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Thursday, October 23, 2003

My kitchen should be a mess, but it isn't. One of the few things I know about cooking is that you should clean as you go — dishes, utensils, and the countertop. As a matter of fact, that might be one of the few things I know about anything, but it applies pretty strictly to cooking. Which is what I did this afternoon. I cooked.

I'm not a cook, and I never claimed to be a cook, but I've always wanted to have at least one dish that will unlock doors for me. If people really like, say, your rosemary potatoes, then you get invited to a lot of places. The trouble was that even I didn't like my rosemary potatoes. Nobody else even got to try them.

A kind reader sent me a recipe, with the guarantee that if I followed the directions, the dish would be a success. Following directions is a skill I picked up somewhere along the way, but I had my doubts. This was a big time first for me, making this potato casserole and actually expecting other people to eat it. Until I saw someone eat it and not pucker, I wasn't going to take anything for granted.

I started at 4:30 pm, when I was still technically on the clock at work. (Actually, I chopped an onion last night before I went to bed, which was a big mistake then but helpful today.) I followed the directions, as directed, and I was out the door a little after 6:00 pm. I left the last fifteen minutes of baking time to do in Tammy and David's oven, and I raced over to their house.

It was the usual chaos there, which made me happy. I love the blissful bedlam and uplifting uproar of a house with two small children. Soon (but not soon enough) there will be three.

The trouble is, small children don't generally eat potato casserole, and Tammy in her pregnant state is necessarily finicky about what she eats (as is her right). I expected David to be the only one (other than me) who would even try my new signature dish. And frankly, I didn't expect much, for no other reason than that I fixed it myself.

It could have gone either way. I was prepared for disaster, but guess what. It was a hit. Everybody liked it. Tammy ate a plate of it, and D.J. tried some. Even Dakota, who is three years old and indifferent to any food he doesn't already know he likes and rarely eats anything he can't pick up with his fingers, ate some of my potato casserole off his mom's plate, with a fork!

I felt as if my whole existence had been validated in that moment. It's like having an angel smile at you.

It was satisfying to me to be able to help out by bringing a meal. They've fed me nearly every Thursday since this season of Survivor started, and I wanted my turn. It might be a while before they're ready for my potato casserole again, as good as it was. So I'm still looking for another dish I can make myself famous for. But this was a better start than I could have imagined.

14 October 2003

The side fence.

Somehow after dinner the cat disappeared. After everyone anxiously searched the house (several times, looking in the most unlikely places because he wasn't in any of the likely ones), he was located outside in the yard. Sammy is an indoor cat, and he was a little freaked out by his sudden burst of freedom, but at least he didn't wander far. Either he'll remember and not try to escape again, or he'll forget and dart out the door the next time it stays open too long. It's hard to tell with cats.

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The Marlins now need just one more win to take the World Series title, after beating the Yankees in game 5 tonight, 6-4. The next two games are in New York, and they would do well to win it in six. If the series goes seven games, all the advantage shifts to the Yankees. The home team rarely loses a seventh and deciding game (and the Yankees have the home field advantage only because the American League won the All Star Game this year, for which they have Hank Blalock of the lowly Texas Rangers to thank).

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Excusable
"I'm looking for a smooth ride, not a roller coaster. I want to drift as much as I can, and paddle when I have to."

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