Mondays are Sundays around here.
I don’t mean that to sound as Alice-in-Wonderland-down-the-rabbit-hole as it does. (I can’t wait to read that book to Little Bean, but I’m counting on it being perplexing the first dozen times.) We just don’t live days like most people do.
Most people think of Friday night as the great release. When I was teaching full-time, Friday afternoon felt like summer vacation starting, like the beginning of a long break. Anything seemed possible. I sat outside, at beloved restaurants with friends, chatting slowly and hoisting glasses to the weekend. Back then, I never realized just how hard the chefs and waiters were working, or that Friday night was crunch time for them.
Friday night is generally the busiest night of the week for the Chef.
Waking up Saturday morning used to feel like decadence, with warmth pouring through the windows onto my feet in the bed. Two days lay before me. And even though I knew those days would fly away as fast as early spring warmth in Seattle, I still believed, every Saturday morning: this weekend I could fully relax and achieve everything I thought I needed. Coffee in bed, reading the paper, dreaming of longer vacations — Saturday morning.
On Saturdays now, we read the paper in bed together, and feel the warm cups of coffee in our hands. And watch Jamie Oliver, of course. But Saturday mornings mean another work morning around here. We climb in the car and drive to the farmers’ market, never being able to linger long and talk to farmers the way we like. We’re gathering food for the restaurant, and it’s time to go. The Chef has just dreamt up a fish special with pea vines, pickled asparagus, and petrale sole. We drive to the restaurant, say goodbye, and he starts another ten hours of working without once sitting down.
Saturday nights are pretty darned busy these days, too.
By Sunday morning, I could feel the dread slip in, the palpable sense that the weekend was coming to an end. After an entire day off from grading, I traded plans for languishing and laughing with friends for hours hunched over the kitchen table, marking up papers. I rarely made it through them all. No matter how hard I worked, I could not keep up. I sipped juice and watched episodes of Sex and the City to bribe myself back to working. Cooking was my only release, the evening place where everything else turned off, and I could just be.
I hated Monday mornings.
But now, around here, Sunday is usually our Saturday morning. We languish and laugh, read the entire paper slowly, and still make it out of the house sometimes to meet people for brunch. Our first day of the weekend intersects with our friends with regular jobs, like those circles we had to study in high school algebra. Sunday is the circle on the left, Monday the one on the right — and there’s a small semi-circle where our Sunday meets other people’s with the day off.
And Monday? It feels like real decadence. You see, I keep the same hours as the Chef. I don’t stand in the kitchen ten hours in a row, creating food and feeding people. But I spend his work days doing work as well: writing, researching, coming up with new recipes, running errands. My weekend is with him, on Sunday and Monday.
By Monday, most everyone else has gone back to work. We can go to the movies in the middle of the afternoon and be the only two people there. We stroll through the Market in the late morning without having to sidle through hordes of tourists. We can drive on the freeway in non-rush hour traffic and not have to battle other cars. No matter how hard I work or how long I write, I’ll always feel a little bit like I’m playing hooky by having Monday off.
Lately, however, we haven’t had two days off in a row with each other. Poor Chef. He’s utterly exhausted. For reasons that are the purview of his work, and not this site, his former assistant turned duplicitous and left him in the lurch for weeks. Without any help, he turned to friends, and even me, to come play sous chef for days, while he searched for someone better. (Working with him for three weekends was a glorious experience, but it’s not one I would recommend to anyone else who is six months pregnant.) This has meant he worked Sundays again, the last six Sundays. His hours increased to twelve hours a day, most of the time not sitting down once and forgetting to eat. And for the first few of those weeks, his only day off, Monday, seemed to fill up with making decisions about the baby, childbirth classes, and the cooking classes we have begun to teach together again.
The siege is over. He found a tremendous sous chef this week. Soon, he will sleep again. Soon, we’ll have an entire weekend together.
