I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world. ~ MFK Fisher
Over the last ten years, I have moved from passionate weekend flings with my kitchen to a deep and lasting relationship, built on mutual trust and – wait. My metaphor is breaking down. But my point: having a family to cook for changes things in the kitchen. It changes them in ways that are hard – keep your kids healthy, your partner happy, yourself from going crazy with the monotony of still one more chicken breast to cook. It changes them in ways that are wonderful – routines build comfort, and comfort allows for growth, and experimentation, and resiliency in the face of failure.
Fifteen years ago, more or less (can we pretend less?), is when I first read The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher. I read it for a class about “odd men and queer women” in literature – and spent most of my energy deconstructing the chapter on boarding school and trying to decide which women might be
eating oysters with having affairs with which other women. I hung on to the book though, because it resonated with me. And when I re-read it as a mom, I find myself lingering over the idea of food as a reflection or embodiment of emotional truth – something we prepare to express our love, to make manifest our desire to protect our beloved few in the face of everything out there that isn’t nourishing. Come into my kitchen: let me take care of you. Let me give you this meal, this offering, this physical embodiment of my love. Let me sustain you.
No wonder some Catholics get hooked on communion.
Anyway, I think Jacob had a flash of this emotion, of this desire to sustain someone he loves. Kyle had been traveling for a couple days for work, and the guys really missed him. Last week, Jacob overheard me and Kyle talking about sushi to-go; I mentioned that I had seen deconstructed sushi in a mason jar somewhere and thought that would be a really awesome lunch – and then 101cookbooks had a post about rice balls, which seemed like another potential way to make something transportable and healthy and delicious, and the perfect size for that soft-sided gray and orange box Kyle totes to work. And then yesterday morning, out of the blue, Jacob said he missed Daddy, and then he declared that we should make a special lunch for Daddy.
“OK Jacob, what should we make?”
With visions of Saturday Night Live skits and Ben & Jerry’s dancing through my head, I made a plan with my brain – and then with Jacob’s hands, we got to work.
I followed the 101cookbooks recipe for sesame almond brown rice balls really closely, so I am going to direct you over to Heidi for the ingredients and technique – basically, you make a pot of brown sushi rice, mix in some almonds, sesame seeds, and green onions, and then form it in to balls.
We took the extra step of adding filling, to make our brown rice balls in to “sushi balls” – we used a Japanese short grain brown rice meant for sushi so it would get sticky, and we used chives from the garden instead of green onions, because that was what we had. We also went with two different colors of sesame seeds, because with Jacob it’s the little things.
For our filling, we used coconut-crusted tofu, quick-pickled carrots, and avocado cubes with a squeeze of lemon juice. Jacob loved deciding which little bits of things to put in to each sushi ball as he made it – and he especially loved making the ball-shape with the plastic wrap. You know it can’t be tricky if a three year old can do it!
We started with just over a cup of dry rice, and made a dozen golf-ball sized sushi balls, plus the one that Jacob ate as a sample (and gagged on, by the way – if you are making these with a little one, and they want to sample them, make sure that they know they can bite them and don’t need to eat the whole thing at once!). We had a few for dinner, and Kyle took the rest for lunch the next day – hopefully, eating them, he felt ‘sustained, truly, against the hungers of the world‘ – I know he felt confident that he is one of Jacob’s beloved few.