I got home late from work today after staying an extra hour to finish a report before the weekend. Driving home under the mid-autumn twilight, orange leaves now charcoal black, I started dreaming. Driving is one of my favorite places to plan my next meal or invent new recipes. I get about a half hour each way on my commute to get lost in my thoughts (or a podcast). If Michael Barbaro’s reporting on The Daily podcast isn’t totally compelling that day, my mind will naturally wander to food.
Friday dinners usually mean dining out or eating leftovers. I cook nearly every weeknight, so there are plenty of options for when the weekend rolls around and everyone’s schedule is a bit looser. As I walked through the door, thinking about the leftover turkey burgers in the fridge, I was surprised to see that my parents weren’t home yet. It was nearly 7pm. My phone lit up and I saw that Mom had texted: “We’re going to the Guitar Center, Dad needs something for his guitar.” Then a little while later, “At the store so Dad can get beer.” Now you understand what my aspiring rock star father does on Friday nights.
Guess I’d eat dinner alone. I usually hate this; the thought of it disappoints me because I love sharing good food with good people. But sometimes it gives me a little sense of freedom; a twinge of deviousness comes out when I find myself home alone, hungry, and allowed to make any dining decision I want. So I didn’t repeat the usual turkey burger, lettuce, tomato, pickle combo that the family shared a couple nights before. I eyed the leftover guacamole from Sunday’s taco night, along with some roasted onions and peppers from that same occasion. I noticed the jar of Vegan Chipotle mayo that I had bought weeks ago solely out of curiosity. Tonight I was going to let my curiosity get the best of me.
I slathered chipotle mayo on the top bun, guac on the bottom, then noticed some fried jalapeño crisps in our pantry. I think you’re supposed to put them on salads. But I pasted them to the bottom bun with the guacamole. They added spice and crunch at the same time, a double whammy of flavor and texture. I slid the burger onto the bun and topped it with a layer of romaine lettuce, then smushed the two buns together. This might be my favorite part of the burger-making process. All the disparate ingredients snuggle up next to each other and create one unified sandwich (is a burger a sandwich?), ready to cuddle up with your taste buds. I grabbed my laptop, put on an episode of Valerie’s Home Cooking, and tucked into my meal. The crunch of the fried jalapeños, the creaminess of the guacamole, and the smokiness of the Vegan chipotle mayo (actually quite good!) elevated my dinner to Bobby’s Burger Palace status. I got to explore new flavors and textures without fear that my family wouldn’t like it and I got to take my time in the process, not racing against a weeknight clock. I learned something new about flavors I enjoy and meals I gravitate towards. I took some time to get to know myself a little bit better. It’s not so bad to be alone on a Friday night.