Isaac’s birthday! and Curried carrot, cauliflower and cashew bisque and seeded biscuits

It’s Isaac’s birthday! He was born seven years ago on a golden glowing fall day, just like this one. I felt such a surge of joy and love when he was born, and it hasn’t really abated in these last seven years. My sweet, small, jolly Isaac is getting tall and thin. It’s hard, with the second one, to notice all the changes – he’s always the little one. He’s so excited about his birthday. He was sad that halloween was cancelled, and needed assurance that nobody could cancel his birthday, not even the mayor. He was a robot for halloween, the cutest robot you’ve ever seen. I walked him to the consolation party at the school, and he looked out of his toilet-paper tube eye-holes at all his friends running around to the dance music. He sat on a metal folding chair against the wall, because it’s actually hard to do the robot, when you are a robot. He sat and waited for the faux trick-or-treeting. I wonder what goes on in his busy mind, at times like this. I want to tell him to run around with his friends, because I worry about him feeling lonely, but I’m glad that he doesn’t need to. He’s always been very self-sufficient and content with his own company. He’ll sit for long periods of time drawing and singing. Inventing worlds and creatures to live in them. He’s compelled to draw, and he’s almost always happy with the results. He sings constantly, about everything going on in his life. He sings his life, with sweet, pretty songs that get stuck in your head. He talks a lot, too. He’s always had a lot to say, and a smart, clear, peculiar way of saying it. He talks faster and louder and in a higher pitch when he’s nervous or angry, until only dogs can hear him. He likes to talk to everybody he meets, telling them things I sometimes wish he wouldn’t. (“Mom, isn’t that the boss you don’t like?” Heh heh, noooo, that’s some other boss…) You can’t really look at Isaac without wanting to snuggle him, and he’s a natural cuddler, he’ll cuddle you right out of bed. He’s a man who has invented an entire vocabulary around cuddling. There’s the circle cuddle, the tent cuddle, the birthday cuddle, the super-fast, intense, concentrated cuddle (actually I invented that one.) He’ll tell you that he loves you and you’re fun to be with, just because he feels it. (For now!) He’s frustratingly vague and flighty. He doesn’t understand the concept of walking in a straight line. He floats and spins and stops and goes. He won’t tell you he wants something till after it’s gone. He’ll walk right by a brand new bike on his birthday, back and forth many times, and you’ll have to tell him that it’s there. (Whereas Malcolm could sense a brand new bike in the house, if it was hidden behind closed doors several floors away.) He’s got pale golden hair, and pale soft skin, and he glows with all of the radiance of his bright cheerful sweetness.

I’m going to tell you something shocking. Isaac doesn’t generally like my cooking. It’s true! Hard to believe, I know. It’s tempting to say that Isaac only likes pale foods with butter, but the truth is he loves sharp, spicy strong-flavored food. He loves olives, and capers. And his favorite food is Indian food. Which is why he liked this soup. He refused to taste it, at first, but I gave him a small bite with basmati rice, and he went on to eat a whole bowl. He really liked it!! I was so proud. Everybody liked it, actually. It’s simple and flavorful, and smooth, and nice with the biscuits, which have a bit of texture from the seeds. I used nigella seeds, black sesame seeds and mustard seeds, but use what you have!

Here’s Memphis Minnie with I’m Gonna Bake My Biscuits. I’ll let Isaac choose the song when I tell you about his birthday cake!

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Curried butternut & black bean soup

Curried butternut black bean soup

When we decided to get Clio, David said, “You can’t be insane about this one!” What? Me? Insane about a dog? What could he be talking about? Sigh, it’s true, there’s no denying it. I was crazy about Steenbeck, and not always in a good way. I wouldn’t let anybody else walk her or keep her overnight. I avoided getting a full time job, so I wouldn’t have to leave her alone. No…more than that…I got myself fired from a full time job a few months after we adopted her. Heh heh heh. That’s right! It’s all Steenbeck’s fault! And before I was insane about Steenbeck, I was insane about David – not that I wouldn’t let anybody else walk him, but that I worried about him all the time. And before I met David, I worried about myself a lot – I worried myself sick, I gave myself an ulcer at 23. Well, meeting David helped me to worry less about myself, and getting Steenbeck helped me to worry less about David, and each succeeding boy has helped me to worry less about everyone else. Because, of course, I’m insane about my boys as well. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, lately, since Clio has been in the house. I don’t feel insane about her, but have I left her alone for a minute yet? I have not. I will though, I think I’ll be better this time. I’ve let Malcolm walk her all over town! He’s very good at it! It’s such a joy to see how pleased he is with the responsibility, and how much he likes taking care of her. Because there is pleasure in taking care of someone, as well as anxiety. That’s partly why we get dogs; it’s partly why we have children. It’s a joy to love someone, and nourish them, and protect them, and make them feel safe. And one thing the boys have taught me, is that it’s a joy to give them some freedom, too. To give them responsibility, and to let them do things for themselves. If I had my way, I’d probably still walk the boys to school when they’re in college. But I remember the thrill, when I was little, of running to the mailbox on the next corner. We had to cross a street! We’d go when it was getting dark and spooky! We were fine, and made it home safely. The boys are so happy finding their own new paths like that. Around the block. To the candy store across the street. Small journeys that become huge adventures when they go together, without me. It seems silly, but it makes them stronger and more confident. When Malcolm walks Clio he’s very serious and careful, a far cry from the boy who zips down the towpath waving sticks and startling passing cyclists. Watching him with her, I feel like I have learned some balance. I’ve learned that I’d worry more about not letting him explore the world on his own (sometimes), because he needs that freedom, and giving that to him is a way of nurturing him. He knows that I worry, he knows that I need to know where he is at all times, even when he’s not in my sight. But if I can find the right balance, and let him know that I worry just enough to be glad when he makes it home, but not enough to keep him home altogether, that makes the journey all the more wonderful. After school yesterday, Malcolm was crying-tired. Everything we said or did upset him. He threw himself on the couch. Little Clio jumped up and curled up beside him. She’s taking care of him, too!

Soup seems like such a perfect comfort this time of year. David asked for soups, and soups he will get. He’s got what seems like the start of a winter-long cold, so I was hoping this spicy, flavorful soup would make him feel better. He said it was just what he needed!! I made it with a butternut squash and fresh tomatoes, but if you’re reading this in the middle of pumpkin, I suspect you could make it with a can of pumpkin, a good can of diced tomatoes, and a good can of black beans, and it would be very good as well.

Here’s Elmore James’ It Hurts Me, Too, which is one of my favorite songs ever by anyone.

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