02 October, 2007

schoolchildren (and feeding a cold)

English schoolchildren, that is. My week seems to have been full, so far, of the unbearable sweetness of little gulls. Just a few gems: little Chantal was reading to me at school yesterday morning and she confided, "Mrs C, I don't have those really wonderful pens I had last term, do you remember, the blue one with the little cracked lid? I know how much you loved those pens, so I'm sorry." What I really loved, more than the pens, was that Chantal thought I loved her pens! And the little Lower Kindergartner who was so frightened, or excited, at the fire drill during reading that she... left a bit of a puddle on the pavement. Mrs D walked by saying, "That, my dears, is why the little ones have a full set of clothes, and I mean FULL, left here at school!"

Then there was a little boy in Starbucks, while I was waiting to have coffee with my friend Susan, who came in with his mother and a little sibling in a pushchair. The mum sent the little boy to the till with money of his own, to buy his snack. He was perhaps five. He showed the man behind the counter what he wanted, standing on tiptoe to give him the money, and when the man said automatically, "Takeaway?" so he would know whether to put the treat in a bag or on a plate, the little boy stopped in consternation, clearly having no idea what that mean. The man then said, pointing downwards, "To stay here?" and the little boy said in relief, "Oh, no, I'm going to sit over there with my mum!"

And Avery reported being put in charge of teaching the "littles," some just barely three years old, to play "Duck, duck, goose." "But Mummy, half of them forgot to say 'duck,' or when they did, the little gull forgot she needed to get up and run, and some of the walked backwards around the circle, not saying anything at all!" Experiences like that are essential for an only child! How we miss our niece Jane, who just last week on the phone told me that she was going to a party, and she thought she would wear, "Kewwy gween." Fair enough, a very festive colour indeed.

It's good to reflect on positive things because for one thing, this whole season of exam prep is getting Avery down, and it's a job and a half at pickup every day to manage all the negative reports from the day! Food awful (big surprise there), English teacher too critical, gym too tiring, singing too short, the French room too high up in the school, on and on. Today I decided it was hunger talking, so met her at the school door with a banana, two chocolate biscuits and a raspberry smoothie, and either it made her more positive, or her mouth was too full to contain complaints. Whichever, it works for me.

On the not positive side for me, in the middle of the night I woke up with a shocking sore throat, one I remember from just after Avery was born, and thinking, "This is more annoying than labor!" Only pretend throat drops in the cupboard, no better than candy. What was wanted was a swift blow to my head, but John was unhelpfully asleep. I sat up for the remainder of the night, and you know how anything at night is worse, than it will be in the day. I kept lying there thinking doggedly that the annoyance would stop and I'd go back to sleep. Should just have got up and blogged, now in retrospect. So with my voice somewhere in the cellar and a head full of whatever, I accompanied Avery and John to dropoff, thinking I'd stop at Boots, but the wretched place didn't open that early, so my kind husband dropped me at home, covered me with a throw, brought me a cat, and went out to return with some mega-anaesthetic you spray on, which has worked wonders all day, and I slept. As a result, however, I'm starving, and aren't you meant to feed a cold? Right now I have a large chicken in the oven sitting in thyme, sage, rosemary, white wine and garlic, which should make all things better in about two hours.

Let me tell you, in the meantime, what we had two nights ago, in our continuing love affair with sprouts.

Pan-Fried Duck Breasts with Sprouts, Noodles and Red Peppers
(serves four)

4 filleted duck breasts, skin on
6 cloves garlic
2-inch knob ginger, minced
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsps peanut oil
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 package beansprouts
4 portions Chinese noodles, boiled and drained
extra soy sauce and peanut oil for tossing

Mix the garlic, ginger, sesame, soy and lemon juice in a bowl and submerge the duck breasts in the mixture, turning frequently while you slice your onion and pepper.

Heat a large skillet to nearly smoking and with a nice fine mesh screen in one hand, with the other put the duck skin side down. RESERVE the marinade. Cover the skillet with the screen but still stand back: they sputter. Fry high for 8 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium, turn the breasts over (stand back!) and cook for about 4 minutes more. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for five minutes.

During this time, return the marinade to the skillet and boil for a couple of minutes, then add the peanut oil, and fry your onion and pepper. Remove the skin from the duck (sorry, health insists, but have ONE bite) and slice however you like it, thick or thin. Toss the duck, the sprouts and the noodles into the skillet and toss with extra soy and/or peanut oil should it need a bit more sauce. Divine.


Well, in the school spirit of "if we can praise one child and leave all others in the dust," tomorrow is the finals of the Poetry Competition. Avery got into the final four with "The Lady of Shalott," and claims that the other three competitors are so nice that she won't mind who wins. Can this be true? Can she be the child of her uber-competitive father who would probably be spiking the other girls' milk if he could get away with it? I'll keep you posted. Right now I need another slug of anaesthetic and a look at my chicken... And a nice glass of the ginger water my nice foodie friend Faye suggested. Just boiled ginger. I'll try anything.

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