Draniki

It’s Dead Week.

I think what they fail to mention is that dead week somehow manages to fall always during a week of nothing but depressing weather, in which people will insist on engaging in excessive douchebaggery on and off campus.

For example, my friend Suzy Q’s ex boyfriend, who chose to throw a tantrum over the phone with her–while she was at the lady doctor.

Or Uji’s neighbors, who chose to have loud, obnoxious sex (lots of headboard-banging, thankfully indistinguishable gibberish, and terrier-inspired sound effects) and then turn on a noisy  blowing-things-up movie, starting at 12:30 on a school night.

It’s still better than waking up to hearing your neighbor beating his girlfriend, but it does make one wonder if common courtesy is a thing of the past or if people really are that stupid.

At any rate, Uji has his deadlines and I have mine, so I’m taking some much-needed time to study at home.

The Squidge has graduated from squidging to crawling, so when I got home today, there was a makeshift baby gate comprised of various rubbermaid totes, laundry baskets, a diaper box, and a yoga mat stretching from the living room baby jail to the couch–effectively penning the child in the living room. About two weeks ago, Kali re-arranged the living room to make more room for crawling babies and the like, so she’s got a sizeable space that’s dedicated to her use.

This is evident based on the ratio of baby toys to floor space being somewhat disproportionate during the Squidge’s waking hours.

The boys were zombified for most of the evening by that infernal contraption known as the Nintendo DS. I saw each of them twice, when they came out to ask their dad to help them catch a Pokemon and then again when I knocked on their door to tell them that their mom had been calling them for five minutes to come and eat supper.

Apparently, it’s the first time in two days either of them has had video game time; Kali and the Dork-In-Law grounded them from technology for stealing a pint of ice cream out of the freezer and then hiding the emptied container on the top shelf of their closet.

Kleptos.

Dozer has been hoarding shiny things since he was a toddler. He used to pick up anything from tinsel to earrings to car keys and stash them under a corner of carpet he pulled loose under his bed in the trailer.

Nowadays, he steals food and eats it, stashing the wrappers in his pillowcase. I once found half a granola bar in there.

We’re not really sure why he keeps doing it, or why he keeps the wrappers instead of tossing them, which would be less likely to incriminate him. My guess is he’s nervous about Evil Mom Powers noticing fruit roll-up cellophane in the garbage when no fruit roll-ups had been rationed out. At some point I had the same fear; my answer was to shove that incriminating shit as far down into the trash as my grubby little arm could reach.

I don’t get it.

The kids don’t starve.

They get snacks when they ask for them, except around meal times or if they’ve been in trouble within the last ten minutes.

We teach them that stealing is wrong, mostly because we want them to do better than we did, and because Kali takes careful inventory of the kids’ food to see to it that they always have enough to eat. Something like four missing string cheeses means a day without two apiece in a school lunch. Stolen suckers mean no treats after dinner. Stolen ice cream, however, meant an invasion of Mom’s sanity stash.

Which is an act of war in this house.

For our part, about once a week, one of us will get the wild hair to cook a big family-style meal. This week was meatloaf. It was amazing. The trick is to stretch the beef with a little pork for flavor.

The rest of the time (when we’re not pulling an Iron chef on a shoestring) we fix the boys something simple that six-year-old Demonic will eat without fussing, that’s substantial enough that ten-year-old Dozer will be full after finishing, and then the adults scrounge for something to hold body and soul together.

Tonight I made Draniki, which is cheap-and-easy Belorussian potato pancakes. They’re filling, they have protein from using egg and/or sour cream as a binder, and they cost about ten bucks if you have to buy everything to make them, down to the salt. If you are like most Americans, you already have eggs, butter, and salt at home. I did. The potatoes and sour cream cost a whopping four bucks, because I only use yellow potatoes. Russets would have made it three.

Grate two medium or one large potato into a bowl, squeeze out the water (you can sav the starch if you’re feeling authentic or miserly) crack an egg in, add a pinch of salt, and mix with a fork. Heat a tablespoon of butter on a skillet or griddle or what have you on medium heat. Scoop some potato slime into your hand and flatten it into something ovoid and not even slightly resembling a pancake and slap it on the griddle (that’s what I used tonight. It sucked, because the damn thing is aluminum and bows up in the middle.) When the egg solidifies and the Draniki can be flipped, do so and cook until there are little brown spots on both sides. Garnish with sour cream.

I realize that I have a peer reviw due tomorrow and a draft for my last undergrad paper ever in the works that needs drastic revision. However, cooking meals for onself, even small ones that are basically Slavic Bachelor Chow, is important to maintain the well-being. When you cook for yourself, you are creating your own sustenance. You are bringing certainty to your life. You are asserting your place as a resident of your home, thereby creating an anchor for yourself for when times get really tough. In the worst days before I left my old place, I cooked more food in that kitchen than I ever have in any other place I’ve lived. Part of the reason was the uncertainty of where I would be running away to. Part of it was to make gifts to my host for the evening. Part of it was to hold on to my position as Lady of the House, in spite of the fact that being at home repulsed me. It’s important to be master of one’s domain, even if it only extends as far as the stove.

Tonight, I may sneak off to Uji’s and study on his couch.

But I will be happier for having a belly full of simple food prepared by my own hand.

Let the week be dead; I have Draniki and therefore I will live.

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