Saturday, September 17, 2011

Once in a Lifetime: Roasted Corn Salad

Summer is waning here; we're seeing the last of the season's corn, and already today there was a noticeable chill in the air.  Because I am still unemployed, N. and I took the train into the city on Wednesday to visit the Union Square Greenmarket (we were on a top secret reconnaissance mission that involved seeing what our CSA had on offer to city-dwellers), and I found myself salivating over early season apples.

It's been very strange to watch school starting--and continuing--without me.  It's the first time in 34, maybe even 35 years that I haven't been at an academic institution for the beginning of the fall term, either as a student or as a professional.  The longer I am unemployed, the more I feel like my identity is changing.  I enrolled myself in a two week free trial of the equivalent of Strollercize (which, incidentally, kicked my sorry butt on Monday), and I went today to attend a meetup of some local SAHMs from the group that I was kicked out of when I had my son, because I couldn't attend enough meetings. It was actually not bad; N. enjoyed herself immensely because she got to watch other kids (which makes her jump up and down in my arms as if she's on a bungee).  I mark the days in terms of playdates and errands and other commitments; I've been trying to keep busy, so that the days don't all blur together.  Some days I worry that I will forget how to work in the adult world.  Other days I worry that no one will ever hire me again.

In the meantime, I am really starting to enjoy my daughter.  I feel like I get her now, more than I did, say, three months ago.  I know what she's whimpering about, and can often fix it.  She plays games with me like peekaboo and "helphelpI'mbeingeatenbythebaby" (this is a game she invented, in which she bites my nose gently with a very wide mouth and her two small bottom teeth; hilarity ensues when I fake-scream).

And yet, I feel like she isn't quite mine.  Like I'm borrowing her.  Like this isn't exactly my life.  I'm reminded of that Talking Heads song "Once in a Lifetime": "You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house.  You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife."  On the train back from New York, N. was sleeping on my chest, and I found myself looking down at her, almost afraid to breathe, afraid that somehow this moment would evaporate, and life would be "same as it ever was."

While I do want to go back to work, I also think that we owe it to ourselves to be awake.  To not let life simply flow underground into the blue again.  To be present for the change in season, even if we're not going back to school.  And if we are going back to school, to let this be something other than just the beginning of another academic year, the cycle beginning again.  Because every day is once in a lifetime.

This salad celebrates the end of summer, and reminds us to enjoy the end, as we embrace the beginning of what comes next.

Roasted Corn Salad

3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4-5 ears)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped seeded tomato
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine corn and 1 teaspoon oil in a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.

Combine 2 teaspoons oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl; add corn mixture, stirring well. Stir in tomato, bell pepper, and onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Winning, Losing, and What's Left: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Over the past few years I seem to have had a streak of good luck at winning things. I won a stroller, a bicycle for my son, an ice cream block party for my neighborhood, a Coconut Bliss party for the youth group I was advising at the time, a nursing cover, a shipment of guacamole, a large bottle of chicken soup, two tickets to a kids' show in NYC, packets of oatmeal, a basket I helped to weave at our local Earth Day celebration.  I've sometimes thought that winning things is part of the great karmic wheel ... I win something, then I give something away, then I win something else, then I give something away.

Apparently my winning streak does not extend to job-hunting.

I got an email late Friday saying that the people who had interviewed me couldn't come up with the funds they thought they could, and so they will not be able to hire me after all. They've asked if I'd be interested in consulting work for an interim while they look for another person who can work for less.  Well, shit.

I feel like I shot myself in the foot. Maybe I shouldn't have asked for a higher salary. Maybe I should have tried to make child care work better, put N. in a place that cost less so that I could take this job, even if the care wasn't what I wanted (after all, parents make do with what they can afford, and many of them are not as lucky as we have been). Maybe I should have accepted the step backwards in salary and in grade, knowing that I can't just expect to move laterally or forward when I jumped ship, even if the conditions were such that I couldn't stay and still face myself in the mirror every morning.

Then again, maybe it wasn't mean to be, and I just haven't found the right path yet.

The fact remains that now I've got a big fat lot of nada.

Except cookies.

Actually, I don't have these any more, either, because I packed them up with the dinner I made for my friend whose husband--the heart transplant recipient--is still in the hospital (though he may be coming home on Wednesday, hooray!), because their little boy is allergic to eggs, and because little boys need chocolate chip cookies.

But you could have them, in a jiffy.  They're easy to make, and they are--honestly--even better than regular non-vegan chocolate chip cookies.  Not exactly good for you, because, well, they're cookies.  But if what you want is a cookie, then they do quite nicely.

And it's important to keep perspective here.  Even if I don't have cookies, or a job, I haven't lost what those folks in Vermont have lost (BTW, thanks, Keiko, for posting the link to the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund; that's a great organization, if you feel like you would like to help those folks out), or even what folks in our back yard have lost (I heard today about the family of a friend whose entire town will be bulldozed in November).  My basement didn't flood.  Even my freezer full of mama-milk survived the hurricane.  I have a husband and two beautiful children.  And I still have self-respect.  It's harder to muster up some days than others, but it's there.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 c. unsweetened almond or soymilk
2/3 c. canola oil
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. cornstarch
2 t. vanilla
2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two large light metal baking sheets.

Mix together sugars, oil, milk and cornstarch in a mixing bowl. Use a strong fork and mix really well, for about 2 minutes, until it resembles smooth caramel. Mix in the vanilla.

Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking soda and salt. Mix until well incorporated. Mix in the rest of the flour. Fold in the chocolate chips (you may need to use your hands)

Roll the dough into about ping pong ball size balls. Flatten them out in your hands to about 2 1/2 inches. They will spread just a bit. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes – until they are just a little browned around the edges. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
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