I wasn’t thrilled when my husband told me he wanted Hamburger Helper for Father’s Day dinner. I’m not a big fan of chemicals and salty, prefab food. I like herbs and fresh vegetables, preferably stuff just picked from the garden. I like to shop a couple times a week. I avoid the middle aisles of the grocery store and build meals around the fresh foods at the perimeter. I believe in building layers of flavor and that good technique brings out the best in food.
But I also understand that everyone has different tastes. Even though I’m no fan of convenience foods, I respect that my husband likes them. In turn, he respects my predilection for homemade pesto using imported olive oil and garden-warm basil.
Just like with food, there are a million different style of writing. And I admit there are styles I just don’t like. Extreme minimalism doesn’t do it for me. I like writing with mystery and music in the language. I don’t like being spoon-fed stories. But (and I believe this is important) I still respect talented, hard-working writers who write stories outside my particular preferences.
Last week, I ran into someone who tore apart a piece of my writing because he didn’t like my style. I’ve been around the block enough that I’m not devastated when someone doesn’t like my stuff. I need the feedback. Growth comes from seeing what went wrong. I know I have a lot to learn.
But here’s what I don’t have to learn: to treat others with respect and to evaluate their writing gently even if the piece isn’t tailor fit to my interests. Everyone is different and that’s a good thing. If we were all the same, we’d never sell a story.
I won’t share the Hamburger Helper recipe. A monkey with the box and some hamburger could do that. But here’s what I’m simmering for dinner. It isn’t a favorite of my husband’s, but I adore it. It’s good served hot, cold, or room temperature. A little dishful, on the side, tastes great with a sandwich. I LOVE it spooned, cold, over a cheese omelet or scrambled eggs. It’s also great spooned on toasted pita bread or with grilled fish or chicken. And it's diet friendly and packed full of nutrition, so what's not to love?
BEST EVER RATATOUILLE
1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/2” slices
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 large stalk celery, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 – 28 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced (or 1 tsp.dried)
fresh cracked pepper, to taste
Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and layer in a colander. Place a heavy plate and the can of tomatoes on top to add weight. Let sit 15 – 30 minutes. Rinse eggplant. (This removes the bitterness) Blot eggplant dry and cut into cubes.
While eggplant is in colander, heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add onion, celery and peppers. Sauté 10 minutes to lightly caramelize vegetables. Add garlic. Sauté 1 minute longer. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 30 – 40 minutes, until vegetables are tender, but not mushy. Add basil and salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and let pot sit on stove, covered, for 1 hour to let flavors blend. Serves 8.
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