Thursday, July 21, 2005


My absolutely favorite time of day is dinnertime. Our days are fairly hectic around here, and since even our weekend days are full of projects and very little downtime, our little family of three doesn't get to spend very much time together, in a relaxed setting, on a daily basis. Fat Baby and I spend pretty much all of our time together, and The Carnivore and I usually squeeze in a few minutes together in the morning and then an hour or so in the evening, but overall, its hard to catch the three of us awake at the same time, together in the same room, doing the same activity.

At dinnertime every day though, the three of us sit down together and have a good meal. Granted, The Carnivore brings a few sections of the newspaper to the table with him, and I usually try and read the front page while picking up food that Fat Baby throws to the floor, but it is time that I still find to be beautifully redeeming. I positively adore sitting at the table with my son and my husband. The Carnivore built us a fabulous breakfast nook in our kitchen with 5-foot tall bay windows, and this is where our 1950's dinette table is situated. From where we sit, we can see our little pond, our birdfeeders, and a lot of natural vegetation.

On Wednesday night, I made Fettucine Alfredo, a tossed salad, and garlic bread for dinner. Lately, now that I have become a more confident cook and can turn my obsessive-compulsive-attention-to-detail sensibilities elsewhere, I have started to focus on plating the food (a term I learned from Emeril) and setting the table. After I served up Wednesday's fettucine, I carefully wiped the sauce splatters from the rim of the dish, and then I meticulously cut fresh sprigs of parsley which I then arranged JUST SO in the center of the serving. I found this to be ridiculously satisfying.

The dishes MUST match now, and I've even been tempted to bring out the wedding china (which, I should add, still has never been unpacked after nearly five years). The Carnivore was in his thirties and I was in my mid-twenties when we married, so between the two of us, we had already accumulated quite a lot of stuff before we began our life together. Then, of course, we both enjoy going to flea markets and antique shops. So, all in all, we probably have four or five different sets of dishes. Thus, I have now started trying to match the motif of the dishes to the style of dinner. For tonight's Stir-Fry (a recipe I have finally perfected), I dug around in the cabinet until I found the Japanese-inspired ivory plates with which to serve our dinner. If I had any idea where the chopsticks were, and if I weren't positive that Fat Baby would use them as catapults for the rice, I would have used them as well.

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1/4 head napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 lb snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 can whole baby corn
  • 1 pack mung bean sprouts
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced in thin strips
  • 10 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dark soy sauce
  • kosher salt, to taste
  1. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat wok over low-medium heat.
  3. Pour in oil.
  4. Stir in vegetables and fry for 3 minutes.
  5. Toss garlic cloves with vegetables and fry for 2 minutes more.
  6. Turn off heat and toss soy sauce and salt with vegetables.
  7. Serve over rice.

Most of this extra effort is for naught of course, because The Carnivore rarely looks up from his newspaper while he eats, and Fat Baby smears much of his food in his hair, throwing unsatisfactory bite-size pieces to the floor. But I enjoy it all immensely. My world has shrunk mightily since I had a baby, and there is very little that I find as important as dinnertime with my family. As you can see from the picture above, I am the only one who feels this way.

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