But in the meantime, I am making Mondays as filled with rest and good food as I can, for him. He has rediscovered naps, like a small child with his favorite blankie. We sometimes stay in bed for hours, just watching movies and holding hands. And we remind each other — this is the restaurant business. Life moves in phases. This too shall pass.
And this Monday, to feed him, I made us waffles for breakfast.
There’s something deeply satisfying about waffles. Fluffy pockets, crisp to the first touch of the fork, soft inside with warm dough, the little indentations filled with melted butter and thin syrup, ready to be topped with rhubarb compote or whipped cream. Something about waffles feels like a slow Sunday morning, even if we do eat them on Monday mornings.
When I was a kid, my favorite night was Breakfast for Dinner. Even if we had eaten well for breakfast that morning, I never grew tired of the excitement of eating scrambled eggs, plump sausages that gristled under the fork, and a little pool of maple syrup, well into the evening. And in my family, the best Breakfast for Dinner event was waffles night.
Mom made up a huge batch of waffles with Bisquick. For one course, we had the traditional waffles, with margarine and Mrs. Butterworths. After I had cleared my thick brown Pfalzgraff plate. I received the savory course: waffles with chicken, sometimes with green chiles from a can, and sour cream. Last — and the most anticipated — were the chocolate waffles, evenly brown and crispy on the edges, topped with ice cream and chocolate syrup. To my memory, the vanilla ice cream gleamed a rich yellow color, and it came to us in a rectangular package, which meant we cut squares onto our waffles, and watched them melt under the weight of the cloying chocolate syrup.
God, we loved waffles night.
It didn’t matter that the waffles came from a mix, or the syrup from a can, the brown liquid flowing from a tiny triangular opening in the top. We felt well fed. We felt loved.
So this Monday morning, when the Chef and I had a few hours together before he would need a long nap, to prepare for our cooking class that night, I slipped into the kitchen and made up a batch of waffles. I played with flours, opened a can of coconut milk, and gently warmed some maple syrup. The first waffle emerged, fluffy, with a thickness I had never seen in gluten-free waffles. I walked into the room where he sat, at the computer, and placed a plate of waffles in front of him, butter melting, syrup filling all the indentations.
He looked up at me, surprised, the sleepiness leaving his eyes. “Hey! Thanks, sweetie.”
I turned toward the kitchen, happy to pass on this tradition. Monday mornings are for waffles around here.
GLUTEN-FREE CORNY WAFFLES, adapted from Joy of Cooking
As much as the Chef liked these waffles, he said he would probably like them more as a savory dish. When I mentioned barbequed chicken, cheddar cheese, salsa, and chiles, his eyes grew wide. I might make those later this week.
But I happen to like the fact that these are slightly savory. I’ve been making so many corn tortillas lately that I threw in some masa flour to the mix. I’ve noticed that all the Italian gluten-free baked goods I love have corn flour in the flour blend. Why not? They have a distinct corny taste, and some of you might not like that. That’s okay. I’m the one who used to eat movie theatre popcorn with Milk Duds melting among the kernels. I love that sweet and savory combination.
I will say, the masa made these waffles the thickest yet fluffiest waffles I have ever eaten. Try them. See what you think. Also, I made pretty thick waffles, which called for stiff batter. You might want to thin these out and make them stretch more. And feel free to play, entirely, with the flour combinations. Waffle nights should be your own.
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup teff flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1 cup masa harina
2 teasoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried buttermilk powder
12 ounces coconut milk
5 tablespoons butter, melted
The dry ingredients. Combine all the gluten-free flours together. Sift them into a large bowl. Add the baking powder, salt, and dried buttermilk powder.
Meet the wet ingredients. Whisk all the wet ingredients together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in all the wet ingredients. Stir until the waffle batter is coherent.
And become waffles. Heat the waffle iron. When it is hot enough to go, brush canola oil on the surface, and then plop enough batter onto the waffle iron to cover 2/3 of the surface. Put the top down and wait for the waffle to be done.