the platonic ideal of potato salad

Raffi and Keith went to my inlaws’ for the holiday weekend and I stayed home and psychotically organized our apartment to within an inch of its life. “Nesting” is what this behavior is called and I’m sure there must be some hormonal component to the desire I am experiencing, at 35 weeks pregnant, to throw away most of our belongings and put the remaining ones in neatly labeled boxes. But “hormones!” is such a simplistic explanation for everything that women feel, even though hormones are also very real and important. There’s also this: for much of human history, preparing to give birth meant preparing for the not-unlikely prospect of one’s own death. Sorry, just “keeping it real!”

When Keith got back and we had time to have an actual conversation we both mentioned in passing that we are kind of … totally freaking out and feeling unprepared to bring another child into our lives. Like: what? Really? We’re really doing this? Us? Again? In this same third-floor walkup rental apartment? In addition to the child we already have and the other things we have to do with our lives? In this … world?

This of course is not a very comfortable feeling to go around having at the forefront of your consciousness all the time. It’s a lot easier to sublimate it into action directed at things you CAN control, such as what the inside of the freezer looks like.

Another fun thing I did this weekend, in addition to:

cleaning out and reorganizing the spices and baking supplies and pantry items, boiling and storing the new baby bottles and manual breast pump, consolidating all of Keith’s books about the former U.S.S.R. and its travails onto a new shelf (that I built, that he hates), cleaning off the tops of both our dressers (which function, in the absence of a home office, as “desks” might — i.e., as catchall dumps for all our work things plus actual garbage), purging unwanted publicist-spammed books (Ruth made $52 taking them to Unnameable!), cleaning the filthy cat-hair-encrusted luggage piles off the floor of the bedroom closet, getting rid of 3 years’ worth of Raffi clothes and shoes that are too stained and torn up for his little brother to potentially wear, and vacuuming up the huge piles of dust generated by this whole ordeal —

was that I spared myself cooking and cleaning up after meals almost entirely. On night one I made a giant thing of pasta with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella and ate it all while watching Barry on HBO, but other than that the only food I ate at home all weekend long was cereal and cheese toast. This felt SO good, unprecedentedly good. Even for me, a person who Loves Cooking and revels in being our household’s head chef and grocery C.P.O. , the daily grind of making breakfast, packed lunch and dinner can feel genuinely oppressive, and I found that when temporarily freed of the obligation to do it I had no desire to cook at all. I did make two batches of the Smitten Kitchen yogurt berry swirl popsicles, but I associate that impulse more with the organizing compulsion: having popsicles in the freezer, especially this kind which can be eaten at any time of day or night because they’re “healthy,” makes me feel like there’s one thing about the unknowable future that I have pinned down. (nb: I own but don’t love the molds recommended in that link; I also have Koji molds from Target which are a lot easier to unmold and which are pictured here along with my inevitably bitten thumb-cuticle.)

When Keith and Raffi returned, my desire to cook returned with them, thank goodness. Last night I made flank steak and broccolini and, semi-accidentally, the best potato salad I’ve ever made in my life?? It was loosely based on this Jamie Oliver recipe which like most of his recipes is more of a concept (ie no times and the amounts given are vague and flexible). I didn’t use mint or chili or “reduced-fat” creme fraiche (do we even have that in the US?). What I did was, as the potatoes were boiling in salted water I combined a lemon’s juice and zest with two thinly sliced in-season scallions, 1/4 tsp salt and a grind of pepper and half a container of Trader Joe’s creme fraiche, which created a dressing of heavy-creamish consistency. Then I let that sit around while the potatoes boiled and after they did and I cut them up and they cooled slightly I combined everything then added more salt to taste. This solved, for me, finding mayo potato salads inherently a little bit gross but vinaigrette (“German”) ones always sort of bland/oily.

I guess the next thing I should do (besides finish a draft of my novel) is make some food that can be frozen and reheated when I have a newborn but honestly everything you can freeze and reheat is a little gross, plus it’s summer.

I don’t really have a way of tying this up in a bow. See you on the other side, probably! f you can, please come to Angela Garbes’s Greenlight event on Monday, and if you’re in need of a new sadcom, check out Barry, it’s funny and has good performances.