Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cancel The Pity Party. Start The Stir Fry.


I’m a terrible procrastinator.  In the evening, when I’m trying to dodge mundane responsibilities -- like fixing dinner --– my postponement tool of choice is my Mac.  I’ll check e-mail, the school website, Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, Weather.com.  Whatever. (Hard to believe, but I still have the gall to wonder where my kids get it.)

As I postponed the inevitable a few nights ago, I scanned the screen for new messages, cringing as I read the e-mail subject line: Click Here To View Your Evite.  I didn’t need to “click here.”  I knew what it was.  And frankly, party invitations don’t hold the appeal they once did.

In this case, it was one of the grade level "socials" held for parents at my kids' school.  And although benignly labeled as “socials,” there’s one sentence that appears on every invitation, every year, betraying the actual event: This is not a school-sponsored event.

That’s right, folks.  They won't be serving lime sherbet punch and Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. So you know I'm gonna be there.  With bells on.  And a wine glass.

Honest. I know the food will be great and the company better.  It’s always a fun night  -- entertaining, relaxing and best of all, wildly informative.  I"ll get to hear about classmate crushes, classroom hijinks, and if I'm really lucky, stuff about my own kid –- which is all the more valuable when your son or daughter is going through a tight-lipped phase.  Or a tight-lipped lifetime.

A couple of times, I’ve even been responsible for planning these soirees, so I’ve also got a good idea of what the crowd will look like.  Couples.  Couples.  Couples.  And me.

Hey – it’s not their fault I’m divorced.  And the God’s honest truth is that for the past two years, my friends have been supportive in ways I never could’ve anticipated or requested.  Awesome and awe-inspiring, really.  But still, things like these social are now suddenly awkward.  For me and for them.  I feel it the instant I step over the threshold.  Solo.

Sigh.  I decide not to "click here" to view my Evite.  It can wait.  Besides, while I was busy slipping into a funk, another e-mail popped up – this one from a Wry Mom Friend who’s funny, observant, irreverent and always click-worthy.

I click away.  Turns out, WMF wants to know if I’d like to ride with her and her hubbie to the Social.  Dang.  So much for my pity party.  It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’ve got such thoughtful friends.  

Constantly and consistently, during my separation, divorce and the aftermath, my friends are always somehow, invisibly, right beside me, showing themselves when I need them most – with a surprise birthday lunch, a Valentine treat, a supportive card, a carpool offer, an encouraging e-mail, dinner when the kids are with their dad, and when the occasion calls for it (and really, what occasion doesn’t?) -- a lovely bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

I don’t yet know what I’m going to do about the Social.  But I do know that that one thoughtful e-mail propelled me out of my computer chair and over to the stove to get dinner done – a super quick, super easy and nutritious stir-fry – thanks to my friends, visible and not.

Beef And Vegetable Stir-Fry

You can do this with chicken, shrimp or pork.  I used beef because I had a single steak in the freezer that needed to be used.  When you use pre-cut, cleaned vegetables, the dish comes together very quickly.

1 12-oz bag raw, stir-fry vegetables (the brand I use, Eat Smart, includes broccoli, snow peas and carrots)
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large filet mignon steak, sliced very thinly, into bite-sized pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or ginger paste)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup water
3 cups freshly cooked, hot rice

In a large, heavy-duty lidded skillet, steam vegetables with ¼ cup water, until colors become bright, but vegetables are still crisp.  Drain and keep on a separate platter.

Heat oil in skillet over very high heat.  Quickly sauté steak and garlic, until steak is no longer completely pink.  Stir in steamed vegetables and stir fry another minute or so.

In a measuring cup, combine ½ cup water, soy sauce, cornstarch and ginger.  Pour over meat and vegetables, stirring until sauce is clear and thickened.

Serve over hot rice.  Pass additional soy sauce to taste.

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