterie plate.

We ate and drank my famously strong iced tea the family calls “jet fuel.” Then we shared a bag of peanut butter M&Ms. Once my child was walking normally and I couldn’t sense any drunkenness, The Kid was free to go.

I think we both drank too much that night because it was the end of a day of way too many emotions for both of us. This was the day that I told Petey I was leaving and moved out of our house.

We’d tried. Petey and I both tried. We’d gone to counseling and at first it felt like we were going to make it.

But finally, I accepted that I was deluding myself, and the people we had become didn’t bring out anything good in each other. We’d both changed so much, but the home we’d made became a mockery of the love, laughter, and closeness that used to fill it to the rafters.

Here’s the truth Gentle Reader; if I stayed on that couch, in that house of sadness, disappointment, and acrimony for much longer, I would be an alcoholic, a bitter, angry wretch, or dead — and probably all three.

So, I made the hardest decision of my life — to leave and give us both a chance for peace and happiness. I found a new job that paid well and then sought to move. The problem was that where I wanted to go was also one of the most popular spots in town. Apartments didn’t open up very often, but the very kind and patient young man who ran the building knew of two tenants who would be moving out eventually. I was now on the list.

A large portion of the new income I was making went into a savings account, and while I waited, I decorated my future space.

I didn’t want to go to a furniture store and buy prefab, decorated rooms. I wanted something unique that would take time to create.

My bed, linens, and most soft surface furniture were bought new. A few items that I couldn’t resist were also bought new.

But almost everything else was bought at antique stores (like an elm hibachi from the Japanese Meiji period that became my coffee table), thrift stores (a couple of tables and most of my dishes and glasses), and furniture consignment stores (a mid-century sideboard and a Regency period ridiculously over-the-top coat rack).

I love my new home, and every day I wake up in it, and it makes me happy.

These last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between courage and strength. Courage is what makes you jump in the water to save the floundering swimmer. Strength is what you need to give up trying to save the person determined to drown and save yourself.

For many years I used every bit of courage I possessed. And although it wasn’t an easy decision, I finally had to be strong for myself, my Kid, and the future.

Thanks for your time.

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Post-Midnight Sober-Up Plate

At least three kinds of very thinly sliced meat; I had prosciutto, salami and capicola

Cold salted butter

Room-temp brie

Ciabatta rolls

To make the rolls as fresh as they’ve just come from the oven, put them back in the oven. Preheat oven to 350°. When the oven comes to temp, run the bread under cold water and place directly on the center rack. Then splash ½ cup onto the oven floor and shut the door immediately. The steam will give a freshly baked crispiness while keeping the interior soft.

Cook for 9 minutes for room temp bread and 11-13 for frozen bread, depending on size.

Remove and let cool on a cooling rack so the bottom stays crispy.


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