Tomorrow, our Etsy shop, MatthewsFamilyBand will debut our new line: College Colors; hand-beaded, one-of-a-kind mask and eyeglass chains in the team colors of ten North Carolina unversities. We will also make one in your favorite team’s colors on request.
Before I begin, there’s something you have to know, Gentle Reader, about my ever-loving spouse.
Petey watches television, especially movies, like no one I’ve ever met before. Except for sporting events, he doesn’t schedule any viewing. For my spouse, the only “Must See TV” is Duke versus anybody and all football. Lately though, because of pandemic-related issues, the pickings have been tragically slim. But he loves to watch it and has an uncanny ability to find televised contests.
Recently, I have walked in on him watching sheepdog trials from the Outer Hebrides, Mongolian wrestling, and flaming puck unicycle hockey from Saskatoon. If there are scores recorded and folks yelling at the participants, he’s in.
I get the sports, though. I have yelled at the screen during more than one episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and you don’t want to be in the same zip code with me when I’m watching Britain’s Best Baker (OMG, Paul Hollywood’s eyes!).
But it’s Petey’s viewing habits of non-sporting television that still puzzle me after almost forty years of marriage.
The man is constitutionally unable to watch a movie on TV all the way through. We’ll be sitting on the couch together, watching a movie, it’ll go to a commercial, and ZAP! He changes the channel. The new show will be on for a bit, long enough for me to get interested. I’ll wonder, “What’s the deal with the shoes?” or “Who is the guy with the rusty soup ladle?”
It normally takes 17-39 showings of a movie before I’ve seen the whole thing, and even then, it’s like watching a film made by a director who just heard about the concept of flashbacks and can’t stop using them. It’s jigsaw-vision.
When I joined Petey on the sofa today he was watching an X-Men movie—but of course, not for long. So, I thought I’d share with you the things running through my head during this entertainment tsunami.
That mutant bad guy is wearing some sort of leather harness and what looks like a foam helmet. How do these guys decide to wear this kind of thing? And every single day? Don’t they ever wake up and think, “It’s a snuggly sweater and boots day.”? Or “I feel like a nice, bright Hawaiian shirt.”?
And where do they procure these ridiculous getups? Do they make them themselves? I can’t quite picture this dude squinting, trying to thread a needle… Do they have a guy? Evil Mutant Uniforms Я Us?
Alright…Wait, what? Are they doing an interpretive dance in church?
OMG, I know he loves sports, but please don’t tell me this man is going to seriously watch a high school basketball game from 1978? Is he really that desperate? Good grief those shorts are short. They look like they’re playing in bikini bottoms.
Oh look! Ooh…It’s Robin Williams, I wonder what this is? OMG!!! Noooo! It’s Hook!!! Change it, for the love of all that’s holy, change it…
It’s…a musical. Rock of Ages? So, musicals. What is the actual deal? How is it supposed to work? Somebody just bursts into song, and suddenly there are all these random passersby in coordinating outfits, dancing a choreographed number? Is it all in the singer’s head? Does that mean every musical is a look at someone’s descent into madness? Oh, I forgot Tom Cruise is in this. What misguided casting director ever thought this was a good call?
“Thanks, Petey, but are you sure you don’t want the remote? Ok, I guess I could find something to watch…”
Thanks for your time.
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You know who I admire?
I admire people who say, “I don’t care what other people think of me.”
And mean it.
I’m afraid I’m not so strong. I hate hate hate it when people are mad at me. And I also hate it when people I live with are mad at each other.
The recent return of the hellish heat and humidity that is our summer here in the heart of Carolina has me both hiding in dark, air-conditioned rooms, and reminiscing about previous Matthews Family Band summers.
When The Kid was a toddler, Durham had those summer evening events with music, food, and activities for the kids. It was free, sounded like fun, so one night we decided to go.
We were having a terrific time, The little Kid was dancing and making friends.
And then, it happened.
The Duke blue devil made an appearance. We pointed him out to our toddler, who loved to see him on TV.
We hadn’t taken into account that on TV, the mascot was seven or eight inches. In person, he was around six feet tall.
Panic is an extreme understatement. The poor child didn’t know whether to scream, cry, throw up, or run. So all four were attempted at the same time.
The Kid ran to us, screaming, “We got to go! We got to go NOW!”
So we left.
But for the next few years, whenever we told The Kid we were going somewhere, the poor thing would get a worried look and ask, “The Blue Devil guy’s not gonna be there, is he?”
Another year, The Kid got to see Mommy in a frenzy of terror.
It was one of those days when I had one last nerve, and my only child was doing an interpretive dance right on it.
