You may have heard. Western Washington is wet.
Splashing in puddles, squelching of tires, slapping drops on the top of our heads — we are sodden around here. For days, the skies splayed grey and the sump pump in the basement groaned with the extra load of work. People, every myth you’ve heard about Seattle and how much it rains? This week, myth became reality.
Even Orpheus and Eurydice might have slipped under the River Styx, rather than surfacing to this.
For those of you who have been calling and writing, we’re fine. Seattle is merely drenched, and not flooded. About an hour and a half to the south of us, a twenty-mile stretch of the freeway is submerged in murky waters. Houses are floating, Wal-Marts are surrounded by sudden lakes, and people are canoeing to work. For those of you around there, we salute you and send you bus towels and dryer-vacs. But there’s something funny about the national news. They flash images upon the screen, rapid-fire, and intone disasters. To outsiders, it looks as though the entire western half of the state is now ocean.
The last year I lived in New York, I came home one night, after a long busy day of writing, tutoring, and riding on subways. On my phone, at least twenty voice mails. Every one of them came from a friend in the city, with the same message, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry about Seattle.” Once I heard five of those, I hung up and called my folks. No answer. I called my brother. Dead silence. I gulped in sharp points of air, trying not to panic. I ran to the television, anticipating video of Seattle slipping into the sea. Nothing. Regularly scheduled program ran in all its inanity. I sat through the commercials on CNN, and through the top three stories. Finally, they showed it: an earthquake in Seattle. I sat in horror as they showed buildings rocked and tumbled. No wonder my family could not answer the phone.
But then I leaned in closer. As the announcer droned in deadly tones, I watched the images, again. I saw the shot of a storefront with bricks dislodged three times in one minute. And was that the Starbucks building, still standing, with one crack? I started laughing. I know Seattle. Nothing had fallen down. No one had died.
But the news had made me lose my family, for a few moments.
So up here, in the city, we are merely shaking out our wet hair like dogs in the backyard.
Really, it’s the perfect weather for cooking.
In the last few days, I’ve stirred up a beef stroganoff and poured it over rice pasta, stood at the stove and turned butternut squash and potatoes into a silky orange soup, made apple-cider pancakes in the morning and a Dutch-oven roasted chicken at night. This is what I love most about winter. It makes me return to the kitchen.
And every night this week, when I sat down with the Chef at nearly midnight to eat the simple dinner I prepared for us, he took one bite, looked up at me, and grunted. “This is good, sweetie,” he trilled at me. And then he curved his hand around the bowl and dug in for more.
It’s simple — I love feeding him, and seeing him happy.
Thanks, rain, for making me stay inside the house.
* * *
If you should feel like leaving the house, Seattleites, I will be reading at the University of Washington bookstore, on Monday, December 10th, at 7 pm. The Chef and I would both love to see you there. (Mondays are his days off, so he’ll be there, beaming.) Friends, fans of this site, fellow writers — lend me your ears.
With all of the extraordinary experiences I’ve had in the last few months, I have yet to do a traditional reading at a bookstore. This is the first. I’d really love to see you there. It’s free!
And the Chef and I will be bringing cookies…..
Mushroom duxelle for stuffing fish
There’s one good quality to all this rain. More mushrooms will be dotting the grasses and rich dark dirt in the mountains around Seattle, soon. The Chef and I buy our mushrooms — for the restaurant and our home — from Jeremy at Foraged and Found. We don’t know where he obtains them. He never releases his secrets. We just know that we love the spongy, toothy umami taste of our favorite mushrooms.
Whatever mushrooms are available around you, try them in this lovely mushroom stuffing. Certainly, it exudes enough charm to stand alone. But if you find a great white fish, or a plump shiny eggplant, you’re going to want to tuck this stuffing under it and let the tastes emerge, like the earth re-appearing after a long, soaking rain.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds mushrooms, chopped fine (try chanterelles and button mushrooms)
½ medium yellow onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, fine chopped
1 tablespoon thyme, fine chopped
½ cup dry sherry or white wine
½ teaspoon kosher salt and cracked black pepper (or to taste)
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Put in the onions and garlic. Sautée on medium heat for five minutes.
Add the thyme. Cook for one minute.
Add the mushrooms and cook for five minutes, or until they have released their juices and softened.
Pour in the alcohol. Cook this mixture until it is dry, being careful not to burn it.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
You can use this as a stuffing for a flat fish, such as petrale sole or ruby-red trout. Lay each piece of fish flat. Put a tablespoon or two of the duxelle in the middle of the fish, and then roll the piece of fish tightly around the duxelle. Cook the fish as you normally do.