Monday, August 24, 2009

The Memory Game. (Curried Couscous with Cranberries and Pinenuts)


If I were still married, today would be my 24th wedding anniversary.

But I’m not, and it isn’t.
Not that today is particularly difficult or regretful for me. (Truly, there’s no pity partying Chez Wiles. I don’t need Kleenexes – or even sangria.) Today is just ... different.

I’m 46 years old, which means that for over half my life August 24 has held special significance. True, I’m now divorced, but none of those fiercely-contested -- or more nicely put, "not-coolly-discussed" -- court documents can spackle that particular groove in my memory.

Part of what I’m dealing with, of course, is simple emotion. Today's date evokes memories of both failure and success. The failure is obvious -- the demise of my marriage; however, severing that tie didn't obliterate the success came from it -- most notably my two remarkable children.

I won't ever be able to think of August 24 as just another day. Consequential dates aside, though, I believe other numbers can take on special significance, too, sometimes clogging and slowing the synapses of our minds.

How else to explain that I still remember the number of my PO box at the University of South Carolina in 1980? (81355, in case you wondered.) I also recall my college checking account number – 1107 4820 – at C&S Bank (which begat NationsBank which begat Bank of America.) I’m now a BoA customer, but when face-to-face with the teller at my neighborhood branch, I struggle to recall my current account number. More than once, I’ve proffered my outdated number. Why does this ancient information continue to occupy valuable brain space a quarter of a century later?

Smokey, my childhood cat, succumbed to feline leukemia before I went to college, but I remember her birthday still -- July 13. To be precise, Friday the 13th. (It was also my next door neighbor Dow’s birthday.) From high school, I remember Karen’s, Kellie’s, Lisa’s and Sharon’s birthdates. And Greg’s and Thomas’s. I feel badly that I can't dredge up Joan’s.

I can also name every single one of my grade school teachers. Unless you’re willing to pay up, don’t test me, because I’m not the slightest bit shaky. My first phone number was 795-2074. The last four digits of my current phone number are 4278, which I first learned by memorizing that four times two isn’t seven, it’s eight. I know. Whatever.

Wouldn’t my mind be better served by being able to recall useful information? Every August, I need to supply the kids’ social security numbers to their school. And every year, I have to look them up. And what about health insurance numbers? Wouldn’t I be better stashing those in my mind? Perhaps replacing the measurements for a perfectly proportioned quiche? After all, who eats quiche anymore? (Other than me.)

We can’t “pick” our memories, of course. Who knows what will stay and what will wash away with tomorrow’s wave of events? And who’s to say that, 20 years from now, one of the kids won’t say, remember that night we had lamb and couscous right before school started? Remember that stupid thing you said?

Time to get started on some new memories, I suppose. But first, I need to get the lamb on the grill. And put together a batch of cranberry-pinenut-couscous, which may be the quickest sidedish known to mankind. Or, at least, to me. So far as I can remember.

Curried Couscous with Cranberries and Pinenuts
1 cup uncooked couscous
1 ¼ cup chicken broth
¼ teaspoon curry powder
1 handful dried cranberries (Craisins), coarsely chopped
1 handful pinenuts, lightly toasted
handful of fresh parsley, minced

In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth and curry powder to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand about five minutes (until broth is absorbed). Fluff with a fork, and lightly stir in cranberries, pinenuts and parsley. Ta-dah. You’re done!
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