Sunday, November 2, 2008

Swimming Upstream

I’m drinking coffee, eating toasted Irish soda bread, and dreaming of Innisfree, when I glance at the clock on my laptop. It’s an hour earlier! The time fairy, who usually robs me of glow and spring, just gave me a wrapped gift of a daylight-savings hour. The benefit of forgetfulness is the delight of small surprises.

Typically I combat the unredeeming march of time with planning. I plan menus, schedules, lists, dates, goals, and breaks. Our household would fall apart without an elaborate dance of appointments, charts, and diagrams. DD visits her friend, while DS learns guitar, you pick up milk, while I start dinner. We labor to fit it all in, to keep it all running, but what falls away is spontaneity and the leisure of doing nothing. The seeming variety produced by a well-executed schedule turns into a rut after a few weeks.

In all truth, the family broke its routine yesterday, rocking the vote in downtown Chapel Hill. Among the wonders of the day: my ten year old son got a hug from Billy Bragg, played roadie for the dB’s, and acquired Mitch Easter’s autograph. DD ran around with a steady stream of playmates. For grown ups, hanging out is like pulling on a stiff pair of jeans that grow softer as you move. At first, the hours feel stolen and uneasy. But soon time slows down and so does your breathing.

Menu monotony is one effect of our scheduled life. I maintain that habits are comforting. We happily look forward to the same ole meals, relaxed in the knowledge that they’ll be tasty and satisfying.

Salmon tends to be my safety-dish. I order it unthinkingly and rely on it mechanically. And yet (and the revelation sneaks up on us) too much of the same is what made Jack a dull boy. The trick is dressing old things new, as Will puts it, and “Spending again what is already spent.”

Back when I knew how to hang out, I saw the salmon swimming upstream in Galway. And I ate wild salmon served in cream with Irish blokes who knew their Yeats.

Nowadays this cold water fish gets farmed in Latin America, where it wears fewer clothes and more zest. I made a mojito, turned on Astrud Gilberto, and let my northern thoughts thaw as they swam south with this recipe:

Salmon with Pepita-Lime Butter

(from Eating Well Magazine)

2 Tablespoons unsalted pepitas

1 Tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

¼ teaspoon chili powder

2 Tablespoons lime juice

1 pound salmon filet, skinned, cut into four portions

½ teaspoon of slat

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Toast pepitas for two minutes over medium heat in a dry pan. Place in a small bowl with butter, lime juice, and chili powder. Generously coat a large skillet with cooking spray, place over medium heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper, add to pan and cook until browned and just cooked through center, 2-4 minutes per side. Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the salmon to a plate. Add the butter-lime mixture to the hot pan; stir until the butter is melted. Serve salmon topped with sauce.


Manger La Ville said...

This sound delicious and I love pepitas, plus you can use them from your pumpkin carving.

chou said...

Meal monotony has been all the rage in my house--due to evening classes that stubbornly fall on my dinner making hours. It's so sad . . . sounds like you're dealing well, however!

ncfoodie said...

manger la ville: So true! We had lots of pumpkin seeds to snack on. Our pumpkins this year were enormous.

chou: We're trying to deal, but everything's been neglected lately. Including the blog.