The Shrimp Dish

Kyle and I both had long, trying days at work. We got home and I debated whether I was up for cooking or if we should get takeout. Kyle was dutifully quiet, agreeable to whatever I chose, and I decided that maybe cooking would help. So I got out some freezer and pantry staples and I set to work attempting (yet again) to recreate my Uncle Hal’s famous shrimp dish.

The recipe was lost years ago (the story here varies…Aunt Steffi thinks he burned it because he was tired of making it, and we’re all pretty sure Poppa was an accomplice: the Steiner women requested it for every gathering/birthday/holiday. Pops and Uncle insist both of their copies just *poof* vanished). I’ve tried a couple times over the years to find comparable recipes online, and have brought them to the table with varying degrees of success: they all tasted fine (except that one time I put in WAY to much dill 😬 sorry, Kyle) but it was never just right.

Tonight, while sharing stories back and forth of our “everything went wrong” kind of days, I tried again. I had all the ingredients, and a basic recipe I’d found years ago, with notes I’ve made each time I’ve attempted it. I said to Kyle half way through making dinner: “Yes. Cooking is helping. Thanks for not just letting me order in.”  (His ability to know when I need one kind of encouragement or another grows more impressive every year.)

If you’ve ever eaten my cooking, or watched me cook, you know that I use my recipes as a very loose guideline for what I’m doing. (It makes me a pretty terrible baker, but most friends will attest that it makes me a decent chef–albeit one who will never make a dish the same way twice.) Today I followed the vague recipe I had written and adjusted as I went, heeding the TOO MUCH DILL and ADD MORE WINE notes in the margin. I threw some crescent rolls in the oven to go with it, and served everything up when the timers went off.

I took my first real bite (I tasted along the way to add more salt/pepper/garlic/other spices, of course) and I looked at Kyle and said “I did it.” And then I promptly burst  into tears.

It’s been…I don’t even know…a decade since I tasted the original? So it’s entirely possible, even probable, that I don’t remember the taste precisely. That being said, I’ve never made it so well or so close, and I’ve never been more proud of myself.

Kyle confirmed that it was the best iteration I’ve made, and he liked it so much he’s taking it for lunch. (Kyle never packs lunch.) And while I normally add more spice to my own servings, and I got the hot sauce out to do so, I didn’t end up using it. The dish brought back so much nostalgia and happy feels that it was perfect just the way it was.

I was going to just post a quick Instagram post or story, but I had too many words to commit to the page (screen? Whatever). So here we are, two blog posts in as many months. That’s more writing than I’ve done in years, in case anyone’s counting.

This is all to say that even on the really shitty days, where everything feels like it goes wrong for no damn reason, there might be something left out there that can make it better. (And I say that with the caveat that I can find some good because I am appropriately supported, well-medicated, and attending therapy regularly.) After feeling incredibly defeated all day long about my time management, my lesson plans, my library setup, the barcodes of books, etc., etc…. I’m ending my day feeling so damn proud.

The other day, I read in a poem from “Fortunate: Tarot Poetry” by Kim Rashidi to “do what makes you feel bright.” I put it on a post-it to add to my desk at home; it sits opposite one I’ve had for years that reminds me to “Stop expecting YOU from people”. So tonight, instead of continuing to stress about today, instead of sulking in my failures, I did something that made me feel bright. I cooked a dinner I’ve been trying to perfect for years, I worked on The Office Lego set with my husband, I wrote THIS, and I intend to go read my new book when I’m done.

So that’s what I’ll leave you with here. Do what makes YOU feel bright. (And it’s okay if you cried first, or took a Xanax, or considered giving up. I did all three at some point today.) And if you’re not ready to find the thing that makes you feel bright? Do whatever else you need to do to make it through. Tomorrow might be better (fuck toxic positivity….it might be just as bad, too, maybe even worse!) but with any luck you’ll find a few moments for you: not for self care or meditation or yoga (unless those things are your jam, in which case, go for it) but for something that makes you feel whatever you think of when you hear the word bright. (I think engaged, shiny, or thoughtful, successful–your definition might be entirely different, and that’s perfect.)

Cheers to YOU if you made it this far. I hope tomorrow is brighter for all of us. ⚡️🌈🥂

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