We couldn’t have been more unlike each other. I, the well fed and harried suburban mother, rushing through the grocery store, pushing a cart full of suddenly necessary impulse purchases, my thoughts centered 3 hours ahead, the incomplete list in my head having been abandoned 5 aisles before. Him, the seemingly delicate but deliberate Asian man, plainly focused in the moment, grasping his well thought out list written on the yellow lined paper, as he spoke quite intentionally into his phone in a language I had no hope of deciphering.
I pretended to look at the frozen pizza while he stood in front of the Lean Pockets, the door fogging up as he held it open. It seemed as if he intended to inspect every variety of Lean Pockets and the neighboring Hot Pockets, all of which were on sale this week.
I was in a bit of a hurry and needed those Lean Pockets for the boy. He hadn’t been eating his lunch. He didn’t always like the lunches I made him nor did he like the lunches the school served. He was also in a hurry to get out to recess. He was coming home hungry. I was worried about the boy. When the boy was born, my visions of his future certainly did not include feeding him Lean Pockets. But here I found myself, 10 years later, hoping the man in front of me did not take all of the Ham and Cheddar kind, because that was the boy’s favorite flavor. I knew that if the boy had a Ham and Cheddar Lean Pocket in his lunch, he wouldn’t, yet again, come home hungry. The Lean Pocket was my last hope.
The man in front of me continued to speak into his phone, repeatedly grabbing and then putting back numerous boxes of both Lean Pockets and Hot Pockets. I spent quite some time pretending to look at the pizza before the man finally moved to the right and let the fogged up door slam shut. I casually moved over, opened the door and scooped up a couple of cheap boxes of Philly, Cheeseburger and Ham and Cheddar Lean Pockets.
As I started to walk away I saw the man eyeing the Lean Pockets in my cart. With hesitant English he asked me, “Is the Lean Pocket better than the Hot Pocket?”
“My wife and I are so worried about our daughter,” he continued, pointing to his phone that was now in his shirt pocket. “She is so big now. She sits in her chair and watches TV and eats the candy and the chips all day long. I don’t want her to be so big. I want her to eat something better than the candy but she won’t eat anything else. She won’t eat the fruit and the carrots my wife gives her for lunch. I am hoping that she will eat this Lean Pocket, though. If she has the Lean Pocket in her lunch then maybe she won’t be hungry for the candy. My wife thinks the Lean Pocket is our last hope.”
I was worried about the boy. The man was worried about his daughter. My initial impression was wrong. The man and I couldn’t have been more alike. It would be the Lean Pocket that would save us both.
Check This Out!
The Urban Cookbook, Creative Recipes for the Graffiti Generation, by King Adz is a most unique cookbook centered on the creative work of 25 super talented young urban dwellers from 5 hip cities all around the world. From advertising to art, from film to music, from toy design to fashion design, this book is chock full of cutting edge ideas and unbelievable creativity. Almost, seemingly, an afterthought, there are also 50 global recipes such as Lahmacun, Frikandel and Chicken Bicken included. I wouldn’t necessarily go buy this most untraditional book, but it was fun to see something different. It's worth a quick look at your local library if you think you'd enjoy the unique art and if you want to find out what the heck a Trinchada is.
Some of the Slightly Exaggerated family enjoyed this Middle East and North African inspired couscous dish on page 100 of The Urban Cookbook. Fry one chopped onion in oil for 5 minutes. Add 4 chicken pieces (we used thighs) and fry for another 5 minutes. Add 2 tsp ground cumin, 3 tsp ground allspice, 3 pieces of cinnamon stick and 4 cloves of garlic (chopped). Cook on low for 5-10 minutes. Add 2 ¼ cups chicken stock, 1 can whole tomatoes, 1 can chickpeas, juice of 1 lemon, 20 green beans, 4 stalks celery (chopped) and 2 carrots (chopped). Simmer for one hour, adding more stock if necessary. Make at least 6 oz of couscous according to package directions. Serve chicken on top of a bed of couscous and finish with chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.
The Lean Pocket loving Slightly Exaggerated family members were not as fond of the couscous dish as they were of the Spaghetti Pie recipe on page 248 of The Urban Cookbook. This “English variation of an Americanised Italian” recipe took a little time to make but was certainly well worth it. Fry one large onion (chopped). Add 2 1/4 lbs ground beef. When cooked, add 1 large can whole tomatoes, 4 TBL tomato puree, 2 beef stock cubes dissolved in ½ cup water,4 cloves of garlic (chopped) a splash of red wine,4 tsp of Italian herb seasoning, salt and pepper to taste and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2 hours, adding some water every 20 minutes or so (keep it wet). Near the end, throw in a handful of chopped fresh basil. In another pot, boil 1 to 1 ½ pounds of spaghetti, leaving it slightly undercooked. Drain. In a third pot, melt a large pat of butter and 2 heaping teaspoons of cornstarch and mix into a thick paste. With heat quite low, add 2 cups of milk, splash by splash, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Increase heat a bit and add ¾ pound grated cheddar and 2 teaspoons of mustard, stirring continually until thickened. (I also added a dash of nutmeg to this cheese sauce.) In a colander, pour boiling water over a large bunch of fresh spinach. Now assemble! In a large ovenproof dish, place a layer of spaghetti, a layer of meat sauce, 4 slices of Emmental cheese, a layer of spinach, and finally a layer of cheese sauce. Repeat. Sprinkle top with more grated cheddar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.