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Food critic Tonya Kuxhausen writes reviews of meals she prepares for herself at home. Food is at the center of each article but the whole dining experience is considered and commented on. To paraphrase Socrates, an unexamined meal is not worth eating.

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three hearts

Keeping Thyme

I set some water to boil. I hacked off the moldy portion of the onion and chopped up the rest of it in a careless rush. Sautéed it with the sun-dried tomatoes and a little minced garlic, added freshly ground black pepper, salt, a heaping teaspoon of thyme and sautéed it for about five minutes more. In the meantime, I washed and chopped the green beans. I cannot overstate how much I love green beans. These looked nearly perfect and I couldn't wait. When the water was boiling, I poured it into the saucepan with the tomatoes and onions, added the couscous and put the lid on tight. I should say that I didn't measure the water or the couscous and it occurred to me after that maybe I should have.

With the couscous simmering, I cooked the beans and prepared the mock duck. I felt like I was rushing through things and being sloppy. Sometimes I think that if I don't prepare the food with deliberateness and love, I won't like it. I felt that these thoughts alone might have jinxed the dinner and I weighed the alternatives. I decided to slow down and focus. I carefully chopped the mock duck and lovingly added it to the couscous mixture. I tenderly poked at the steaming beans. They looked cute and fresh, but not quite done. I fluffed the couscous and cleared off a corner of the messy table.

The Menu (5-8-03)

Couscous with sun-dried tomatoes, mock duck and green beans
Iced soy latte
Almonds and chocolate chips

Everything smelled great and it was all done at the same time. This almost never happens. I picked through ridiculous heaps of couscous and scooped out the most desirable parts. It all tasted pretty good, but the beans were my favorite part - I thoroughly enjoyed each one.

I guess I just sat there and ate kind of fast. The table was crowded for one. I listened to public radio. I thought hard about the mock duck. I'm not sure I liked it. It has a strange squeaky, rubbery texture that almost seems synthetic when it breaks so cleanly in your mouth. But I'm so glad it's not meat. It was kind of dry and so I choked it down with maybe a half gallon of water. Maybe next time I'll chop it up smaller, simmer it in some non-meaty gravy beforehand. Also, next time more tomatoes - these were very good. They were hard and shriveled when I threw them in the pan but they turned out plump and juicy.

I really didn't eat much couscous, maybe a couple tablespoons of the nine cups in the pan. It was a nice accent to the meal, but studying it closely,

Parsley, sage, rosemary and ... drosophila?
I thought the little bits of thyme looked like bugs - specifically, drosophila - and the realization made me want to vomit (I've seen them under a microscope). The more I looked, the more I couldn't be certain it was thyme and not fruit flies. Who did this?

For dessert I had an iced soy latte. It was my third one of the day. I just gave in because it took too much mental energy to resist the deliciousness, and I knew I needed it for studying later. I also had a small handful of roasted, salted almonds and chocolate chips. The chocolate and coffee cleared away the couscous/drosophila headache like magic. I watched the squirrels outside. I thought how sometimes I eat like them - little bits of nuts and dried fruit, chocolate. Do squirrels eat chocolate? Yes, I suppose they do.