Simplest of Things, Lost and Found

Last night, I made dinner!

One might think, what with a pandemic on and all, that I'd be doing this a lot.  One would be wrong.  In the beginning of this...oh, words escape me...let's go with DEBACLE...I did alright with the whole planning meals and shopping for them and cooking them steps.  All that has fallen off dramatically.

This is not to say we are not eating. In fact, in a stroke of genius brought on by laziness (perhaps the true mother of invention), I roped my daughters into each cooking once a week, and they are mostly doing it, and doing it incredibly well. So we are at least eating good meals two to three times a week, plus our usual once a week take out.  Add in some leftovers, and we're easily covered for about five nights a week.  Cereal, toast, and grazing take us the rest of the way, so what do they even need me for, right?

Well, after several weeks of shirking all cooking duties, I must admit, I was feeling a little...shirky.  So, I waded back into the rotation last night with a delicious meal, selected primarily by googling recipes that contained ingredients I had on hand. Here is what we ate:
  • Crisp Curried Chicken Fingers with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce (from whence also comes the lovely photo at the top of this page)
  • Basmati rice (just plain; a staple here). Some of us, dare I say the smart ones, drizzled the dipping sauce on the rice, and ate the chicken, rice, and sauce all together.  I highly recommend this course of action.
  • Arugula Apple Almond salad, with balsamic dressing: so quick and simple. I made this up on the fly, because all the salad recipes I googled were fancy and had too many things not in my fridge. So I just chopped up the almonds and apples, and tossed everything together.  
This was a really good dinner.  It made me remember that sometimes cooking is a very, very gratifying activity.  But the best part was when Tallulah and Rick came home from playing soccer tennis, while I was still cooking, puttering around my kitchen with NPR on the radio.

Like everyone, we in the AIRY5 household are missing our routines, perhaps most especially our soccer routine.  For 15 years, we have always had evening soccer practices to go to.  For most of the past 10, this has meant every single weekday evening and some combo of kids and Coach Rick coming home between 8 and 9 o'clock.  Sometimes exhausting, sometimes hell on family life, the beloved routine was ours. When COVID-19 hit, all of that changed, and we haven't had that routine in months. 

Recently, we have started having some soccer trainings again, "pod-style," where the girls work on individual skills in a clearly marked space, distant from other players. They must take their temperature before stepping on the field; they wear masks until they are in their pod; all equipment is sanitized before and after, and never shared.  It's strange, but it's something, and our soccer clubs are working hard to provide quality training and a shared experience to families and players.   

But last night, Rick took Tallulah to play "soccer tennis," a favorite family activity.  They stayed out until dusk, and got home about the time they might have if they were returning from regular ol' training of days gone by.  Tallulah bustled into the house, smelling of the outdoors and sweat and carrying her soccer gear, with Rick a few steps behind her and the evening light fading behind them both.  

She stopped, took in a deep breath, and said: "THIS is what I miss! Coming home, just like if I were coming home from practice, and the house smells so good because you're cooking dinner, and NPR is on the radio, and I come in hungry and eat, and it's just like this!"

I hugged her tight in our warm and aromatic kitchen, so grateful that she gave a voice to those thoughts.  I didn't even know I missed those evenings too.  The virus has, these past many months, taken away the simplest of pleasures from our lives, but would we have recognized this mundane family moment for the joy and treasure that it is, but for missing it?

I'm quite glad I felt shirky enough to make that dinner.


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