What’s cooking really about?
What to do with frozen spaghetti? A koan.

Run Chicken Run

Chicken_Pox My fears of the evening before were misplaced. I came home to a hero's welcome. Despite the fever, Nina was in good spirits, as was Pinta and Santa Maria. They had all, coincidentally, just dined on my Bolognese, so I wasn't all that surprised that everyone was so happy.

This morning we got a little more insight into Nina's illness. She had red, bite-like marks all over—a classic indicator of chicken pox. On the whole vaccination question, we've tried to take a middle path—spacing out all the legally required ones and passing on the optional ones—and only time will tell if our middle path is a hard road. We hadn't vaccinated her or her sister against the virus, and now she has come down with it. And shortly, presumably, her sister will also.

Last night the kids slept well and didn’t know about the chicken pox and thus weren't too concerned. But we’re just getting started with the illness, and whenever the kids are sick, it’s impossible for me to concentrate. I feel what I imagine a credit card must feel when it comes in too close proximity to a magnetic field, all my data gets erased. My mind becomes fogged and I can’t think straight.

So it wasn’t surprising this evening when I heard strange sounds coming from the kitchen. We had just put the kids to bed and were getting started on our dinner of black beans, rice, and chicken.

Santa Maria had worked all day. As a treat for Nina, she stopped on her way home to buy some pink tulips, and, as a treat for herself, a ripe avocado. She quickly turned it into a deliciously fresh batch of guacamole and we postponed our dinner to enjoy its creamy, transporting richness.

Santa Maria can make guacamole in the time it takes me to get dressed. A long time ago, I worked in a retail fish market with a somewhat fallen Culinary Institute of America chef. When he made a linguini alle vongole, he would claim it was so good that it would make your socks go up and down. Santa Maria’s guacamole is in the same league.

We were sitting in the dining room eating our chips and guacamole when I thought I heard the nice rustling and crackling sounds of an open fire. I was so caught up in my guacamole-induced reverie that it took me a few minutes of listening to remember that we do not have a fireplace in our apartment. That sound, then, could only mean that something was burning in the kitchen.

I dashed from my chair to find the black beans I had put on the stove were getting singed. I had turned the flame up too high. We managed to salvage the top half of the beans. The rest we had to throw away.  The guacamole, however, was worth it, and I’ll leave you with Santa Maria’s recipe.

Note: The above image is an electron micrograph of a Varicella (Chickenpox) Virus, courtesy of the CDC/ Dr. Erskine Palmer; B.G. Partin.


  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 4 shakes Tabasco
  • 1 sprinkle salt
  • 3 tablespoons diced tomato
  • 1 tablespoon diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon diced cilantro, optional

        Peel and mash the avocado and combine with the other ingredients.

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