Yesterday was the first idle day I had in a long time. Three weeks ago, Saturday was spent traveling to Mérida. The following Saturday was spent traveling back home. Last Saturday, we took the three-hour drive back and forth to see the folks, celebrating the holidays before ice and snow prevented us from traveling. Good thing, because yesterday brought our first winter storm of the season. Connecticut is a winter wonderland, and although we didn’t get anything close to a record snowfall, the roads got icy and hazardous really quick, so we were stuck inside. Christmas parties and holiday concerts were canceled up and down the I-95 corridor.
The newspaper delivery person dropped off the giant New York Times weekender, and lord knows I’ve got shelves of unread books and Spanish lessons to take, but I was too bored and restless to sit still. So into the kitchen I went to rattle some pots and pans, as Paul puts it.
If we were already living in Mérida, yesterday would have been a very different day. Our friends celebrated the Oasis Red Ribbon Ball, which was right in Casa Nana’s neighborhood. We’d be up late, socializing and schmoozing, meeting new friends. Instead, I was at home, burning off shows from our DVR and half-heartedly fiddling around in the kitchen. Referring to the Yucatecan section of a Mexican cookbook Mom gave me for Christmas, I set to pickling onions to make my new favorite garnish.
Yes, the highlight of my day was watching onions pickle. Had I been living in Mérida, I’d be pickling onions as well, hopefully using sour orange from my own tree instead of cider vinegar from a jar. But my highlight would have been that fabulous gala just up the street.
Well, pickling onions isn’t as labor intensive as I had imagined, so then I started new projects. Since I couldn’t go out for groceries, I had to use what was on hand in the fridge or pantry. I chopped a pile of squash, eggplant, bell peppers and cauliflower for a curry dish I simmered in store-bought Tikki Masala and served with shrimp over couscous. Assembling a variety of Goya products from cans, spice packets and frozen flavor bases, I prepared a pot of slow-cook beans for a Puerto Rican arroz con pollo I’ll be serving today. For a snack, I put some of that picked onion into a mixture of refried black beans and a supermarket “Mexican” cheese blend, which made an easy dip.
I used to be much more ambitious than this in the kitchen. It was a day of lazy short-cut cooking and an unshakable feeling of ennui. Or maybe I was just fatigued, and needed a day to be idle at last.