Brian has been rather busy lately and as such I barely see him it seems.
I don't think I've actually ever explained what he does. He's in the army reserves (the threat of deployment always hovering) as a staff sergeant and CPR/First Aid instructor. He also goes to school for his EMT license, which is insane as he's a seasoned combat medic with the army, but somehow the fact that he can patch up a collapsed lung under gunfire the civilian world says he still isn't qualified to be a basic nurse. During all this he just picked up work doing security. It's not a job he is thrilled with, but he likes his coworkers, it works around his school schedule, and pays him rather well.
The serious downside to his job is that as he's the new guy he gets the crap schedule. This means late night and swing shifts on random days. It means when I get home from my 8-5, he's already left for his 5-1.
It means we can go days without seeing each other.
And it sucks.
Admittedly, I can be rather mercurial about the whole situation and each night on my own is different from the last. Some nights I cannot stand to be by myself. I find the tireless, unending quiet deafening and the only self-generated human noise to be tedious and unfulfilling. I mean, how many times can you sing your favorite songs from High School to yourself in your living room before the magic begins to wane? (One would hope, wistfully, never.)
Other nights I relish the ability to sit in solitude. A cat purring on either side and doting dog at my feet. I can relax with a beer and plenty of bread egregiously smeared with Bucherondin (my most favorite table cheese). I read e-mails or flip through cookbooks while Downton Abbey plays in the background and I try to hone my facetiousness in the fires of Maggie Smith's ripping one-liners. Even as I write this I'm buried under a living afghan of dozy fur while Jack the Corgi works his rawhide in the corner and repeats of Young Justice blare on Hulu.
Part of what I love about my life is I'm 29 and watching superhero cartoons as I blog with an Irish coffee at hand. It's a feeling best enjoyed alone.
Still, at the end of it I do miss him the nights he's not here. At times we'll go three or four nights passing each other by. I understand the phrase about those ships in the night. You're aware of each other, barely, almost imperceptible, but no time to take any real notice. We're together in our sleep for a few hours and I guess, or perhaps hope, that that proximity and sub/unconscious recognition that the other is there is enough to sustain yourself on for a few days.
You see, it's not like when one of us leaves for work or a business trip. We can prepare ourselves and recognize that we won't see each other. This situation is a tease. We miss each other by mere hours for rather agonizing stretches.
There are phone calls, text messages, notes, and meals left in the fridge tacked with sticky notes with scribbled hugs and kisses. It's not enough. But it is. It's not an actual embrace, but it's these little things that say, "I'm not there with you, but I am. And I love you. See you soon."
And we've been doing a lot of that; the love through food thing. There are nights I will stay up until midnight so that when Brian walks through the door I can take his coat, peck him on the cheek, and guide him to the kitchen where a plate of chicken and tarragon stewed in cream and vermouth awaits. Others when I've ensured a simple sandwich sits wrapped in wax paper penned with a smiley face in sharpie for when he staggers in at a not unheard of 4 A.M.
I love being so damn domestic. I really, really do.
Then there are the days when I come home late to the smell of chilies and garlic searing in the wok and he's made plenty Gong Bao Pork with scallions for me to take to work tomorrow, too.
Of course, maybe one of the best I love you foods in the world is the cookie. Well, cookies. Plural. There is no fun in just one cookie. It's like the fun size of a mini candy bar. What's fun about less candy? Cookies, plural with an "S" and a heaping cup or two of chocolate chips, is how it should be. That's love.
So, I make cookies every now and then and leave them for Brian. The most recent were some ground coffee bean chocolate chip cookies. Buzzing with caffeine and sugar it's definitely a wake-you-up treat that will entice the heart and perk the senses. Brian appreciates coffee. He also loves chocolate. I think he's got a softside for me, too, so all together we (the cookies and I) do just fine in making him happy.
Now this recipe comes from the effervescent Aida Mollencamp. Perhaps you've seen her on the television on Ask Aida or FoodCrafters? I met her at a conference some years back and we hit it off rather smashingly. She's bright, perky, smart, and can tell a good dirty joke that'll cause the members of any Boys' Club to blush.
She also knows food and has made this perfectly clear in her new book, Keys to the Kitchen. Think of it as the new Joy of Cooking. More pictures, less every single recipe in the world, and more of the recipes and techniques you need to know to be a successful home cook.
This book isn't so much about giving you a recipe that will produce a single dish, but rather each recipe is designed to imbue and teach you a specific skill or educate you about a method, ingredient, or cooking style. The recipe puts you into practice - a culinary practical of sorts - and by the dish's end you have a fundamental piece of core kitchen knowledge that you know how to apply to a wider variety of foods and recipes that may or may not come from Keys.
In Keys the focus is learning and the good food that comes from it. To the new home cook it is a godsend, a book I plan to gift time and again to younger people leaving for college or brides/grooms to be who don't know how to set a meal. For those with experience the book is a wonderful resource when you need to brush up on a certain technique or if you never got around to learning how to properly break down a chicken.
It's also a wonderful book filled with recipes that show that one person you seems to miss by just that damn half hour. Those thirty minutes. That yes, you are gone, but you are still here and you love them.
Coffee Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 32 cookies
2 1/4 cups AP flour
1/3 cup finely ground coffee beans
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, coffee, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and whisk to aerate; set aside.
2. Place the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat the tar out of it for about 3 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl halfway through. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat for another minute.
3. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until it just comes together. Stir in the chocolate chips and drop 2 tablespoon-sized mounds of dough on the trays, 2 inches apart.
4. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks. Eat and serve to loves ones or just caffeinate yourself crazy hard like the addict you know you are.