I sautéed up some bok choy for my family’s dinner the other night. In fact, I fried up and doled out that nutritionally-dense Chinese cabbage on two consecutive nights. Two nights in a row. One after the other. I talk Bok Choy. I talk Bok Choy real good, apparently.
How did it come to this?
I did not spring from back-to-back sautéed bok choy stock. When I was born, my parents and I were living in a trailer park in Central New York. (Yes, I said “Central.” To me, the “Upstate” moniker requires a considerable jaunt north along I-81, preferably in a blizzard and under whiteout conditions.) Growing up in Syracuse, my parents insisted that we eat healthy, but I don’t recall any gourmet shopping trips to any particularly ethnic locales around town. I’m not sure there were any ethnic locales. Unless one considers Irish pubs and Italian pizzerias as qualifiers. And there was nothing exotic about the powdered milk we frugally stockpiled, my boyhood friends’ mumbled complaints to the contrary notwithstanding. High school introduced me to the wonders of Hungry Man dinners. I gladly overlooked the always-frozen centers of the turkey portion in order to make my way to the gooey peach cobbler. At least I think it was peach cobbler.
In undergrad, one of my freshman roommates, David, arguably enlightened me regarding high cuisine, I suppose. He brought a plug-in hot pot tastefully emblazoned with the words, “Le Pot Chaud.” (It’s French, you see?) Though in retrospect, the hot pot sparked when introduced to the electrical outlet, dimmed our lights as if an atomic bomb had just hit the power grid, and seemed to churn out only Oodles of Noodles. Not to mention, the Oodles of Noodles never made it to the fully-cooked state. Al dente, at best. (Italian, see?)
In law school, one of my first dates with my future wife (maybe even our actual first date) brought out my inner Julia Child. But the homemade meal was hardly coq au vin (French again, but most assuredly not included in my starving student vernacular). Instead, I made…catfish. And I think I cooked it in a beat up toaster oven purchased at a garage sale. And I had a helluva time peeling the dried-out fish from the “well-seasoned” aluminum foil tray with a rarely washed plastic spatula prone to (minor) incidents of melting before my fresh faced date arrived. Honestly, it’s a miracle that a second date ever happened. In fact, there’s a decent chance that I’ll be served with divorce papers tonight, once my wife reads this paragraph and relives the traumatic episode. Bottomfeeders: The fish and the cook.
So how is it that I now prance around a spice rack making mental notes about the need to replace the cumin with an organic strain? And swap out coconut aminos for soy sauce? Coconut. Aminos. What? Wasn’t that the stuff that triggered the steroid era in Major League Baseball? And why am I now finding myself buying only a certain kind of salt mix — insisting on the kind with shreds of fennel in a small brown bag with a red javelina drawn on the outside?
Perhaps more to the point, why do I feel the need to counterbalance all this with odd, Delta Force poses struck next to a 7-foot Star Wars villain? Hey, I can still be a bad man. Someone not to be trifled with. A guy who won’t tolerate sustained eye contact on the street. A dude in cahoots with some heavy intergalactic muscle, too, evidently. I can be both, right?
Well, that’s enough existential angst for now. I’ve gotta run and plan my dinner recipe for tonight. These red peppers aren’t going to stuff themselves.
Thanks for reading.