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“Dear Friend” or “To Soup, With Love”

JOE (V.O.)
I am in Vancouver.

He stops… Hits the delete button and erases the message.
He starts typing again:

JOE (V.O.)
I was stuck in a meeting, which I
couldn’t get out of it, and there was
no phone.

He backspaces to erase “there was no phone.”

Screen now reads: I was stuck in a meeting, which I couldn’t
get out of it. Joe sits there thinking for a moment. Then he
starts typing.

JOE (V.O., cont’d)
The electricity went out in the building
and we were trapped on the 18th floor and
the telephone system blew too.

He stops and looks at it. Then he types:

JOE (V.O., cont’d)
Amazingly enough.

He sits looking at it.

Then he deletes the whole thing.

Sits looking at the blank screen.

Excerpt from 

You’ve Got Mail

by Nora Ephron & Delia Ephron

Based on:
The Shop Around The corner

by Nikolaus Laszlo
2nd Final White revised
February 2, 1998

I have lost count the number of times I have watched You’ve Got Mail. And the number of times I think of that scene with Tom Hanks trying to explain himself. Deleting the keys (two finger typing style) and then making a mawkish expression at his dog who is very much #judgingyourightnow. I have been Joe for the last, oh, however long it has been. I had drafted a whole bunch of things but stopped short of posting until now. I won’t go on much further in case I delete everything and am back to staring at a blank screen. But this is where I am today. Here I am, enjoying the familiar.

Catching up on laundry. Staring at these printable daily organisation template thingys on Pinterest. Wondering who prints all this out? And then uses them everyday? Wondering how people have it so together they can organise their Pinterest boards so neatly. Getting up every hour or so to stretch my back out on my yoga mat. In my bathrobe. Trying to remember if I took my vitamins this morning or if that was yesterday morning. Scratching my head over a Sudoku puzzle that just has me stumped. Scooping minestrone-ish rice soup into a bowl. Ah, the soup. Now, that’s good stuff. When my youngest brother was in preschool, I would pick him up after school and walk him home. He told me on one of these walks that his favourite morning tea snack was tomato sauce and rice, all for 40 cents from the tuck shop. I remember being his age and loving tomato sauce with rice as well. Tomato flavoured anything. I still remember the look of bemusement that flitted across my father’s face as he watched me merrily dousing my fried rice in tomato sauce. There was an Italian restaurant that my family frequented when I was little. An entire wall was covered with hooks and resting on each hook was a two handled stoneware soup bowl. My memory leads me to remember that each bowl had a name emblazoned across it, or perhaps just under the hook, only for the most regular of customers although my mind stops short of deluding me into thinking that I had one with my own name on it. Although considering I drank enough minestrone in that place…

I still love minestrone but perhaps times have changed. It never tastes quite the same as when I used to scoop it out from that scratchy stoneware bowl, always trying not to scrape the bottom, but unable not to, whilst my parents exchange greetings with the owner as he brings out the chianti.

Minestrone-ish Rice Soup to eat in your bathrobe

You need (the quantities are guessed, I will tell you now that I am absolutely terrible at estimating):

Passata, say 500ml or a tin or two of tomatoes, whatever you have

Knob of butter (or not)

Splash of cooking oil (I use coconut oil but olive oil is good too)

Spring onion, a stem, chopped, or an onion, chopped

Carrot, one or two, chopped

Potato, one or two, chopped, if you have any (or none at all)

One cup of rice, rinsed

Your choice of greens, rinsed to hurl in at the end

Basil, oregano, parsley – fresh or dried

black pepper

teaspoon of sugar (only as needed to counter the acidity of the tomatoes, I used coconut sugar)

Vegetable stock cube + 500ml or vegetable stock, 500ml

Method: 

Hurl butter into a hot saucepan with the oil so the butter does not burn.

Add the chopped carrots and onion in. If you wish you can sprinkle a little salt on the onion so that it does not burn but if you stir diligently you will be safe.

Sauté for 5 minutes or so then add the potato if you have any. 

A few more minutes and then in with the passata/tomato situation that is available to you. Be prepared for splattering. Add the water or stock (lucky you!). I had a half bottle of passata so I just filled it with water to get the last dregs of red pulp out into the pan. Bring to a boil. Throw in stock cube, pepper, sprinkle in dried herbs if using them. In with the rice.

In the end the sugar was needed so that went in as well. You may or may not need salt, I didn’t. Then simmer until the rice is soft. I like my greens just, just done so I turned off the heat and then stirred in English spinach. 

Chuck on the fresh herbs if you have any and black pepper. Dash of butter or olive oil on top if you’re feeling fancy/indulgent. 

Eat in bathrobe. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to hearts content. Avoid staining fuzzy socks.

Hours later, discover bathrobe needs to be soaked.

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Monday Mornings in the Kitchen

How was your weekend?

Sometimes I’ll catch up with friends and they’ll want to know what B and I do for our weekends. In truth we do a whole lot of nothing. And we LOVE it.

On Saturdays I might teach a class or two in the morning time whilst B sleeps in. And then we’ll head out for coffee and a bit of lunch. Sometimes yum cha. Don’t be surprised, of course I get into yum cha. It’s been a while so on Saturday afternoon I whipped up some focaccia to have with some cold things for dinner.