I asked The Kid to go outside and weed the little flower bed around the mailbox. I figured there wouldn’t be much actual weeding done, but I also figured the break meant I wouldn’t be drunk before dinner.
Within forty-five seconds The Kid was back.
“I can’t weed. It’s full of snakes!”
I tried to explain that it was probably a few worms, but my child would not be dissuaded. I finally went out to the mailbox to prove I was right.
Except, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Some horrible, mean, sneaky, dastardly snake had laid eggs in the bed, and seventeen million of them had recently hatched.
I was almost catatonic with terror. The Kid took my arm and gently led me back into the house.
That night, I was drunk before dinner.
At the beginning of this essay, I spoke about my discomfort with ire.
One summer, Petey and The Kid were barely speaking. Petey insisted our child needed a bicycle for Christmas. The gift was a bust.
So, in late June, our little would-be cyclist still didn’t know how to ride, and showed no interest. Husband and child had butted heads about it for six months. I decided to end the stalemate and teach The Kid.
So one day, when it was about 732° outside, I took child and bike down to an empty parking lot to get it done. I figured twenty minutes, tops.
Three hours later I was praying for the sweet release of death. I gave up and that night, I announced I was out. I was formally withdrawing from the great bicycle debate. Done.
The Kid never learned to ride, and I honestly have no memory of what happened to that cursed vehicle.
So, here’s hoping that your own summer is not terrifying, sweaty, or frustrating.
Thanks for your time.
Contact debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m not sure what will happen.
The Kid no longer eats orzo. “It’s a texture thing,” my child insists.
I, on the other hand, love the rice-shaped pasta. It works really well with a light dressing, and smaller pieces of veggies and proteins. For some reason I equate it to the spring, with lemon, asparagus, and ramps.
By disliking orzo, The Kid has ended up on the horns of a dilemma. I recently discovered an orzo recipe that will send my spawn into vapors of indecision.
For while the recipe is a one-pot, no strain pasta, which is pretty darn cool, that pasta is orzo, which usually given no love.
The other dilemma that may change everything is the author of the recipe. It is Melissa D’Arabian, winner of Food Network’s Next Network star.
The year that Melissa competed, we watched every episode, and Melissa caught our eye. She wasn’t loud or a drama queen, in fact she seemed to have no time for crazy.
What riveted us to the screen was her quiet confidence.
In that she reminded us of JJ Redick. When he goes up for a shot, in his mind, of course he’ll make it; he’s never missed. It’s not delusion or ego-driven arrogance, it’s more like a child’s belief in the good in himself—in his mind he’s never missed a basket, so he launches the ball with nothing but complete, untainted optimism. The “Yips” are incomprehensible to him. It would be like trying to explain the concept of electrical engineering to a gerbil.
Melissa was like that. She had knowledge, experience and a stack of awesome, no-fail recipes tall enough to reach the top shelf. Above all she possessed a quiet form of supreme confidence. Doubt didn’t seem to be in her vocabulary.
But back to the orzo. This recipe is like a ski lodge in the summer—it’s very accommodating. You can add anything to this dish; protein, different types of veg, various nuts.
Petey and I love this, but The Kid has not yet had an opportunity to try it.
Melissa’s Lemon Thyme Orzo (by way of Debbie)
2 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup orzo
½ lemon, zested + 2 tablespoons juice
2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme leaves
2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
¼-½ cup crumbled crispy bacon (optional)
Heat large skillet on medium and add olive oil. Stir in garlic and rosemary. When fragrant, add orzo and stir constantly until it’s lightly toasted. Deglaze with wine. Add stock, and simmer on medium until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in lemon zest, juice, thyme, peas, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste, top with crispy bacon, a handful of pea shoots, and transfer to a serving bowl. Serves 4.
Variations (Stir these in at the end of cooking, off the heat):
Instead of peas, use asparagus. Or roasted broccoli and thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes.
Drop the peas and add snipped Chinese chives and halved grape tomatoes you’ve blistered in a very hot skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
Nix the pea shoots, and stir in 2 cups raw baby spinach.
Mix in salad shrimp or shredded rotisserie chicken.
Stir soft cheese (like brie or mascarpone) into pasta.
I watch what some people might consider way too much food television (but it’s purely for research purposes). There are cooks that I love, some that are ok, but not my favorites, and a few that when they appear, I rush to change the channel. Some hosts are very reliable sources for recipes, with many of their dishes recreated in my kitchen; most were big hits; a few, embarrassing flops.
But a Melissa D’Arabian recipe has never resulted in anything but success, yummy food, and kudos from family. So much so, that at our house we refer to her as “Magic Melissa”.
I guess we’ll just have to see if she can cast a spell and make The Kid enjoy orzo.
Thanks for your time.