Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fretting and Fritters

Colby had twenty seizures between Sunday night and Monday evening. Coral’s hacking cough had kept her up that night, and woken her from her nap, so I took her to the doctor. She and I returned from the doctor and the pharmacy at 6:30 p.m., late for us to be starting dinner. Craig was chopping shrimp in the kitchen with Colby leaning into the corner between the wall and sink, her safe spot, near dad, when she knows more seizures are coming. He looked at me and said, “Fritters.” When Craig gets tired he goes for rich. When he knows sleep is not going to happen there is something in rich, fried foods that sends his body a survival message. We might not be sleeping, but we have oil: we are definitely going to survive. When he filled the giant cast iron pan with oil though, I told him I thought he was crazy. Tall seizing child plus vat of boiling oil seemed like a very dangerous idea. Plus, I hate the smell of hot oil, of frying foods. Especially in the winter, when it is ten degrees outside and the house is shut up tight and breeze-less, I really hate it. Ever trying to be less bitchy and more accommodating, I turned up the heat and opened some doors and windows.

Colby loves the kitchen. She will stand right beside you at the sink, at the cutting board, at the stove. All of it is OK except that her curiosity is not balanced by a memory of pain. She has suffered two serious burns from reaching right up for a pan or the kettle. So we feel the delight of her company commingled with acute anxiety and anticipation of danger, always thinking three steps, three moves ahead in an effort to keep her safe. Keeping her out of the kitchen means to listen to her cry the entire time, until everyone is at the table. And even then, sometimes when she is let back in to the kitchen she will go lay on the floor for a while as if to make up for lost time.

Craig mixed white wine and flour and dredged the chopped shrimp through in fritter sized bunches, sprinkling chopped Nori here and there. I set the table and wrangled the girls and worried and tried not to dwell on the smell. When Craig brought the platter of fritters to the table my thinking this was all a bad idea disappeared. Golden and glowing, they looked like a platter of little sunshine pools. Yes indeed, we were definitely going to make it through another sleepless winter night. Coral bit into one and before even finishing her first mouthful said, “I need more Shrimpy.”

All at the table, danger averted, golden orbs of shrimp, flour, wine and oil before us I let my mood shift. This is one of the things I love about Craig, that he bothers. He bothers to be ambitious and go through the effort even in the least ideal of circumstances. If it were up to me we would have had black bean and rice quesadillas, again. And we would have been fine. But we would not have been brought in to the moment, into our senses the way his effort delivered us. We would not have smiled at each other, the four of us, around the table, our greasy lips gleaming in the candlelight.

Recipe from "Canal House Cooking" volume 1, for Fritto Misto. Buy this book: it is gorgeous, it is self published, and you will see a lot of it here on this blog, we love it!


  1. Oh this is gorgeous. My Anthony loves to be near me in the kitchen too and he does not have a good understanding of what will burn him, so I know what you mean. We had two kids baptized in church last weekend (it's rarely done during the Mass but it was the John the Baptist gospel so I guess the priest figured why not) and the priest talked about oil, sacred chrism, and how it protects the little babes. All of them, apparently, no matter what form it takes. :)

  2. Having watched Jim cook for almost 23 years now (lucky me), I would venture to guess that Craig's cooking is not an act of ambition (of bothering) but rather one of seeking comfort, nourishment, groundedness. It is a creative outlet, calming, centering. Even with that hot frying oil sputtering and smelling up the kitchen :-)

  3. Elvina, Thank you so much for sharing your mouthwateringly beautiful words. Rosina and Larissa have told me so much about you and your amazing Colby. Your writing puts things into wonderful perspective as I look forward to a long rain LA day (probably warm in comparison to where you are)snuggling with my son Koa, who has micro, and his daddy Sam.