I own countless cookbooks. I’ve watched hundreds of hours of food television. I have a full file box of recipe clippings and printouts. And yet, most nights, I make things for dinner that I could cook with my eyes closed.
Tonight I had teriyaki chicken, brown rice and steamed broccoli. This was a meal that my family ate at least once a week while I was growing up. In the early days, the chicken would be baked legs and thighs, maybe with honey mustard or jam on there instead of teriyaki. As my sister and I got older, and complained a little more about skin and bones in our chicken, trends slowly veered towards naked chicken breasts cubed and sauteed on the stove with a little Yoshida’s sauce for that sticky, sweet teri flavor.
Often, when I call my mom, I’ll ask her what she’s having for dinner, and before I give her a chance to answer, I’ll offer a guess as to what the meal will entail. Standard guesses include salmon and string beans, salad with chicken or chicken legs and broccoli. I’m often right. In the summer it gets a little harder, as the veggie options are a little more diverse. The garden starts booming and suddenly my parents are awash in zucchini, sugar peas, baby lettuces and spinach that goes from young and tend to seed in the course of 24 hours.
I ate my bowl of chicken, rice and broccoli tonight, while I sat on the couch watching tv. Not a mealtime scenario of which my mother would approve. I slowly ate down through the contents of my dish, until I got to the last grains of rice at the bottom. I picked up each one with my chopsticks, an action that made me flash back to the dinner table in our house in LA when I was five or six. I remember struggling with the last few grains of rice on my plate, feeling frustrated that I wasn’t allowed to use my fingers to push them up onto my fork. My dad stopped me and told me to watch him. He gently rocked the back of his fork over the rice, pushing the individual grains up between the tines of the fork. I observed this action with the frighteningly fast retention ability reserved for children under the age of ten, and started to mimic his actions. In no time I conquered those pesky single grains of rice.
I guess comfort food comes in many forms, and for me this is one.