Homeward Heartstrings

16 Aug

pgh bridge

I am in-between. I quit my job as a process engineer and skipped out of Jackson, MS, in mid-June. I am now stationed at my parents’ house in Pittsburgh, PA, until I move to College Park, MD, to start a Master’s Program in Food Science at the University of Maryland. Living at home has been wonderful. No rent or bills, a sprawling bedroom, free food. Shopping at ALDI and cooking side by side with my mom, using a combination of her Pinterest finds and my Martha Stewart ones; rigorous, and sometimes explosive due to my poor sportsmanship, tennis matches with my brother; giggling and being straight-up weird with my sister (case in point: she strongly believes touching my right boob cures me of a bad mood); playing beautiful violin-piano arrangements with their author and my dad (or El Maestro, as I’m now fond of calling him in response to his, ‘That was good, but you’re a little flat on the C sharp and the notes need to be played more crisply in measure three.’) And then there’s the two little dogs, family dinners rarely excluding dessert, endless watermelon, insideJane Austen quote_home jokes, Netflix series-watching (waiting for season three of Peaky Blinders with bated breath), and just an extravagant amount of togetherness. So yes, I’m pretty happy, but I’m pretty sad too, because I can’t help but be homesick come August 22. On the one hand, I’m anxious for school to start. But on the other, I am too emotionally attached to four people and two dogs to truly want to leave them, ever. I feel burdened by how transient, and how transitional, life can be. The physical aspects of moving, though taxing, are easily forgotten once settled into the new home. But the emotional aspects, specifically being away from people we care about, linger on.

Why is home so important? The answer to this question likely varies from person to person, but I hope some can relate to mine. It’s because home is where I am loved most. Since my family has always lived in Pittsburgh, there is a certain tangible steadfastness attached to my sense of home. Yet the true comfort of being home, which would continue should my parents move to New Delhi tomorrow, is in the relationships I have with my family. They know me best, tease me the most, challenge my insecurities, point out my foibles, and affirm their unwavering faith in me. Jane Austen wrote, ‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort,’ and I heartily agree.

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Oto (left) and Bailey on a diagonal.

In Maryland, I won’t be able to change the setting on my panicked mom’s newly acquired Facebook from ‘Romanian’ (yet presumed to be Spanish) to Icelandic, then finally English. I won’t find two eight-pound fur balls clattering to greet me every morning. I won’t be able to lie on my sister’s bed, and within three minutes be talked into sporting a temporary ‘Hello Kitty’ tattoo on my right arm. I won’t have my brother strongly suggesting I read more classic ancient literature, and likewise take more measures to achieve a Greek God physique. And I won’t get to watch my dad playing with dogs Oto and Bailey, lying on the foyer rug to tickle them.

Is the anticipated nostalgia I’m feeling all bad? Will it prevent me from embracing adventures that lie ahead? I think not, if handled appropriately. In The Odyssey, Odysseus used memories of his son and wife, and of his kingdom, to motivate himself to endure the return trip from the Trojan War. My journey through graduate school will not be quite so epic, but certainly knowing how loved and supported I am by family will help to spur me on. Besides, how long can I really wallow over how loved I am, and how lovely my beloved are?

The following recipe for Thai butter sauce is a true tweak, and a Dolan household treasure. Unable to find a sufficient replacement recipe after losing a Williams Sonoma one, my sister and I have been concocting our own version of this sauce for years. It’s like quirky soul food, and therefore an apt metaphor for my family. We pair it with grilled chicken, rice, and a green vegetable, i.e. broccoli or sugar snap peas.

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THAI PEANUT BUTTER SAUCE

(Servings: ~10)

INGREDIENTS:

-1/2 white onion, finely choppedIMG_0630

-Handful cilantro, finely chopped

-1 Tbs. brown sugar

-1 Tbs. fish sauce

-2 Tbs. soy sauce

-1 Tbs. lime juice

-1 tsp. ginger

-1 tsp. curry powder

-1 tsp. Penzey satay sauce (Pittsburgh store; if not available, omit)

-1 tsp. chili powder

-1/2 tsp. cumin

-1/2 cup peanut butter

-1 can lite coconut milk

DIRECTIONS:

Combine chopped onion and 1/3 the can of coconut milk in a skillet. Turn on the heat to medium-low and let sit for several minutes, to cook the onions. Add remainder of milk, then subsequently add the rest of the ingredients minus the cilantro, stirring to combine. Remove from heat once thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

CALORIES per 1/4 cup serving: 106 

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