Saturday Morning Muffins and Evening Paella

I dreamt of Big Balls the other night.  (MOM!  Get your head out of the gutter!  I’m talking about our old family cat.) Big Balls was an orange tomcat with personality to spare.  His Christian name was Valentino but after he hit puberty he went by Big Balls. And, much to the dismay of other parents in our neighbourhood, all the kids called him this.  He was such a bruiser: he’d disappear for three or four days doing god knows what with trampy tabby cats, and come back a little beaten up, starving and very tired. And then he’d recuperate and hit the town again.  He was also very affectionate, and purred like a lion.  

Unfortunately, when I hit puberty I developed an allergy to Big Balls.  My breathing, not to mention my swollen eyes and hives, got so bad that either Big Balls or me had to go. A student at Sparta Public School, where my dad taught for years and years, said we could bring Big Balls to his family farm.  So off he went.

But that wasn’t the last time I saw my dear cat:  I was walking home one day after school, months after Big Balls had left, and found my dad and older brother about to get into the K-Car.  My dad was hanging onto one of those two-tone leather Adidas gym bags.  

Foodie:  Hey guys.  What’s up?

Dad:  Oh nothing.  

And then the bag started to move uncontrollably.  My dad tried desperately to hide it, but nobody can hide Big Balls from me.  Turns out that he’d found his way home from that farm all on his very own, just like in The Incredible Journey!  And what’s more, is that he’d come home twice before, which my family hid from me fearing that I wouldn’t be able to part with him again.   

I knew he had to go though.  I insisted on taking him to the farm myself this time. So, Big Balls sat in the back with me (out of the Adidas bag,) and oddly, he made no fuss. In fact, he sort of just lay there. His paws were dead weight and he wasn’t even purring. It was like he knew that this was it.  It truly was the saddest fucking sight.  I remember getting to the lovely farm and thinking why would Big Balls want to leave this idyllic place?!  I had to lift him out and nudge him along.  Finally, he picked himself up, and slowly sauntered over to the barn, in amongst the haystacks.  And that was the last time I saw Big Balls.

Anyway, I think I dreamt of him because recently at a staff function I was outed as not being a pet person.  Perhaps I felt some anxiety about my co-workers thinking of me as a monster because who doesn’t like pets?  I just don’t like animals inside my home mostly because I wouldn’t be able to function as a human with my allergies.  And maybe it has to do with Big Balls too.  Once you’ve had them that big, how can you move forward?

So I woke up a little sad, and very early on Saturday morning knowing.  I knew that that I had to make oatbran blueberry muffins.  I’ve made them before and they’re delicious, not to mention low in fat and high in fiber. I needed to buy blueberries and eggs though.

Foodie:  Are you awake?

Beast:  What time is it?

Foodie:  It’s 8:50am.

Beast:   (Silence.)

Foodie:  I’m going to get blueberries and make some of those healthy muffins.  Do you want anything?

Beast:  (Silence.)

After I picked up my ingredients, and gathered all the Saturday papers on the front porch, I went straight to work making my muffins.  I was having a grand time until the Beast came downstairs.

Beast: Who called this morning?

Foodie:  I don’t know–I was out getting blueberries.

Beast (checking the messages):  It was your little friend Sarah!  

Foodie:  Oh goodie!  What did she say?

Beast:  I don’t know–something about soccer.  Who calls at 9 in the morning on Saturday?  Your friends do! That’s who!  Not my friends.  

Foodie:  Why are you so grumpy?

Beast:  Saturday is my only sleep in day and you woke me up and then Sarah woke me up and I’m working six days a week and I’m still recovering from a serious illness (no he isn’t) and where is the coffee?  There’s not even coffee yet?

Foodie:  I have to make the muffins first and then I’ll make the coffee!  

Beast:  Unbelievable.

The Beast was a fright!  His hair and beard were wild and he was only in his underwear, which were fuchsia-coloured briefs I believe, and he looked like a mad man! He pushed his way into my work station and ground the beans and got the coffee on the go and then he attempted to clean up his mess.

Foodie:  Let me clean that up. You’re not doing a very good job.

Then the Beast just looked at me like I was the devil and turned on his heels and left the kitchen.  But it’s hard to be intimidated of somebody when they’re wearing pink underwear.  

Anyway, the muffins turned out great.  

I ate mine in the sun room with my favourite sections of the paper.  The Beast read his sections in the living room.  It was like we were living separate lives.  And then the phone rang.

