04 January, 2008

don't you hate being a grownup?

Well, it's deja vu all over again in my little London household: John has gone off to Iowa to help out his parents during a truly awful time. And instead of sinking down and worrying, dwelling on what cannot be changed, or any other self-indulgent thing, I must be... a grownup. Which means taking Avery once more to the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and going on lots of sick-making rides, eating the hot dog you know will give you indigestion, listening to her enthusiastic account of the BEST ride ever on Smokey, the whole nine yards. At least the carousel was lovely, and so is she. Best to concentrate on the positive.

As well as being forced to feign interest in things I could not be less interested in (a third trip to see "Enchanted", anyone) I'm forced to acknowledge that I am... in charge. I cannot summon up any significant enthusiasm for this role! You'd think it would be kind of fun to be captain of the ship, with no other adult whose feelings needed to be taken into account before making decisions. Don't feel like fixing dinner? Throw some macaroni and cheese into a stockpot for your child and pour a cocktail! Don't feel like taking a shower? Never mind, there's no one to look at you! But alas, so far I am not feeling the joy. I'll have to think of some strategies to buck up, be brave, soldier on. I hate soldiering on.

Isn't it nasty, as well, when you think of picking up the phone to vent to one of your best friends, only... the bad thing is happening to one of your best friends. John's mother is always a perfect sounding board for all sorts of news, good and bad, but right now the last thing in the world she needs is a whingey, complaining daughter in law who can't seem to pull her socks up, take her finger out (I love these English expressions) and be... a grownup. Thankfully I can ring up my own mother, a woman who wrote the book on offering sympathy.

Let's see, before I buck myself up, I think a little energetic whingeing might be just what the doctor ordered. First up, I hate to drive in London! Forget the minor concern that I have no driver's license (except for the New York one with the really terrible photograph that carries precisely no authority here in my adopted land). John asked me to take him to Paddington to catch the Heathrow Express, and of course I was happy to do so. He loves to drive in London, so "taking him" meant sitting in the passenger seat as he negotiated all the insane traffic laws and insane other drivers. How icky to literally be in the driver's seat on the way home! How many thousands of times have I sat in the passenger seat while he purrs down the Bishop's Bridge Road and onto the roundabout? And yet was I ABSOLUTELY sure which exit to take to get to Edgware Road? Of course not! That would be like being a grownup!

Still and all, I made it home and parked with about an inch and a half to spare. I am a BRILLIANT parallel parker, for which I fully intend to pat myself on the back all afternoon. I remembered to lock the car. I had remembered my front-door key. Well done me. John's been gone a whole half hour and I haven't destroyed anything yet.

OK, second up for whingeing: Avery's exam schedule. Somehow all the paperwork, all the bossy, peremptory and snooty letters from the various schools, all the absorption of Avery's annoyance at exam prep, none of these things convinced me that January 2008 would actually arrive and the *&^% exams would really turn up on the calendar page. Well, the other shoe has dropped and here we are. I printed out a large calendar for just January, wrote all the exam times and locations, all the interview times and locations, and taped it to the refrigerator door. Ha! I will not be defeated. Would you believe: each of the three exams has 1) a different start time, 2) different school supplies required, and 3) a different pickup time? If I don't take her to the wrong school or try to pick her up from the wrong one at the wrong time it will be a miracle. How do people with more than one child ever manage? Or people with a job, for that matter?

Sigh. Avery is, of course, her normal intrepid self, saying goodbye quite calmly to her father, much more concerned with what beverage I had packed in her barn lunch for today than any pesky grownup concerns WE might have. More power to her, I say. School starts day after tomorrow and I have announced quite categorically that bedtime tonight will NOT include any whingeing about jetlag or anything else. I have cornered the market on whingeing and I'm not giving up my spot for anyone.

What to cook for dinner? Certainly NOT the extremely fashionable, spicy and delectable lunch I made earlier in the week. Too fashionable. I need comfort food. But you should try it, especially if parallel parking and school interviews are not part of your January.

Spicy Seared Tuna with Wasabi Dressing
(serves two)

2 tuna steaks, the VERY best quality you can get
2 tsps each: prepared wasabi, miso paste, lime juice, soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Can you get prepared wasabi and miso paste where you live? I don't know. But you can order them. Just follow the links.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the tuna steaks on a large plate. Turn the steaks over to coat both sides. Marinate for at least an hour, or even overnight.

Heat a nonstick skillet as hot as you can (within reason) and plop the tuna steaks into it, then pour the marinade over the top. Sear on one side for 1 minute, then turn and sear the other side for 1 minute. Place on top of a salad of rocket, watercress, avocado and halved baby tomatoes and top with a dressing of exactly the same proportions as the marinade, with a tablespoon of sunflower, safflower or any other mild oil added.


Well, let's see. What to accomplish while John is away? Such scintillating responsibilities as ordering the autumn's pictures from iPhoto and getting up to date on my photo albums, finding an upholsterer to repair Keechie's damage to both the sofa and the living room bench (ouch), making sure Avery washes her hands every 42 seconds to avoid getting the monster stomach virus that's making its way across the UK. That would really tear it, wouldn't it? No vomiting during the exams, definitely not! Fingers crossed.

I've decided the better part of valour would be to walk to the barn to pick her up, instead of weaving my way uncertainly through the minefield of London traffic one more time today. Besides, anyone who thinks I'm giving up that parking spot can think again. And any extra good vibrations you had to send to Iowa would be much, much appreciated...


Bridget Jones said...

I stumbled upon your blog a little while ago..I can't remember if it was through a 'london' or 'recipe' search..Just thought I would post a comment saying that your blog is very entertaining and interesting, with the right doses of humor. I am still catching up on 2006. Did you ever think of writing an expat book? I should think you have enough material already! I look forward to reading your cookbook! The biryani recipe does sound delish!

S. said...

I am also looking forward to reading the cookbook! I've tried a few of your recipes and they have all been delicious. I'm in love with a salmon recipe you posted not long ago, I cooked it for my family over the holidays and they loved it, too.

Kristen In London said...

Thanks, Bridget and S, for the lovely comments. I have thought about publishing the blog in some form, but I wouldn't know where to begin. I've also got to think of a gimmick for the eventual cookbook, because so far "random recipes from someone no one's ever heard of" doesn't sound very saleable! Suggestions happily accepted, of course.

By mentioning the salmon recipe, S, do you mean the cream and celery? So glad you're enjoying the recipes.

S. said...

You are welcome, Kristen!

The recipe I was talking about is called "Avery's Baked Salmon with Brandy and Creme Fraiche".