Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stewing: Cioppino (with a vegan option)

I've been stewing in my own Fail today.  Does this ever happen to you?

A friend and former colleague had invited us for lunch.  Playing with N. as biscuits baked, I realized that I'd forgotten to bring a gift, even a small token.   I never go places without bringing something, and instantly felt awkward, especially given that it's her birthday this week.  My brain decided that since I was worrying anyway, I might as well worry that perhaps I hadn't brought enough to entertain N, who, after half an hour, was starting to look for trouble.

Lunch was lovely: an omelet, a salad with beets and white beans and baby greens, a few pieces of fruit, a French aperitif.  Good china.  Crystal.  Feeling strangely like this spread was too fancy for me (yes, I know, JeCaThRe, the good china is for using), I ate with N. on one leg, who was mostly content to nibble on melon and cheerios, until of course I let the melon slip into her mouth and had to fish it out so it wouldn't choke her.  Ever tried removing a piece of food from an infant's mouth?  Yeah, they don't like it.

Sitting there with my still-sobbing daughter and a beautiful salad and a brilliant former colleague who was trying to make polite conversation, all I could think was that my brain had turned to mush, and I no longer had anything interesting to say.  In my self-absorption, I completely forgot to even offer to help clean up.  I realized this later as I was putting on my shoes on the way out the door, and felt awful.

After lunch we went for a walk to a local knitting store my friend wanted to show me, and N. started to get antsy in the Ergo.  I let her out to stretch her legs.  Predictably, she wanted to eat yarn balls.  Well, what infant wouldn't?  They're soft and colorful.  When I took them away, she had a mini-tantrum.  As I scooped her back into the Ergo, all I could think was that this visit wasn't going as I'd hoped.  Why did I let her out of the carrier?  I worried whether I should be buying yarn.  And why couldn't I make intelligent conversation?

On the way back, wanting to give her something, I asked if I could buy my friend coffee.  She agreed, and we circled back around to a small local cafe.  I glanced at my watch, thinking about N's naptime, and decided we had time.  Then, after sitting down, I realized I hadn't nursed her.  Of course she was getting antsy.  The cafe was crowded, and N. was quickly distracted.  Then even more antsy.  I was sure my boob was hanging out for the world to ogle.  It was clear that I'd misjudged N's nap schedule; I asked if my friend minded getting our drinks to go; she graciously said of course not.

N. fell asleep in the Ergo on the way back to her house.  Which meant I had to wake her up to put her in the car seat.  Unhappy baby.  Oh, and did I mention I'd also forgotten to change her diaper?  We said our goodbyes and headed home, me wondering what my friend would think of the afternoon, feeling like I'd been pretty lackluster company.

I arrived home to hear a message on our answering machine from my friend, who had called after I left, not even knowing for sure that we were coming today, and felt even worse.

Then I opened my email to find a note from the new president of our fellowship, asking for my availability for a meeting to discuss merging the committee I chair with another more active one.  I've been worrying for a while that my leadership of this committee has been less than stellar, and today it was easy to imagine I should get the boot.  I forwarded the email to my committee members, and within minutes received one upset response, demanding to know why she was being notified about this for the first time via email.  She was right; I should have called everyone, even if the idea was just a germ of a possibility.  I rely too much on electronic communication.  I should boot myself from leadership.

The little voices of self-doubt who spout negative self-talk have sat on my shoulders for years.  They take small blunders and turn them into disasters.  They freeze time, turning minutes into years, and when time finally moves, they take to the stage, performing awkward and embarrassing moments over and over again so I won't forget.  They take up residence in my heart, and they thrive on my anxiety.  Being unintentionally unemployed has made me more vulnerable to their taunts.

In a letter to his daughter, Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

You're right, Mr. Emerson.  The only kind of stew I should have around here is cioppino.

Easier said than done, though, isn't it?

(Cioppino is a traditional Italian fish stew.  You can vegetarian/veganize it, though, by adding tofu along with a piece of kombu (Japanese seaweed) instead of the seafood, and 1 heaping T. miso at the end.)

