CHEAP EATS Here's what I did: I roasted a chicken in a cast iron skillet, then I cooked a batch of drop biscuits in the drippins in the pan. They already of course had butter in them, but when they were done I halved them, buttered them again, and dipped them in the chicken juice. I washed this down, and the chicken down, with an elegant French wine, straight from the bottle, and worried about one day dying in a plane crash.
The thing about my cooking partner, Boink, is that he has a vision. Being all washed up, myself, and entirely out of original ideas (butter butter butter, chicken chicken chicken, plane crash), I rely on Boink for inspiration in the kitchen. Meaning the whole alternative weekly world will now have to rely on him too. If ever a three-year-old could handle this kind of pressure, Boink is the man. Boy.
"What kind of soup should we make today, Boink?" I ask.
"Pesto," he says. "Pesto soup."
Another time I wonder what else we might add to our banana bread.
"Pesto?" he says, chewing thoughtfully on his apron string.
Brilliant ideas, all, but don't forget that I am a paid professional in this house. At the end of the day, when Mom and Dad come home and I put dinner on the table and then leave real fast while they're all washing their hands and putting their bibs on, my actual income is on the line. Without which I could face eviction, repossession, disenfranchisement, bankruptcy, and, eventually, bunions. Whereas Boink's biggest fear is time out.
So I've learned to funnel his fun, adventurous, if pestocentric decision-making by asking better questions, such as, "Hmm, what kind of sauce do you envision on this fettuccini, Chef Boink?" (Pesto!)
"What kind of spread, in your opinion, might be good on these sandwiches?" (Pesto!)
So the other day we're making ravioli, which is a complicated, drawn out process and therefore one of the more effective ways to keep three-year-olds off the streets and out of gangs. In my opinion.
We rolled out our noodles, and I mushed up a barbecued squash for some of the ravioli, figuring ricotta cheese for the others. But I thought both fillings could use a little color and zing, so I opened the cupboard where they keep their pesto, pretended to rummage around a bit, and asked Boink what else he was thinking for our ravioli.
He didn't hesitate. "Raisins," he said, with conviction.
I decided to throw a tantrum. It's the best way to circumvent his, I've found. "Raisins??!!??!!" I stomped and scowled and threw up my hands, and he laughed and laughed. I'm good at this. I tugged my hair, squeezed my eyes closed, and shook my head real hard. "I can't work like this," I said, taking off my apron and throwing it on the floor. "Raisins! In ravioli!!!"
"Not in the ravioli, Silly," he said, still laughing. "In the sauce."
There was a beautiful bolognese gurgling on the stove, and I was pretty sure it was the most wonderful creation I had ever created. Perfect, I thought. I brought the box of raisins to the stove, left the lid on, and shielding him from the action with my body, shook the box a wee bit, just to get a realistic rattle out of it.
The lid fell off and every raisin in the world plonked into my masterpiece. It could have been a Reese's peanut butter cup moment, come to think of it but not at the risk of homelessness. So, between all our spooning and folding and cutting and crimping, I kept revisiting the stove, and eventually tasted every single raisin out of the sauce.
Next week, to compensate for the cuteness of this week's tiny tale, I will describe my diarrhea.
My new favorite restaurant is Dempsey's Brewery in Petaluma. Especially if you park on the street.