I didn't know Dadi, my paternal grandmother, at least not like I knew Mumma. My Dadi passed away long before I came around. She left behind my dad and my two uncles who aren't big talkers, much less storytellers, so all I know about Dadi is what I've gleaned from random tidbits my mom has shared over time. Under ordinary circumstances, the prospect of losing such a crucial part of my family's history would sadden me but the fact is, the few Dadi stories I have are so awesome, I know my family's history will be just fine.
Cue the story of Dadi and 516. That was the number of the house my dad grew up in. See, 516 housed all men (four burly ones, to be exact) except Dadi. No one really cared how the place looked, except Dadi. The 1960's orange floral furniture didn't match, the table creaked, and try as he might, the gardener simply couldn't revive the lawn. No one was interested in freshening up the place, except Dadi. Well one day, Dadi decided she'd had enough. She got some paint (yellow, mind you, because the women in my family are nothing if not trendy) and painted the living room. Except she was 5'1 (another trait we share) and well, she was only able to paint the bottom half of the wall. And of course, the men didn't care or even notice for that matter. And so, the half yellow walls remained. Forever, I imagine.
I love this story. I picture a petite woman with gorgeous braided hair, navigating around piles of sporting goods and car parts and electronic doodads, deciding that amidst all this manly chaos, she was going to take charge and make something beautiful. I tried to channel that same can-do spirit when we bought our house. The house was the epitome of builder basic but the truth was, I loved that the house was a blank canvas just waiting for me to go all Pinterest and DIY happy on it. But over the last few years, we've been so busy and lots has changed in our lives. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the house. It remains a blank canvas and the beige'ness of it all is just overwhelming.
A few months ago, I decided we'd start with something small. We would paint the living room grey. I patted myself on the back for choosing a color rather easily. Except I failed to realize there are 500 kinds of grey all slightly different than the next. Pewter, charcoal, stone, rainstorm, burnt ember. Convinced that the color choice would be easier after I got it on the wall, I bravely painted my sample paint squares. Except none of the colors felt quite right. And I couldn't explain what about them didn't feel right. So there I was, unable to identify what was wrong and paralyzed by making the wrong decision. And so I did nothing.
Sometimes, I sit at the bottom of our staircase, staring at the three painted squares, hoping for some sort of divine decorating inspiration but alas, nothing. I've been staring at these ridiculous squares for more than six months now. And it's only recently that I've begun to accept the walls will get painted when they do. Unpainted walls, or better yet, walls with three random paint squares, won't stop us from having friends over for dinner. They won't get in the way of Little Man and his friends playing with blocks in the living room. They can't stop us from laughing at taking ourselves too seriously. And most importantly they won't prevent us from making great food for our family.
Luckily, cooking is nothing like decorating or else we would most certainly starve. Where I question every single decorating decision, cooking involves a series of steps that feel like a second nature. Take these Garlic Noodle Bowls that make their way into our weekly dinner rotation (sometimes, two or three, okay five nights in a row). Cook your garlic (lots of garlic because this ain't no first date food) until slightly golden. Throw in your noodles, stir it around and let 'em sit in the pan undisturbed so they get crispy around the edges. In the meantime, grill your veggies (last week, grilled asparagus made its way into the noodle bowls. Every. Time). If you have a protein around (or live with a staunch carnivore), throw that in too.
The hubster and I recently ate our garlic noodle bowls at the bottom of the staircase so we could stare at the paint squares, hoping for some magical inspiration. "Looks like 516," he said with a grin. "Yup, it does," I agreed with an even bigger grin.
16 ounces dried pasta
1 lb. asparagus (or broccoli, or green beans, or spinach, or or or)
2-3 chicken breasts (or flank steak, or firm tofu, or turkey, or or or)
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tb. butter
3 tb. olive oil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
salt and pepper
Boil pasta. While pasta is boiling, cook asparagus (or vegetable of your choice). I recently got a cast iron grill pan and I have been using the heck out of it to grill up veggies and meat alike. Basically, anything cooked on super high heat takes on a delicious grilled BBQ flavor without having to deal with well, an actual BBQ. So yeah, cook the asparagus until it gets those delicious grill marks. Drain pasta, reserving a bit (maybe 1/3 cup) of pasta water.
Heat oil and butter in a large skillet until butter browns just a tad (just a warning that there are only a few seconds between browned butter and burnt butter. Not that I know from experience or anything. Just watch the butter closely). Add the minced garlic and cook until garlic is just starting to brown and get crispy around the edges (again, garlic goes from golden to burnt pretty quickly. Or so a friend told me). Add your pasta, pasta water, and crushed red pepper flakes. Toss to coat completely and let the pasta cook, undisturbed. In the meantime, prep your protein. I'm partial to coating chicken breasts in a bit of panko and pan frying it for a quick katsu or grilling chicken in my beloved grill pan but really, any protein works.
Stir pasta (by now, the edges of the pasta should be crispy and deliciously browned). If not, let it cook undisturbed for a few more minutes. Throw in the veggies and meat and season with salt and pepper. Eat. Preferably not while sitting at the bottom of a staircase, staring at paint squares.