3-4 c. tomato juice
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1/2 c. celery, sliced thin
1 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. rosemary
1/4 t. marjoram
1/4 t. oregano
another 1/2 lb. fresh fish, boned (or tofu)
1 c. mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c. red wine
6 clams in shell
6 lg. shrimp in shell
1/2 lb. fish chunks, bite sized (or tofu)

Bring tomato juice to a summer.  Add onion, celery, spices, add the first 1/2 lb or fish (or tofu) and simmer for an hour.  Add the mushrooms, wine, and remainder of ingredients (and miso if doing the vegan version); simmer until seafood is cooked.

Top with fresh Parmesan, parsley, or lemon.
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  1. Wow, have I ever had an afternoon just like that one. What mother hasn't. I'm sorry that you felt so flustered and unprepared all day. That is a hard way to pass the hours.

    I like Emerson's advice. I shall have to keep that in the back of my mind, ready for the taking at the end of the hard days. It does seem that now that I'm a parent there are more of them than there used to be. ;)

  2. *Hugs* You do deserve the good china, you know. (Or were you thinking that the good china made you uncomfortable?)

    More later. I have thoughts.

  3. I'm liking that Emerson quote. Hope today is a good one for you.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post (in empathy, not because I'm glad you were having a bad day!)--I think everyone can relate to your experience in their own context. I have that exact thought sometimes: "all I could think was that my brain had turned to mush, and I no longer had anything interesting to say."
    One thing I've learned is that if a friend can't stand one bad get together...well, she probably wasn't really a friend at all (and I'm betting your friend will still be there as your friend even if she didn't have a wonderful time!).
    Thanks for sharing---it's a good reminder to me to follow exactly what Mr. Emerson said.
    And I love Cioppino!

  5. I definitely suffer from self-doubt. A lot. Too much. It's hard not to dwell on the things that I feel that I've done wrong. I worry a lot about people liking me, or whether people think I'm doing a good job. Honestly...it can be exhausting sometimes! I love what Lisa said about a true friend not really caring if a get together didn't go exactly as planned.

  6. I've heard that Emerson quote before as well and loved the idea behind it...but sometimes it feels impossible to do. Sorry your day was so frustrating, sometimes it feels like a snowball that just gets bigger and bigger and it's rolling down a hill and you can't stop it. Those days are the worst.

  7. What a good quote. I hadn't heard it before but it's excellent (and I may need to print that sucker out and post it so that I can see it each and every day). What a day - it sounds like a tough one. Sometimes the hardest ones aren't where something big happens, but where a lot of little stuff all goes wrong. I bet your friend understood (she will have done if she's a good friend).

    As far as reliance on electronic modes of communication, me too. But it's a godsend with a baby and sometimes the most you can do. You're doing well, mama. And your mind is not mush. It's clear every time you post.

  8. I've had plenty of those days and get all anxious about it too. That is a great quote and one I needed to read to officially start 2012.

  9. So relieved to hear I am not the only one who does this. Been there. The lack of sleep, the serious distraction of a baby, it really does take its toll. More times than I care to admit have I misjudged or forgotten about M's diaper/nursing/nap schedule. And once I do remember it is always late, very inconvenient, and incredibly distracting. I can think of nothing else exceptthat I screwed up, which then makes me screw up whatever social interaction I am supposed to be doing simultaneously. I have developed a huge amount of empathy and forgiveness for mothers of small children.

    Love the quote. I will remember that one.

  10. It's crazy that I've never had Cioppino: it's practically San Francisco's official stew. I would love to try yours. With some sourdough bread of course. I love that Emerson quote. I like Emerson a lot. In fact Emerson is my son's middle name. So maybe he will never stew but make amazing stews.

  11. I'm sorry for your bad day. Although it sounds like many of my days when my kids were preschoolers. They're rewarding and fun times, but they're also really tough. Don't be too hard on yourself! I love the Emerson quote.


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