Saturday, January 19, 2019

Friday Night Dinner



Usually we buy barbecued ribs from our friend Frank on Friday nights, because they are awesome and who wants to cook on Friday nights?

But this week Frank wasn't cooking, and at 5:00 I lay there on the couch, thinking through my options. More than one of my children asked, What's for dinner, Mom? To which my gracious and loving response was, Food. 

Options at 5:00 on a Friday evening are limited. We could order pizza, but they can never find our house which means we have to meet them somewhere, and that's even if they remember our order in the first place. We could go to that street-food place that sells life-changingly good chicken, but even though it's only a couple of miles away, it's not good enough to battle 45 minutes of traffic and another half hour of waiting for it.

I sighed and got up to stare into the refrigerator for inspiration. But I shop on Saturdays and so there wasn't much much inspiration to be found. I remembered that my house helper had left a large pot of peeled tomatoes on the stove. Okay, I guess we're having spaghetti. 

So I started chopping up onions and throwing in spices, having done this so many bazillions of times that it's been years since I've used a recipe. Oh, and butter. If you didn't know that butter is the key to amazing spaghetti sauce, then I've just revolutionized your life. You're welcome.

I went to the pantry to get the pasta, but then I realized.....no pasta. Which is impossible because I always have pasta. Always. I even checked under the shelves, thinking that maybe it must have fallen back there.

I slumped down onto a dining room chair, despairing of life itself. I could make pizza, but it would take too long for the dough to rise. Gil offered to run to a store and go buy pasta. But I weighed my options. I would rather go out and look for pasta than stay home with the four hungry children. I think I can find it in a nearby duka, I said. I could use a walk anyway.

I took my shorts off and put my skirt back on and put the water to boil on the stove. I walked out our heavy metal gate, and up the rocky path to the main road where I met a mass of Friday-evening humanity. Women--and girls--with babies tied to their backs. Children in uniforms walking home from school. Men in long white shirts leaving the mosque.

I walked along the side of the busy road, dodging motorcycles and bikes, scanning the tiny shops for the ones that sell food. I passed the guys who fix our flat tires and a shop that sells fifty pound bags of rice. I stopped at one duka that looked promising, but they only had soap and bottles of oil and soda. No pasta.

I passed enormous piles of pineapples for sale, gradually fermenting in the humid air. If I hadn't already bought three yesterday I would have picked up a few more. At fifty cents each this time of year, we do our duty in supporting the pineapple economy.

I peered hopefully into another tiny shop, but saw only notebooks and pencils. I almost moved on when my eye caught something in the corner--neatly stacked packages of spaghetti noodles. But I played it cool, not wanting to get my hopes up. Can I see the spaghetti? I asked the teenager manning the shop. He handed me one, and I inspected it carefully for bugs. Thankfully, it passed the test. I was back home a few minutes later, just as the water had started boiling.

Someday, I'm going to be really thankful to live in a place again where I can order pizza on a Friday night. But I imagine there's a part of me that will still look back wistfully on a night like this one.

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