February in England is a month of gloom, of clouds, of a damp chill that settles into the marrow of your bones that no amount of tea will dispel. Add to that the commercialized celebration of the birth of a saint, who–admit it–you couldn’t even tell me the century he was born in, and it really rubs me the wrong way. This year I jokingly suggested that the children should make dinner for their parents for Valentine’s Day. It was not a serious suggestion. To my surprise, they agreed.
The cooking started around 3:00, and the adults were banished from the kitchen. Around 5:00 there was a last-minute trip to Waitrose. Around 7:00 I was getting hungry. Somewhere around 7:45, we were summoned to dinner. Rose petals covered the table. The plates were arranged with heart-shaped piles of spaghetti and heart-shaped meatballs. Chocolate-dipped strawberries waited for dessert. There was even a tray of freshly baked garlic bread.
I tried the first bite. Two things were immediately apparent. 1) the pasta and meatballs were stone cold. 2) the sauce and meatballs were LADEN with garlic. I turned to the older child and said, “do you understand the difference between a clove of garlic and a bulb of garlic?’ Reader, she did not. The younger child piped up with, “I thought that was A LOT of garlic to chop.” Indeed, it was—something like three entire bulbs of it. The meatballs, I’m pretty sure, were 50% garlic by volume.
I ate everything on my plate. I even went back for more meatballs and was pleasantly surprised that the ones on the stove were still warm. It was an eminently teachable moment, plus I can confirm that our house was entirely preserved from vampires for the day.
Apart from cooking, we have been up to our usual activities. The elder child is trying to go to as many concerts as she can fit into her social calendar, prepping for the SAT, pondering which continent she wants to live on for college, and generally being a teenager. She had a birthday in February, and we took her and some of her friends out for Korean BBQ. Due to train issues, we couldn’t go to New Malden, so we ended up at a place in Clapham. It was fine. A touch disappointing, to be honest. The girls all had a nice time, though.
The younger child is building the greatest farm Stardew Valley has ever seen, complaining about school, and generally being a teenager. I’ve been trying to convince her to pursue a career in data science. She’s skeptical. We’ll see how things go over the next few years of school.
Carissa managed a quick trip back to the States to see family for a week. While she was there, the girls and I went into central London for a daddy/daughter day. We hit up a couple of bookstores, a lovely Chinese restaurant, and some convenience stores in Chinatown. The younger child likes to collect unusual beverage cans (aka rubbish), so she was excited about the opportunities in Chinatown. I let her get a half-dozen new drinks from two different shops, and we went on our way. After hiking all over central, we walked back to Waterloo and caught the train home. I looked across at the child and informed her that I was thirsty and she was going to have to pay the Dad tax and sacrifice one of her drinks. She didn’t love the idea, but she went along and pointed to a random can. I cracked it open, took a sip, and announced that something was wrong with the drink. The child tried it, scrunched her nose, and said, “does that contain alcohol?” Indeed, it did! Unbeknownst to me, I was drinking a can of makgeolli, a Korean rice wine. I was expecting a peach soda, but instead, I had what was basically a peach malt beer. The can even listed that it was 4% alcohol, but only in the fine print. I drank it because I was thirsty, and we all learned a valuable lesson: the dudes running the convenience stores in Chinatown will sell to anyone, apparently including a 13-year-old.
I have been working, writing, traveling a bit, and occasionally running, though I have to admit that my motivation to run in the cold, the dark, and the rain is at an all-time low. Work travels have taken me to Madrid and to Leeds in the last few weeks. While I had Spanish food in both cities (there’s a very decent tapas place in Leeds, believe it or not), I enjoyed the sun in Madrid a touch more than the clouds in Leeds. It was nice to see the office in Madrid for the first time and spend a couple of days with my colleagues there.
We have birthdays coming in March and April, so there will surely be more adventures as the weather turns warmer and the days get longer. I’ve been writing this post while cooking another batch of the Dishoom Chicken Ruby, and the food is nearly finished. Take care, friends. Be safe.