Even in Australia.

Yesterday was kind of a miserable day.  For me.  Why do we have those kinds of days?  Nothing went terribly wrong, everything just felt ten times (100 times) harder than usual.  It was one of those days when the thought of trying to pick up the mail from my garage floor (we don’t have a mail box, just a mail slot) and sort it – recycling (mostly), bills (some) and letters (do people still write those?) – felt like a task too big to handle.  My head hurt.  My back hurt.  My run felt impossible, but I slogged through (5K a day!).  When I sat down to write I began three different posts, nothing came together.  I was boring myself, not a good sign.
And then I got to visit what must be one of the nine rings of Hell – the DMV.  The San Francisco DMV is dismal.  The ceiling is low, the lighting is bad, there is a constant din of people complaining, sighing, grumbling, yelling, and the pinging and automated voice announcing “Now serving A158 at window number 14”.  I can’t even imagine what it must be like to work there.  And to their credit, every employee we interacted with was both cheerful and helpful.  Even the person who told us she couldn’t answer questions, that we needed to see someone at the other end of the building.  We were trying to avoid that end.  That was the end with the snaking, rope line of disgruntled looking people.  We had an appointment.  Surely we didn’t need to stand in that line.
What brought us to the dreaded DMV?  Daughter 2.0 is now fifteen years, six months old, which means she can get a learners permit which will permit her to learn how to drive (see how that works?).  She (and every other teenager between the age of 15.5 and 18) must have a learners permit and practice driving for at least six months before getting an actual (well, provisional) drivers license.  Good idea, right?  Practice makes perfect.  Now, before she can sit for the written permit test at the DMV, she has to complete a course (online or in person, she chose online, would any teenager choose something in person?) which costs money.  And then once she passes the written test (more money) and obtains the much sought after learners permit, she is not permitted to drive until she has completed at least two hours of her mandatory six hours of driving instruction with a professional driving instructor.  This also costs money.  It begins to feel like a racket.  Getting a drivers license, if you are under the age of eighteen, can cost upwards of $700.00.  This is not a trivial amount of money.  But then, driving is a privilege, not a right (Daughter 2.0 learned this in her online course).  It’s too bad you have to be somewhat privileged to afford it.
Not that teenagers are rushing to get licenses these days.  At least that’s been my experience.  Daughter 1.0 is one of the only kids she goes to school with who has a drivers license.  I had wondered if it was a city versus suburb thing (the couple of kids who do have licenses live outside of San Francisco), but doing a bit of research, I found that not true.  The number of teenagers getting their licenses nationwide is down (85% of high school seniors in 1996 compared to 73% in 2010).  To be sure, cost is a factor, but it seems like there may be more to it.
I think that, in general (generalizations are dangerous, I know) we parents are more frightened for our children than maybe our own parents were.  Much has been said and written about helicopter parents, so I feel no need tread that well-worn path.  What I’m talking about is fear.  The world feels dangerous.  And it starts when you have the baby.  We are afraid to put the baby on her stomach (SIDS!), or not talk to the baby enough, or show her enough black and white images peppered with red, or allow people to hold her without washing hands first (germs!).  We are afraid when she starts walking of corners and edges and electrical sockets.  We are afraid when she starts school of bullies and pedophiles and SARS.  We are afraid when she is a teenager of sex and alcohol and drugs with names like Molly and Spice.  We are afraid of her driving.
I have a sneaking suspicion that all this fear is born of the 24 hour news cycle and instant shared information.  Today when something happens to a baby or a toddler or a teenager in Spokane, parents in Bangor can read about it immediately.  I think maybe all of this information may make make us over estimate the risks.  Hasn’t it been said that parents over estimate risk, teenagers under estimate it?  There must be a happy medium.
Anyway, back to Daughter 2.0.  She passed (hooray!) her permit test and will soon be hitting the roads.  I had to race her back to school for play rehearsal (she was late), then I ran a couple of errands, then I went back to school to retrieve Daughter 1.0 who had stayed late to make up a chemistry test.  I am the Queen of Circle Driving.  I hold that official title.  Yes, you remember correctly, Daughter 1.0 has a drivers license, and access to a car, but has been asking me to drive her to school lately anyway.  My little secret is that I really don’t mind.  It’s nice to get to spend time with her and her sister in the car.  This time is fleeting.  I should have been feeling somewhat accomplished, it had not been an entirely unproductive day.  But what I was feeling was tired, and achy, and a little cranky.
We got home and I put dinner together while Daughter 1.0 worked on college stuff and homework.  Monday Night Football kept us company.  My Husband arrived home with Daughter 2.0 a little after 8:00.  Dinner was ready to put on the table.  We were starved.  My Husband came up stairs and opened the refrigerator.  “Should I open these oysters?” he asked.  He had gotten oysters at the farmers market on Saturday and opened some (but not all) of them that day.  “No,” I said, “I want to eat.”
“What about sauce?  Are you going to do anything with these pan drippings?” he scraped at the pan the pork had been cooked in with a wooden spoon.
“Hadn’t planned on it.  I thought they were too charred.”
“Not at all,” he said, and began deglazing the pan with white wine and vinegar.  There is history here.  My Husband has been known to come home and look at the meal I have made and ask “Where’s the sauce?”  Most of the time my reaction is not enthusiastic.  Most of the time I either want to throw something at his head or burst into tears.  Last night I bit my tongue and let him make a sauce (apparently the black pepper applesauce I made didn’t count).  The sauce he made was good.  Damn it, the sauces he makes are always good and really just what the meals needed.
We sit down to dinner.  My family seems in a good mood.  I’m still feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck.  I look over to the kitchen and see our cat Charlie on the stove licking the pan.  Charlie is the sweetest, most loving cat ever.  He is also a colossal pain in the ass.  “Hey,” I yell and clap my hands.  My family jumps.
“Don’t do that!” Daughter 1.0 cries.
“You have to stop yelling like that,” my Husband scolds.  “It doesn’t work.”
“He got down,” I point out. “I’ll take him downstairs,” I pout.  We more often than not keep Charlie shut in the downstairs space when we eat, lest he leap into our laps and help himself to our plates.  I scoop up the cat and stomp down the stairs.  Somehow my anger escalates as I descend.  Once downstairs I toss Charlie on the floor of the family room and slam the door.  I turn to go back upstairs, then realize that that’s probably not a very good idea, given how completely and irrationally furious I feel.  Instead I open the family room door again and walk through it, slamming it shut after me.  I go to the bathroom (my Husband’s and my bedroom and bathroom are downstairs) and brush my teeth.  Daughter 1.0 comes to the door.  “Mom,” she says, “Are you ok?”
“I am,” I say.  “I’m really just very, very tired.  I think I need to go to bed.”  All I really want right then is to climb under the covers and close my eyes.
“I thought you were hungry?“
“I was, but mostly I’m just tired.  I think the best thing for me to do is go to bed.”
“OK.  I love you.”
“I love you too.”
My anger was fading.  I was simply ready for the day to be done.  Like Alexander, I had had something of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Some days are like that.  Even in Australia.

