On being boring

I have cancer.

When I considered that my life might end sooner than I expected, I thought about boring, and I longed for it. I pined for it. I have it written in my will that no one is allowed to mention any god at my funeral; not even a hymn. But you could easily say, I prayed for boring. Desperate can make you wave down strangers from the side of the highway in the dark, when the car starts smoking.

I wanted to call back all the time that my aging body was of flagging interest. When it felt like its job was to cook and carry my brain around. But when something is seriously wrong, it is. It is done. It is yours now, and to get back to boring, can feel so far away. I imagine by design, it is a way to be grateful. I get on the train now and think, “look at me.” Like when you had a baby, and he sat up and you would scream at him, “you sat up!” like it was a bonafide miracle and would put the music on and jump around and kiss him all over his face.

I have passed sitting and standing and walking. I am up to working. At the end of each day I feel like I might lie down and sleep on the sidewalk on the way home, but still. On Friday I made a starter of roasted Kabocha squash potage with marjoram and thyme, finished with just enough cream to make you want more. Cod cakes with a serious piece of cod. It has to be thick so that it takes a while to roast. That way, the aromatics have time to infuse the thing and give up their ghost for the sauce that happens as a give away in the bottom of the pan. Sliced garlic, sprigs of thyme and slices of lemon underneath, then season the piece of fish with salt and Irish butter. Spread butter as evenly as the salt, but in a slightly thicker layer, and only on the top. If you use a piece of foil or parchment underneath, for the last few minutes you can seal the whole thing up to finish the cooking. Let the fish cool, unwrapped. Move just the fish to a bowl, and add a few dollops of mayonnaise, an egg yolk, finely minced red or yellow onion, a little high quality relish, dijon, and just a suggestion of chopped parsley. Not enough to freak anybody out. Taste it for salt and black pepper. It should be nowhere near mushy. Just enough mayo to barely hold it together. Form the fishcakes into two bite pucks and shower them with Panko crumbs. They should be covered on top and bottom, but I leave the sides free. Let them rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Gently warm the sauce from cooking the fishing and taste it for salt. Don’t over season it. Fish is delicate. I spoon a pool of that on a plate, and add a couple of fish cakes to the right and left of it, like a Venn diagram. In the center, a tiny dot of best horseradish. Then, bouef bourguignon. Never higher than a simmer when it’s cooking. Side of teeny, tiny Yukon golds with fresh tarragon, parsley and finely minced yellow onion. Shallot would be okay, but I like the pop of that onion. And butter. Another side of baby peas, poached with leeks, but take the leeks out, drain the peas well. And give them some butter. Dessert: caramelized apple tarts with a pitcher of creme anglaise.

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