My husband left for Europe yesterday and will be gone for 10 days. I’m happy for him, because he’s getting to visit Sweden–his primary ancestral homeland, and a country he’s never visited–and Italy (Florence!), where he’ll be presenting a paper that is being published at a conference. He’ll also get to see our Dutch friend J.D., who flew over two years ago to be a groomsman in our wedding but whom we haven’t seen since then.
Of course, my husband’s absence leaves a bit of a vacuum in my life. When he goes on trips (it’s a fairly frequent event overall, though much rarer in the last year), I’m usually happy the first two or three days, because I get to live somewhat like a single girl again. I don’t mean that I’m out meeting guys; I mean that I get to make all the household decisions based solely on my prerogative and priorities. (Did anyone else just think of Britney Spears’s terrible remake of the already bad Bobbi Brown song?) It’s nice to be able to think, “I’ll have ___ for dinner” or “I’ll go to the bookstore tonight” or whatever without having to take another person’s feelings and needs into consideration. (Honestly, I wish I had cherished that more when I was single.) Unfortunately, at some point my sense of freedom starts to falter, and loneliness sets in. And after about a week of missing him, my insecurities usually rear their ugly heads: I start getting upset with him easily and wanting to demand that he call me regularly even though I know he’s going from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (or later) daily. He tries to keep me happy, but he’s very, very busy; I have a loyal, loving, giving husband who really doesn’t deserve the type of demands I can start to feel are my right at those times. It’s a losing game and makes me feel like I’m 10 instead of 27.
I’m trying to fend off the bad attitude this trip by keeping myself busy approximately every other night while he’s gone. I figure that will offer me some time by myself at home to catch up on things there, but it will also keep me socially engaged. Thus, I ended up with three friends over last night for dinner.
One of the people who came over has been my dear friend since sixth grade; she’s the first person I met on the first day of school after I convinced my parents to let me abandon the private school I had attended my whole life (and where my mother taught) for the local public school. That friend is working on moving to Atlanta and often has doctor’s appointments that bring her up here. Another person present was a guy who’s a friend of that friend who moved to Atlanta and became my friend. The third was a guy I used to date–my first love, I guess; my boyfriend from 17-20. We’ve been in touch on-and-off through the years but have started hanging out more and emailing more lately. (We live about 3 miles apart at this point.)
That last guy–he can be a picky eater. I never realized that when I dated him, because I guess I wasn’t terribly adventurous myself when I was younger. But boy, things have changed for me and haven’t really changed for him (though he says he’s trying). I think the other guy whom I invited over can also be picky about things. My girlfriend who was coming over can’t eat traditional sugar at all. Add in my various allergies, intolerances, and expectations of food, and I was wondering what to make to please us all.
I decided to make chili–Melissa’s out-west bison chili, to be exact, though I made mine with venison and (as I always do) tweaked the recipe as I went along, adding extra tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, and smoked paprika. I made the chili the night before to let the flavors meld and to free up my time last night. I had intended to do cornbread, but with the gluten-free oats shortage in my area lately, I didn’t want to use up some of my gluten-free oats for the cornbread I usually make, so I switched the cornbread to gluten-free, multicolored corn chips. As toppings for the chili, I put out chopped cilantro, green onions, shredded cow cheese (that a friend bought over), and shredded goat cheddar for me. For a drink, I made limeade from organic limes, water, and agave syrup. (My friend can have agave syrup.) For dessert, I made a Trader Joe’s gluten-free brownie mix ($3), subbing in ground flax mixed with water for the egg and using half applesauce instead of oil. (The consistency of the brownies seemed a bit off to me, but the taste was good.) For my non-sugar-consuming friend, I had raw coconut agave truffles.
I wish I’d taken a photo; I set the table with red placemats, a red bowl of chips, a multicolored plate of candles, and the clear pitcher with limeade and sliced limes. It was a very pretty set-up.
The verdict for the meal? The guys both ate double servings of chili and brownies. We drank all of the limeade. My friend loved the truffles. It turned out well. I was very pleased to note that I can make an allergen-free, relatively healthy meal that even appeals to (at least potentially) picky eaters.
Many more meals with friends to come over the next 10 days!