When I was pregnant with my second child and nearing the baby’s launch date, a friend asked me an odd question. It was not odd because it was intrusive--for one thing, I have been asked so many intrusive questions in all of my pregnancies that it would hardly have been worth getting my knickers in a twist over another one at that late date, and for another it was not intrusive. Or, it didn’t seem like it was. What she asked was “who’s doing your food?”
From time to time, when chatting with another person in one’s native tongue, one can encounter a sentence made up of words that are entirely recognizable, but whose overall meaning remains elusive. This was just such a time. When she perceived the mental echo on my part that her question had set off, she re-phrased it. “Your meals, I mean. Who is in charge of your meals?” We edged a hair closer to a shared understanding, but only a hair. These, too, were all words I knew well, but I still couldn’t make the gist of the question out.
Eventually, using a combination of patience and semaphore and monosyllables comprehensible even to my gestational brain, I was introduced to the concept of the food chain. When our first baby arrived four years before this, we stumbled along eating what we could throw together quickly with one eye open and one arm free, and when our families came around, we ate better. Baby: The Sequel opened the door to a whole new world. Kind Feeding Friend set up a schedule, and every few days, hot food prepared by other pals came to the door right at the time the baby and the preschooler and the parents began warming up for the evening sonata of crabbiness. It was heaven. When we had our third baby, his sisters were in two different schools, and we had TWO chains. "Is it only for babies that we get this?" asked my husband, briefly considering a fourth.
Since that initiation we have been links and we have been recipients many times over, for times of joyful arrivals and sad departures and lingering maladies. I think it is one of the proudest accomplishments of civilization, this simple act of putting nourishment together in one home and taking it to another. When you are unable to easily feed yourself, you get fed; when you are fluttering around unsure of how to be of use to others in need, you have an action plan.
Some friends of ours had a baby right before the holidays, and it’s a good-looking baby. I had a look at it the other day, when I brought them this food. I put some of the food, the part I am telling you about in detail, on a stick, because there are toddlers in the house, and even toddlers who aren’t adjusting to a new sibling like food on a stick--as do parents grabbing food with one hand as they blow by the kitchen en route to the changing table or the washing machine. It was all food that could be eaten at its arrival temperature, or chilled now to heat up later, or just eaten standing up in front of the fridge. You don’t need a new baby to look favorably on a meal like that.
Don’t be alarmed by the lemongrass. It is not hard to find or to deal with. Mindset, mindset. Or the sticks, because you can just skip them entirely, which is how we roll around here when it’s not for company.
sort of satay
In the jar of your blender or in a cup that your hand-blender fits into, put:
½ c coconut milk (about a third of the can; I used light because that was all I had, but regular would work just fine, too)
a quick scrape of a lime’s zest over a microplane
the juice of that lime
1 ½ T fish sauce
a handful of fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, outer husky bits removed and tender core finely minced
Blend all these things for a half a minute or so.
If you are using them, put 12 bamboo skewers to soak in a dish of warm water. Really. Otherwise you will set them on fire.
Get a bowl or baking dish ready to marinate things in, and put into it one of these things:
- A sirloin steak, sliced across the grain into ½ “ slices and fat trimmed off
- A chicken breast, treated the same
- A pork tenderloin, as above
- 1# firm tofu, drained, cut into 2” cubes and pressed in a towel to get it dry
All of the animal options slice much more cooperatively if your knife is very sharp or if they are partially frozen.
Pour about half the coconut milk mixture over the protein, toss to coat, and let it all sit for a half hour or so. Reserve the remaining sauce.
Thread the meat onto the sticks in whatever arts-and-crafts way appeals to you. Set the sticks on a broiling pan (if you have no grilling apparatus, like me) in a single layer, tucking exposed sticks under an opposite-facing row of skewered meat to help prevent forest fires. Broil the first side until browned to your liking, then flip. The slices are thin so it all cooks in a snap. You can also grill it, if you have the technology. Serve with the reserved sauce for dipping.
I packed these in a basket with a big pot of fried rice, made with brown rice (which is good for you) and plenty of nourishing but not alarming nubbins mixed in, like baby spinach and corn and peas. In related news, I made Mollie Katzen’s baked custard with the remainder of the coconut milk, but that has to get through the 2.0 version before I foist it on an unsuspecting public. Watch this space.