In Morocco, Friday is the day one eats couscous. I'm not sure why this is the tradition, maybe it's a celebration of the work weeks end and the beginning of family time. Today Sky and I are making authentic Moroccan couscous together. I've had this date on my calendar for a week.
We have four kids. And four kids who like to cook. As you can imagine four kids "helping" in the kitchen simultaneously with sharp knives and gas flames (especially with the girls long hair) turns me into Gorden Ramsay and my kitchen into Hell's Kitchen. So when Sky has a half day for middle school parent conferences I take my opportunity to spend time with just one kitchen helper. I have the day planned out. I'll pick him up from school and we'll have lunch together, go to his conferences and come back and cook together. We'll talk, we'll laugh and we'll just enjoy one anothers company with no distractions. In my mind it's the perfect day.
As I'm waiting for the bell to ring I run into the mom of one of Sky's friends. She invites Sky over for the afternoon. I explain our date and politely decline, even though I have a twinge of guilt because Sky would have loved that too. But today's our date so I'm being selfish. Sky appears with the cool ambivalent look of a 12 year old middle schooler greeting his mom at school. I review the unwritten middle school mom rules. First, do not call him "honey" or any other affectionate term that indicates we are indeed related and genuinely like each other. Absolutely do not hug or wrap your arm around said child. And kissing your mom in public? Are you kidding me? It's the kiss of death for his middle school social life. So we walk to the cafeteria and I maintain an appropriate semi-aloof mom distance. We get our lunches and then he spots a friend. You know what comes next right? So did I. He wants to sit and eat with him. Even though I saw it coming it still stung a bit. Even though I'm acting all mom casual like it's no big deal. I have some reading to catch up on anyway. We'll meet up after lunch ok bud? (I think bud is familiar enough without being over the top.) After lunch, we go to his conferences. Now Sky has faced so many challenges, but this year has been especially hard. I'm proud of how far he's come, how kind and caring he is and his unique brilliance. (Despite the fact that his unique brilliance also drives me out of my mind more times than not.) The tears are welling in my eyes. Oh I forgot unwritten middle schooler rule number 4: Do not cry with hapiness at your child's parent teacher conference. Can you imagine if his friends found out that his mom loves him and is proud of him? How embarrassing!
Sky and I are finally home. Just the two of us. Hon, can you get the carrots out of the fridge? We get out the stock pot, the steamer and all the ingredients. Sky starts chopping the carrots, turnips, cucumbers and cabbage while I start browning the chicken with olive oil, saffron, cumin, coriander and cinnamon.
When all the veggies are chopped and the chicken is browned we place the veggies on top of the chicken in the stockpot and add the chicken stock and wait for it to boil. And that's where the real stuff happens. The jokes, small quips and ultimately the stories and questions, both big and small. This is my invitation to his world which becomes more crowded every year with more friends, more challenges, more choice, more independence and more opportunities.
The pot is boiling and it's time to prepare the couscous. We pour the couscous out of the package and into a bowl. I pour olive oil into Sky's hands and he massages it through the couscous adding salt and pepper as we go. When it's just a bit sticky it's ready to go in the steamer. We know we have added enough olive oil when the couscous doesn't fall through the holes and we place it on top of the full stock pot and turn the gas down to a low heat and let it simmer.
How did he get to be 12 so quickly? Why won't he stop reminding me that it's only 3 years until he can get a driver's permit? Why does he always ask to wear deodorant but constantly forgets to wash his feet in the shower? When will he remember that his sleeve is neither a napkin nor a tissue? And I'm positive he knows the location of the hamper, so why are his clothes constantly on the floor? And the answer is because he needs me, because he's still just 12. Thank god! So I'll savor the sweet moments with him when they come. And those other moments when you've told him for the 5th time to put the milk away? Someday I'll be senile enough to forget that or dementia will put a new perspective on how funny that was.
Our chicken and veggies are cooked through. The couscous isn't done. I don't have a proper couscous pot and borrowed a steamer from a friend and it doesn't fit correctly. So we finish steaming the couscous over a smaller pot filled with boiling water and I burn it a bit. Oops. The kitchen is filled with a non-authentic burnt couscous smell which lingers days afterward. Sky suggests we eat Moroccan style which means we pile it in a huge bowl that we all eat from. Not only does that mean less dishes to wash, but that it's not too gross to share your germs with your mom (and the rest of your family), in the privacy of your own home of course. We finish off our couscous with some butter and fluff it. By the way, I never said authentic Moroccan couscous is low fat. We pile it in the bowl and Sky arranges the chicken and veggies on top of it. It's beautiful, despite the smokey aroma.
It's time to eat and we all huddle around the bowl with our spoons. The kids are racing to get their favorite items on their spoon before someone else beats them to it. So essentially it's like playing Hungry Hippo with a bowl of couscous. So it was a while before we realized it's kinda dry. Then I remember that I forgot to pour the stock on the couscous. It's better, but still not as good as Moroccan couscous made by a Moroccan. It's our first attempt. Next time we'll do it with a real couscous pot. I wonder if River would go on a date with me to the medina to get a pot? I just hope I get a chance to have a date with him alone before I'm senile and he's driving me to Walmart so I can navigate the store on one of those motorized scooters to get my depends.