Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Domesticated Literary

   Adjusting (still) to a new job; similar work but a much different facility, and the uncertainty that accompanies me each day is getting me down. (Not to mention the longer workweek. It's amazing the difference a day can make.)
   Writing projects are on hold, though I have a couple things prepped for mailing--just need to buy some stamps. (Yes, in this age of electronic EVERYTHING publishers do still accept submissions by mail. Astounding.) I have another few planned projects, but finding the time, and, frankly, energy to do them is getting harder and harder. Really, once I get home from work all I want to do is crash on the couch and watch Robin of Sherwood. I'd make jokes about getting old, but my Gramma kept herself moving far longer and stronger than I have the wherewithal for.
   Lately CNA students have been doing clinical hours at the facility I work at. I remember being like them: hopeful, interested, eager to help. Now? Jaded, disgusted, disgruntled. So full of anger and despair, teeming with resentment. I shouldn't complain: I have a good-paying job in an interesting field, and so many people need jobs. But it isn't what I want to do.
   I missed a family funeral recently due to work obligations. My husband was alone while he attended his grandmother's funeral, a woman I loved very much as well. (All right, he wasn't alone, family was there, but his wife was not.And I feel unbelievably guilty about that. And slightly resentful, as I was unable to say my goodbyes to Helen Perkins.)
   The truth is I want o be home savoring these last few weeks of Liam's babyhood before he embarks on his great journey into childhood. He begins school in less than 2 weeks, and I wish I could spend that time laughing, playing, snuggling, reading and pretending. I can't. I want to be writing, mothering, tidying, cooking. The Literary Domestics of the nineteenth century are my ideal, as are women like Sarah Ban Breathnach, Tess Whitehurst, Luisa Weiss, even, Goddess help me, Julie Powell (whose faboo book Julie and Julia is the perfect pick-me-up when I'm feeling snarky, grumpy, and just plain pissy with it all.) Women who write and keep house. Women whose lives comprise their work. They did it. How can I?
  I can't help but wonder sometimes if I have squandered any opportunities, but if so, I can't recall when. Perhaps my mistake is in trying to balance 'work and writing.' Writing is my work, after all. But I love writing; after my family it is my greatest joy, so I don't view it as work. For me work has negative connotations: too many jobs I hated, too much time spent away from family and desk, time better spent on things I love. However, the work I love does not pay the bills, at least not yet, and so I split my time into too many pieces, giving everything I do less than I should. (Seriously, what kind of wife doesn't attend her husband's grandmother's funeral??)
   Meanwhile, my family gamely battles on, bravely facing Mom's tears and tantrums, over-caffeinated rampages, and near-constant leftovers for dinner. Last night I actually cooked. It's probably the first time in a week. Pathetic. I took it easy on my guys, and made something quick and easy, and very very good, pulled from the pages of All You Magazine. I'm done whining now, friends. But if you find you're in dire straits emotionally (or employmentally) hang in there. I am, so are you and dozens of others. In the meantime, have a cup of tea and munch some spinach and potato fritters.

Spinach-Potato Fritters

Spinach-Potato Fritters Recipe
Photo: Ryan Benyi; Styling: Gerri Williams for James Reps
Ingredients: 

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for frying
1 10-oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Preparation:
1. Place potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until very soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well and return to pot. Stir over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes to dry out. Mash with a potato masher.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together bread crumbs, garlic powder, pepper and seasoned salt. Whisk in eggs and 1 Tbsp. oil. Stir egg mixture and spinach into potatoes until thoroughly combined.
3. Working in batches, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add heaping tablespoons of batter to skillet. Flatten fritters with a spatula and space them so they don't touch. Cook, flipping once, until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat, adding more oil between batches, until all batter has been used. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Charise K. Lawrence, Brooklyn, N.Y.,
August 2015

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