It seems fitting that after weeks of working two jobs (three if you count the dissertation), barely spending any time at home, and completing the slow slide back into caffeinated morning beverages, that I should find myself at home, alone, battling a single housefly like it’s an entire invading army.
Now, look, I’d be the first to admit that I don’t speak Fly — but I do speak Contempt, and I’m pretty sure that “ZzzzzzzzZZZzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!” means something extremely critical, especially if uttered while circling someone’s head. The criticism might be in reference to me spending the past hour trying to redesign the secret menu banner instead of writing, or leaving the door open while watering the garden, or missing the 10:45 yoga class that I really should have gone to. So when I initially sat down to write this, I didn’t even look up to locate the source of the captious buzzing, because it took me a few minutes to figure out that it was coming from outside my own brain.
A few days ago, upon my return home from work, JM regaled me with stories of his violent daytime conquest of the houseflies at chez secret menu. These were brutal, manly stories, conjuring images of opening-handed slaps against the refrigerator and the shimmering crunch of exoskeletons against mass-circulated periodicals like Real Simple. At the time I didn’t think of it as more than an entertaining story about what happens when you spend all day working at home and then emerge completely stir-crazy from your late afternoon snack, but now that I find myself in the same position, I more fully understand the implications of a housefly invasion and the ensuing magazine riposte. When I’m out in the world trying to get things done, the low, steady buzz of self-critique is almost imperceptible against the clamor of external requests — but at home, with nothing but my own projects to wrangle, my life quickly becomes a shouting match between self-accusation and a very real, very palpable need to give myself a break. Put simply: at times like this, it’s a lot easier to outsource the nagging, smoosh it against the windowsill, and reward oneself for a battle well-fought with a handful of chocolate chips and 30 minutes of staring at an RSS feed. Because I am tired of punishing myself. I am tired of thinking there’s something wrong with me because I can’t work 20 hours straight. I want my Saturday morning.
Granted, this is not totally analogous to JM’s experience, but I like to think that it’s comparable. The guy spends a lot of time trapped in a laundry-room-sized office at the back of the house, prepping and planning and negotiating and scheduling, watching his own projects slide into the backseat and take a nap while he aces the work he does for other people. By the time an hour for a personal project rolls around, he’s tired. He gets distracted. He becomes consumed with his hunt for flies. I get it. Because when you’re alone, you’re never really alone. It’s you and the many yous that make you complicated, that buzz in your ears while you’re trying to live your life.
So, without further ado, today’s recipe — as created by JM and understood, at long last, by me.
-1 de-boned salmon fillet
-1 handful of fresh herbs (I used basil from the garden)
-salt and pepper
-2 tbs of butter
Pre-Heat the oven to 350. Zest 1 entire lemon. Juice that lemon. Put it all into a mixing bowl. Juice the other lemon. Put the juice aside…for now.
Dice up a handful of herbs and put it in the bowl. Melt the butter and put it into the bowl. Add salt and pepper to the bowl. Stir.
Cut the fish into as many pieces as you have people. Use a brush to paint the butter mixture onto the fish. Be generous. Very generous.
Put the fish in a skillet, painted side down and cook on the stove for three minutes or until the fish turns a bit brown.
Pour the remainder of the lemon juice into the mixing bowl with the salt/pepper/herb remnants. Mix it all again and coat the non-sautéed side with the new mixture. Flip the fish in the skillet (sautéed side up) and put it into the oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Remove. Photograph. Eat. Write and a record a song. Do dishes for fifty minutes. Fall asleep. Wake up the next day.