19 June, 2009

How to Be Me

Collect yourself after a full day of teaching and hoist that backpack onto your shoulders, change into sneakers (if you ever changed out of them that day), and head down three flights of stairs to the downtown street where you work, then uphill to the central green spot, or Commons, that is the short-cut to your bus home. It is probably hot, so by the time you get on the bus you are sweating through your clothes and into the lining of your slightly-too-heavy jacket, fumbling in your pocket for the correct change, and maybe not coming up with it. If you are lucky, though, you will be rescued by a kind stranger, asking "Do you want change?" who when you look up turns out to be your daughter coming home from work, on the same bus.

You ride in silence, standing or gratefully sinking into a too-narrow seat, while the bus fights its way through rush hour traffic, taking twice the time it would normally to get to your stop. Off the bus, you start up the steep hill towards your daughter's house, arriving winded at the front door, now painted an attractive green to harmonize with all the trees and shrubs surrounding it.

Dogs within start to bark furiously as you fumble around with the key, using the other hand to reach into the mailbox and see if anything came for you. If you manage to avoid wet dog kisses and dropping your keys or bag in the ensuing hubbub at the door, congratulate yourself.

Into the now-lovely hallway, step onto a padded bamboo rug and luxuriate in the softness of a freshly painted vanilla light. For the house, after 3 months of hard slogging by the whole family, but especially by your daughter, is finished and has been put on the market. Now it is all summer, transformed from its dark and grungy former life into a blond, beautiful lushness with open views of the trees and flowers that envelop it. One can sit on the back deck and eat a meal with trees overhead and flowers all around. Or get a breath of air and there is even, on most days, a bit of peace to be had, on the edge of activity of this busy city.

Despite the new kitchen with its dark gleaming counters, shiny new sink, cabinets that have been custom-coloured to match the new floor, you are a bit too tired after a long day of work to be inspired to cook like an Iron Chef. Instead you eat salad, baked potatoes with a quick broccoli and onion stir-fry and some nice fried tofu, spaghetti with a quick garlic, olive oil, pepper and cherry-tomato sauce, macaroni and tofu cheese, a quick curry, dahl and rice, or something else tried and true and easy.

You are not blazing trails in innovation now, you are eating to recover health and energy after four or five months of kitchen and whole-rest-of-the-house chaos. You are trying to enjoy the quiet in the house (except for those barking dogs) between the business of viewings. You are saving energy for keeping the house clean enough for visitors every day.

Did I forget to mention that you have a new job? You are now a teacher of adult newcomers to Canada. You are teaching them the communication, aka English, skills they will need to continue their education here or get a job. It is worthy and rewarding work, since they are so motivated and eager to learn and come from countries where that was difficult or even prohibited. Countries like Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iran. Since you stepped in near the end, you are very busy creating lesson plans and curriculum in the last month before the program ends for this term.

When it does, in July, you will be going out to Vancouver to visit your sister and meet a dear friend. After that, who knows? Life may suddenly take a new turn, something sweet and surprising. There may be birds, and trees, and fresh air, and growing involved. You hope there will be time for lots of good food and recipes for new things. If there is, those faithful of your readers, and friends, who have stuck around through thick and thin will be able to read about it all right here.

Good Old Macaroni and Cheese for a Lazy Night

While I appreciate that there are many ways make it, from those that favour bechemel cheese sauces, to breadcrumbs-topped, baked in the oven versions, when I make GOMAC I really want just the basic goodness of cheese flavour stretched and sticky over a nice chewy pasta. No fuss, but still comforting and good.

Take a package of Tinkyada brown rice pasta (sorry, can't guarantee any other gluten-free kind, but the regular wheated is fine if you can have it). You can also use regular cheddar, if you eat dairy.

Fill up a big pot with water, add some salt and put on the lid until it boils. When it comes to a rolling boil, remove the lid and pour in the whole package. Give it a stir around to break up the pasta clumps.

Meanwhile back at the cutting board, get out 1 package of rice or tofu cheddar and 1 of mozzarella. You could use all cheddar, if you like. Cut off about half a package of each and then chop into thinnish slices about 1/4 inch by 1 or 2 inches long. You don't have to be exact; the thinness is more important than the length.

When the pasta is cooked to a nice al dente state (with a bit of bite but not raw in the centre), drain it in a colander and throw it back into the pot with the cheese on top. Take a fork and begin to stir the mixture. It will look as if the cheese is not going to melt in, but be patient. Just keep stirring it around and after a minute or so everything will meld together. Keep stirring until there are no more cheese lumps and it is a sticky glorious mess.

Add some salt and black pepper. Eat and enjoy.

It can be re-heated by adding a bit of water and stirring as you heat it. Watch to make sure that it doesn't burn. Or, for real laziness, of which I am definitely a proponent on working nights, just microwave. Eat fast, before it can rubber up.


Note: I apologize for the lack of pictures here. Since my camera disappeared I have been borrowing my daughter's when I can, but access is a bit spotty. Please be patient, I'll try to put some up soon, both of the house and the GOMAC.