Sunday mornings we lounge around in our baggy t-shirts, having brekkie, coffee (me), homemade chocolate milk (him) until one or the other of us decides it really is time to get off the couch. We usually spend Sunday afternoon at the market stocking up and then stop by the car wash before spending the evening at home watching whatever the Powers-That-Be decide to air on tv.

We watched Divergent last night and felt so lost (what’s going on? what mean Divergent? Abne-who? erudite, what it do? why does everyone only wear black? what happened to Jennifer Lawrence? oh, she’s not in this?), I kept expecting to see some zombies for some reason. At certain points in the movie, I’d turn to B and say, “This would be a perfect time for some zombies.” Meanwhile, both of us were googling the plot synopsis to figure out what on earth was happening. Thank you IMDB.

I don’t know if B and I are the kind of couple other people would want to hang out on the couch and watch tv with because of our running commentary.

B: Is his name Four?

Me: Yeah, like the number.

B: I need to look up this Divergent movie.

Me: Make sure you search for ‘synopsis’, plot summary tells you nothing.

B: On it.

Me: (looking up from IMDB) you know he’s from Sydney?

B: No, you don’t say.

Me: Yeah. Says so right here.

B: What website are you reading the story line from?

On the screen, Shailene Woodley asks the man named after a number if she can see his tattoo.

B rolls his eyes at me.

I roll them back and send mine after them.

Me: You know she drinks clay water too?

B: Really? Wow.

Now Shailene is saying to Four she has no idea who she is anymore.

Me: You’re Mrs Four.

B: You’re Divergent.

Both of us: You’re welcome.

B: Do you think I’m a Divergent? (perks eyebrows meaningfully, whilst retrieving his imaginary gun from his imaginary holster)

Me: Definitely. It’s written all over your face. (nods solemnly)

B looks pleased.

Later that night in bed:

B: What does ‘divergent’ mean, by the way?

Me: Um. Away from normal.

B: I thought so.

Et cetera. And that is how we watch tv in this household. Which might not be for everyone.

Also not for everyone is cooking fish. People can be so nervous about cooking fish. I know I was to begin with. It’s really quite simple – so don’t be scurred!, as someone once said to me in a nightclub. I must have looked petrified. And I was. Especially after they said that.

Anyway.

To begin, I’ll help you get started with what I made for B to bring for lunch today. It’s so so so easy, which is always helpful on a Monday morning when I’m stumbling into the kitchen still trying to identify my elbow from my knee.

What you’ll need:

Piece of fish fillet with skin on. We picked up some gorgeous salmon yesterday but white fish is fine too.

Oil of your choice (I went with extra virgin coconut oil)

Bit of butter

Parsley, good quality sea salt and cracked black pepper

Ready? Here we go:

Grab fish out of the fridge.

Heat up the pan.

Whilst the pan heats up, pat dry the fish fillet with a paper towel, sprinkle bit of salt/pepper each side of the fish.

Add a good glug of oil to the pan and let that heat up. If you’re using a nonstick sort of pan, you may use less oil.

Place the fillet, skin side down in the pan. You will hear some very satisfying bubbling sounds as the skin starts to schleeerrrpppp! and crisp up in the pan.

Give that about 5 minutes to do it’s thing, just have the fire around medium to high. This would be a good time to chop the parsley, rinse some tomatoes, tear up some basil. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with cracked pepper/salt and throw the basil on top.

Back to the salmon: very gently, turn the fillet skin side up now. Depending on the thickness of the fillet this could do with just 1 minute or another 2 minutes. Don’t forget though that when you take the fillet off the heat to rest, it will still continue to cook through.

Now, this is a good time to throw in that knob of butter to melt into the pan. Sprinkle of parsley, maybe more pepper and you have a buttery sauce for your salmon. Although, I will just mention here that a good quality mustard (whole grain or Dijon) or just a squeeze of lemon goes very nicely. But I forgot about the lemon this morning because VERY EARLY IN THE MORNING.

Take the salmon out of the pan and let it rest to one side. To know if it is cooked you can do the loving squeeze test – squeeze the fillet gently with thumb and index finger. It should be firm but not rock solid (very cooked) or still squishy (bit raw).

If you find the fish is really overcooked, panic not. You can get two forks and just flake the fish and turn it into a salmon salad. Have no fear!

Anyway, you should be fine! When you’re ready to serve it up or pack it into a lunch box, chuck more parsley up top, drizzle some of that butter sauce over the top. I will admit to spending far longer than I liked trying to navigate how to pack everything in. Finally settled on having the avocado stand in as a makeshift bowl for the tomato and basil. And then I squeezed in a slice of focaccia for B to mop up any juices and smear the avocado onto. Clamped the lid down and took a victorious sip of coffee from a mug the size of my face.

Fait accompli! Just took me a while is all.

Waste not, want not. Remember that basil? After you rip the leaves off the basil stalk, plonk it into a glass of water. You will have the most gorgeous, refreshing infusion of water to drink.

Trophy please?

Never mind! B just texted me to say lunch was good. Awwwwwwww. Fuzzy feelings.

But please do try it, if it’s something you’ve always wanted to get on to, and let me know how you go! You’ll do great, I know it! Have you watched Divergent? What did you think?

Happy Monday! xx