“Hey honey, do we have any green onions?” the Chef calls out from the kitchen, as I am sitting at the computer, writing.
“I don’t think so, sweetie. Why?”
Why do I even bother asking any more? I know that he has something extraordinary forming in his mind, something that will make me — twenty minutes later — shake my head in amazement as we sit at the table. I will take a bite and raise my eyes to the sky, then look at him and say, “Hey, do you want to marry me?”
And he will nod vigorously, his eyes as excited as a kid at Christmas, and say, “Yes, please!”
These are mornings around our house.
Even though I have enticed the Chef to eat hot cereal a few times a week (and perhaps even educated him into doing so, since he never ate a whole grain before he met me), I know he is never excited about those breakfasts. Those are the mornings he is happy that I am preparing our repast, the mornings he can read the newspaper in bed and wait for me to bring breakfast to him. Still, his favorite mornings are when he stands in the kitchen about 10:30, slowly turning to survey what we have on our shelves and in the fridge. His eyes go wide, and he can’t talk for a moment. Then, he dives right in.
Sometimes, he needs something in particular, like a few mornings ago, when he requested green onions. Thank goodness we have a cozy neighborhood grocery store across the street from us, or I would be perpetually driving places before noon. I slip on some jeans and amble through the aisles. Every checker there knows us, and each one smiles and asks how it’s going.
“What’s he making today?” the girl with choppy black hair and a sarcastic smile said to me the other morning.
“I don’t know yet. I rarely do these days. I just fetch the food.”
She smiled back. “Gee, rough job.”
“I know,” I grinned. “I don’t mind being his guinea pig.”
Sometimes the food the Chef makes up on the spot ends up on his menu the next month. He has this uncanny knack for knowing what flavors will mingle together, building on each other, ready to silently explode in the mouth. He loves playing with his food. Before he met me, and he lived alone in an apartment downtown, he never cooked at home. After cooking all day long in a tiny restaurant kitchen, the Chef left his work at 11 pm and often stopped for (gasp — the horror) a Subway sandwich. Now, we eat full-course meals at midnight, and he always has a smile on his face. Before he met me, the Chef never ate breakfast. He walked around perpetually hungry, nibbling his food, tasting to make sure it came out well, never feeding himself properly. Now, he starts off the day right. He eats a beautiful breakfast at our little table, looks out the window at the Olympic Mountains, then looks over at me, enjoying the food he has made us.
Yeah, rough job.
And the green onions? That morning, he needed them for potato pancakes. They arrived before me, unbidden, on our blue-and-white plates, hot from the oven. I swooned.
“Hey, you want to marry me?” I said, giggling after the first bite.
“Yes, please!” he said, then took a forkful of his eggs-over-easy on top of a bite of potato pancake, and chewed his food with pleasure.
Easy Morning Potato Pancakes
For years, I thought potato pancakes were beyond my ken. I didn’t quite know how to make them, and the few times I attempted them, they came out soggy. After I learned I had to live gluten-free, I gave up on potato pancakes. There are other foods in the world. But the Chef is teaching me, every day, that almost every food is easy to make, as long as you listen to the flavors and truly pay attention to what you do.
2 Russet potatoes, peeled and shredded on a wide grater
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
¼ cup green onions, finely sliced
1/8 cup corn starch
kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste (try ½ teaspoon of each, to start)
Preheat the oven to 425°.
Peel the two potatoes, then shred them on a grater. You want these to be medium-to-large shreds. (Don’t use a microplaner, for instance.) Put all the grated potatoes in a nest of paper towels, then squeeze as much water out of them as you can. Go back again and wring out more. When they are as dry as can be, place them in a large bowl.
Turn a burner of the stove to high heat. Place your favorite skillet on it and bring to heat.
Put all the ingredients in the large bowl. Mix them up with your hand, squeezing and turning it all, fast, until everything is combined well.
Form the potato mixture into little cakes, about the circumference of a good coffee mug, approximately one-inch thick.
When the skillet has come to its full heat, put two tablespoons of good-quality olive oil in and turn the burner down to medium-high heat. Add the potato cakes.
After a minute or two — or when the underside of potato cake has browned and you start to smell the warmth of it — flip the cakes over and brown the other side for one minute more. Immediately place the skillet in the oven. Cook the potato pancakes for ten minutes or so, or until they are browned and smell so delicious that you just can’t wait another moment to eat them.