Tuesday, August 27, 2013. Julia is winding up seven weeks as an exchange student in South Africa. Carter is three weeks into his freshman year at the University of Georgia. DB is working in Raleigh, which is notable only because he usually works where he lives -- in Charleston.
And me? And I am home alone.
Just writing about it makes me take a deep breath. Because I miss them all. I do. But to the consternation of well-intentioned friends, I am actually fine. Peachy. Hunky dorey. A-OK. In other words, don’t hate me because I’m beautiful* (because I am not), hate me because, when I wipe down the kitchen counters in the morning, they’re still clutter-free when I return from work. Hate me because I only do laundry once a week and when I do, the hamper remains empty until I fill it myself – with my own clothes. And that Ben & Jerry ‘s NY Super Fudge Chunk in the freezer? That’s right. It's mine. It will be there whenever I want to dive in. Unless later tonight, I use it to soothe myself in the wake of nightmare involving under-nourished lions, elephants and bulldogs roaming a college campus in search of their Monday morning Afrikaner history class.
No worries, though. Because even if I end up with a self-imposed ice cream headache, that sticky empty container will end up in the trash. See? Now you can hate me. Because while my teenagerse are away, there are no “all-but-empty” pints of ice cream in my freezer. No teaspoonfuls of milk remaining in a gallon jug. No deceptively empty boxes of Nilla Wafers.
Enough gloating. As you can see, I don’t mind being alone. “Lonely” just isn’t part of my vernacular.
But I miss them. Oh, how I miss them.
In all this free time, I’ve put clean sheets on all the beds and clean towels in the bathrooms. I’ve tidied the closets and cleared the desks. I’ve stocked the pantry. True, I haven’t actually sorted through all the old family photos, but I did think about it more than once, and surely deserve some credit for that.
And, inspired by Julia, who sends me regular text messages about all the meals she’s been in enjoying, I’ve been cooking. Julia it seems, has found a new-found appreciation for under-appreciated vegetables like cabbage and squash and legumes. So I’ve been a frequent visitor to our local farmers' market and dining on lentil salad, black-eyed pea soup, apple slaw, and cauliflower soup. And, in a nod to Julia, I’ve worked butternut squash into the repertoire, too.
Because in four days, she’ll be home. Carter will be back for a visit. And DB will be with us, too.
So now, I’m not lonely. I'm not. Really. But in four short days -- clean countertops and full freezers be damned -- I won’t be alone, either!
Roasted Butternut Squash, Cauliflower and Tilapia
I am always a fan of "one dish" meals. This summer, I've enjoyed a number of variations on this particular one, roasting a pair of veggies -- in this instances cauliflower and butternut squash -- until nearly done, and then, adding a piece of fresh fish for the final five minutes.
1 cup of diced butternut squash (per person)
1 cup of cauliflower "florets" (per person)
4 tablespoons good olive oil
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
red pepper flakes (to taste)
fresh ground pepper
1 tilapia filet (per person)
chopped fresh chives
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss together all ingredients except tilapia and chives. Using a strainer or slotted spoon, move vegetables to a flat baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally. In the meantime, marinate tilapia filet in remaining juices. When vegetables are slightly brown and fork tender, add tilapia filet to baking sheet. Bake an additional 5-7 minutes (until fish is done and flakes easily). Remove from oven, garnish with chopped chives and serve!
* Remember that old Pantene commercial?