Monday, August 13, 2007

Lunchtime With President Chester Alan Arthur

Have I mentioned how unbelievably hot it is here? Well, it is. I've been doing the cooking early in the morning, and even then, trying my best not to light the oven. I served a pasta salad for dinner this evening and no, I'm not going to post a recipe for pasta salad. OK fine, I will mention that tiny cubes of either Romano or Parmesan cheese do well, as they are hard enough to remain solid as they soak-up the marinade. Beyond that though, if you need advice for throwing together a pasta salad perhaps it is time to hang up the apron, and move on to discovering other talents. Oh fine, artichoke hearts and roasted red pepper go really well with olives and capers. But seriously, I'm not going to blather on about how to make a pasta salad, except perhaps to note that cooked, frozen peas work beautifully as does tinned corn. Come now, you don't really expect me to detail the ingredients for something as simple as a marinade for a pasta salad where you use good olive oil and balsamic vinegar-you can't really mean that you need a recipe for that? Really, just use-up all those remnants of frozen vegetables and things rotting in your crisper bins and you'll do fine.

What I do wish to tell you about is my obsession with providing my son a "hot" (as in "not a sandwich") lunch every day. I understand that this is just my way of working out resentment I've been harbouring since the late 1960's for my mother's idea of a suitable lunch. I should note that my sister, ten years my elder was given sardines, crackers and tomato soup pretty routinely and to this day remains traumatised by it. Personally, I'd have taken the soup and sardines in a heartbeat, but then I was looking at "dietetic" cheese (really, I don't think a milk product got within a hundred feet of the factory) "gluten bread", and (I cringe typing these words) dietetic gelatine that was so loaded with saccharine it left your mouth bitter hours after consuming it. Sometimes if she was feeling generous I'd get an apple as well.

Right. So lunch was hardly the best part of my day growing up (and honestly, dinner wasn't a whole hell of a lot better) and I've sort of decided (I mean, I could change my mind, it's not like I made a sacred vow or anything-just a sort of promise to try) that it wasn't going to kill me to prepare a decent lunch for Danny.

Without going into the whole terribly long and detailed story, certain flavourings, preservatives and other highly engineered products that end up in commercially produced food make my son manifest an odour. The first time it happened, I went to the Internet and did a search to see if it was a urinary infection or something and got back a number of terrifying results. Fine, we called the doctor and multiple tests later, the results are still inconclusive. Apparently one of three markers for this particular problem came back elevated, blah, blah, blah and next time it happens we need to rush him over to have blood drawn straightaway, as it is happening. Personally, I think it is something in the food as it has only happened following the consumption of A) a sugar wafer cookie B) a chocolate Easter bunny, and C) a veggie burger. Still, it is serious enough that we can't simply ignore it, and as a result, I try to keep his food as non-manufactured as possible so that we can do a bit of process of elimination stuff. Well now, wasn't that more than you ever wanted to know?

So lunch, on a 100-degree day. Typically Danny has something like rice and beans (at least one meal a day, lunch or dinner) and both a green and orange vegetable. I was not going to bake sweet potatoes today, nor would I be cooking squash. Instead, I went for a dairy based luncheon of a scrambled egg (under 1 minute to prepare) toast with apricot preserves, cottage cheese, a glass of milk and a few cubes of double Gloucester cheese. He looks rather pleased with it, don't you think?

Finally, I must share a few funny things about his placemat with all the presidents on it. Danny memorises presidents (and trivia about them) the way some children obsess over dinosaurs. For whatever reason, he's taken quite a liking to LBJ (well he did some good things, school lunches for the poor and of course the civil rights act) and Rutherford B. Hayes. We sit at the table and Danny plays a mean game of "stump the historian" asking me questions such as "where was he from?" Of course with the presidents that have libraries/museums it is easier to remember where they were from. Everyone knows George Washington lived at Mount Vernon. Everyone knows (or ought to anyway) knows Jefferson lived at Monticello. Really, I thought I was doing quite well until he pointed to Chester Arthur and I sat there dumbfounded, trying to recall anything, anything at all about President Arthur. Blank. Not being one to make things up just to seem competent to my kid, I told him the truth; I don't know a single fact about Chester Arthur. This amuses Danny greatly. He now informs anyone that is willing to listen,
"Mama doesn't know *ANYTHING about Chester Arthur!" I do however; know how to make an excellent scrambled egg.

You Will Need:

½ tablespoon butter
1 egg
1 small, heavy frying pan (I use a stainless pan as I loathe non-stick) and a fork.
Salt and pepper
*Entertaining lunchtime banter/singing optional

Heat the pan on medium high heat and melt butter taking care it does not brown. Crack the egg and quickly begin stirring it in the pan with the fork. It is vital to keep it moving. Before the egg is completely cooked, and still a bit wet, remove it to a plate. A little understood fact is that eggs will continue to cook once removed from the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

*And of course, I now know quite a bit about Chester Arthur, our 21st president, thanks to my friend the Internet (not as much fun as calling the reference librarian, but faster).

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