Pork Tenderloin with Belgian Waffles and Black Pepper Applesauce

Pork Tenderloin:

2 pork tenderloins
8 cups of water
1 cup kosher salt
8 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
Head of garlic, cloves smashed, no need to remove skins
1/4 cup of honey
Canola oil
Half a preserved lemon sliced
6 sprigs of thyme
4 cloves of garlic smashed and skins removed
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter cut into chunks

In the morning, combine the water, kosher salt, bay leaves, black peppercorns, head of garlic and honey in a large sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt.  Cool to room temperature then refrigerate.
About 4 hours before you want to eat submerge the pork in the brine.  Brine in the refrigerator for about 3 hours, but no more than 4 or it will get too salty.
Remove the pork from the brine and rinse under cold water.  Pat dry with paper towels and allow to come to room temperature (about 30 minutes)
Preheat the oven to 350. Take a large sauté or frying pan and coat with canola oil and set over medium high heat.  Add the pork to the pan and brown on all sides, takes about 6 minutes or so.  Add the butter chunks, garlic, preserved lemons and thyme to the pan.  Stir the butter and tilt the pan and spoon the melted butter over the pork.  Scoop the lemon slices from the bottom of the pan and layer on the top of the pork.  Cover the lemon slices with the thyme sprigs.  Put the pan into the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 140. Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.  You can deglaze the pan with white wine and a little vinegar, swirling butter in at the end, to make a pan gravy (this is what my Husband did).

Black Pepper Applesauce:

6 apples (I used a variety) peeled, cored and sliced
3/4 cup of water
Juice of a lemon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
About 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a heavy sauce pan.  Turn on the heat to medium low and cover the pan.  Check often and stir.  When the apples are fairly mushy, remove the cover and allow the liquid to boil away.

Belgian Waffles:

1 package dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm milk (about 110 degrees)
Three eggs separated
2 and 3/4 cups warm milk (about 110 degrees)
3/4 cup unsalted butter melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm milk. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the warm milk and the melted butter. Stir in the yeast mixture, sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir in the remaining 2 1/2 cups milk alternately with the flour, ending with the flour. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks; fold into the batter. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Preheat the waffle iron. Brush with oil and spoon about 1/2 cup (or as recommended by manufacturer) onto center of iron. Close the lid and bake until it stops steaming and the waffle is golden brown. Serve immediately or keep warm in 200 degree oven.

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