Beast:  Oh hi Nick Edwards!  So nice of you to call at 11:00 am on this beautiful Saturday morning!

Yeah, yeah yeah.  So the Beast went off to play music with some boyfriends and I met Sarah and her three-year-old son in the park to play soccer.  We had such a lovely afternoon together.  Sarah, who is very pregnant with her second child, and her young son weren’t nearly as fast or agile as I was on the field.  Plus the kid couldn’t even get the ball away from me!  That’s how good I was!  And to be honest, he was a bit of a cry baby about the whole thing.

On my way home, I accidently bought some magazines,

And one of them, not sure which, inspired me to get my family of two back on track. I decided to make paella for dinner.  I think it requires the same amount of diligence as risotto does in terms of hovering over the pot and stirring.  But because I’ve never made paella, I thought I’d start with a cheater’s version.  I found the recipe in that Food Matters book by Mark Bittman.  As luck would have it, the recipe is available online here via Google Books.  

If you decide to give it a go, do it soon while there are still such gorgeous, ripe tomatoes available.  

And also, I kept mine in the oven for an hour, not 30 minutes. And yes, the seafood (shrimp in this case) gets a little overcooked, but it didn’t detract too much from the meal.

It turned out wonderfully in fact.  

Beast:  This is really good!

Foodie:  Thank you.  I think it’s really good too.  In fact, I think it’s a keeper of a recipe.  Is there anything else you have to say.

Beast:  It’s really good. (Pause)  Thank you for making it?  (Pause)  Oh, you mean about this morning.

Foodie:  Yes I do.

Beast:  I’m sorry that you and Sarah both woke me up causing me to be unpleasant.

Foodie:  I just don’t like fighting on Saturday mornings.  It’s not a very nice way to start the weekend.

Beast: We weren’t fighting, really.  

Foodie: I know that it’s not nice being woken up.  I was just so excited about those damn muffins.  

Beast:  Want to watch an episode of the History of Britain?

Foodie:  Sure.  Do you know that Sarah is also watching that series?

Beast:  Really?  Tell Sarah I’m sorry for calling her all those bad names.

Foodie:  What bad names?

Beast:  I may have called you and Sarah bad names in my head.  

Foodie:  Fair enough.  I call you and your friends bad names when they call after 10:00pm.  

Beast:  You’re crazy.  The normal cut-off time is 11:00pm.  

Foodie:  Nope.  Anything after 10:00pm is inappropriate.

Beast:  That’s unheard of.

Foodie:  You know what?  You’re still acting like you’ve got swollen balls.  You can’t keep playing that card.

Beast:  It was traumatic.  

You know what’s traumatic for anyone following?  All this talk of balls.  Big Balls, sore balls.  It’s got to end.

Foodie:  **1/2

Beast:  ***

Footnote:  This post is dedicated to Big Balls (1983 – ?). 

9 responses to “Saturday Morning Muffins and Evening Paella

  1. It’s 10:00 pm unless pre-arranged, someone is ill or has died, or the caller in question is your very best friend in the world, without whom you could not live … much like I can no longer live without your writing. It can call me at all hours.

  2. Worth the wait. I remain however, a bit miffed at the delay.

  3. I do not know what to make of the fact that you have considerately written “Knock please” above the door of Big Balls’ cardboard lair, and added some windows and what appears to be a mailbox. Suffice it to say, that I, normally an emotionless automaton, am a little verklempt.

    Unless that cardboard box was your childhood bedroom, in which case you have really risen above the privations of your upbringing. Kudos.

  4. That is a lot of bold. HTML codes are tricky.

  5. Foodie, trust me cats are evil anyway. It is better things went the way they did.

  6. I’m becoming a fan of your blog…so when are you coming back to florence?

    • Soon I hope Sofia, not only to see good friends, but also to eat that almond granita we had near the Accademia. I dream of that stuff.

  7. Brother of the beast

    You know what’s one of my favorite AC/DC songs? Big Balls…… from the exceptional album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap…….. Some Balls are held for charity, and some for fancy dress, but when they’re held for pleasure they’re the balls that I like best…… that’s on the same album as the wedding song Laura and I unanimously picked……. Love At First Feel……. great record…….

  8. First of all, tell the Beast that he doesn’t have to worry about 9 am phone calls on Saturday anymore. I’ll be dropping off the three-year old “cry baby” shortly after his customary 5:30 am wake up. Second of all, I kicked both of your asses on the soccer field that day. Stop showing off for your readers.

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