Cheese Sauce

I am still in a really good mood, thanks for asking, especially since you all have been writing me the nicest congratulatory emails this past week. My beautiful friend Kate sent me a New Zealand Lonely Planet guide the other day and you best believe that I have been poring over that thing like it’s my job, marking pages with post-its and making fiddly notes and envisioning the whole thing. It’s awesome. I’ve also noticed that when you announce to the world that you are going to New Zealand, all of a sudden a lot of people want to come visit you in New Zealand, or they want to meet up in Australia or something, and that’s also very exciting. I love having a project.

That said, I don’t know what it says about me that the high point of my weekend was making mac and cheese from scratch. I didn’t know I was making mac and cheese from scratch, of course. Treasa and I had had a conversation about butternut squash before I went to the market yesterday and all of a sudden I signed myself up to make dinner ( and dessert) for everyone that evening. I thought I was making some sort of schmancy baked pasta dish that involved a lot of chopping and caramelizing and the creation of a cheese sauce, my very first cheese sauce. I was so excited about this cheese sauce. There was a little bit of a shakeup when I had to substitute leeks for shallots and also when I sort of burned my hand with bacon grease, true, but I was all up on that cheese sauce. I was grating and pouring and whisking and everything was going great and I was sort of mentally patting myself on the back for making a sauce, man. I had never made a sauce. And then I put the pasta in the cheese sauce and was in mid-self-congratulation when all of a sudden I looked down and realized that “baked pasta dish” actually equals “mac and cheese casserole.” Which was fine and good and we all ate it and liked it and there’s a lot left over so if you want some for your work lunch you’re totally welcome to come over. It’s just a little bit of a letdown, cheese sauce notwithstanding. This has happened to me once before, when I was all excited to make this chocolate thing out of an Italian cookbook that was called something like Torta Cioccolata Incantevole or something, and I was all hand-chopping the chocolate just like the recipe said and carefully sifting the flour and it turns out I made…brownies. I just think there should be some sort of note somewhere in the recipe, you know?

But if the worst thing that happens to you on any given day is that you make a cheese sauce (from scratch!) and have dinner with your friends, then we should all be so lucky, right? The rest of my weekend involved errands and cupcakes and gossip and reading books and watching movies. I would have preferred something like a Christmas party to go to, and Saturday evening when I was about six chapters into my book I did look up and feel a little stupid for not having had planned my social calendar a little better, but the book ended up being pretty good and I hit the flannel sheets in my freezing cold room pretty pleased with myself with the turn of events over the past week.

The other day I woke up for work and was trying to convince myself to get out of bed when I had this weird swirly realization that…that this time next year, I guess, I won’t be in those sheets, in that bed, in my beautiful cloud room. I’m not ready to leave just yet, I have so much to do and think about and consider…but next Christmas I will be writing to you about living in another country and about being away from my family and friends for the holidays for the first time ever, about all the new and strange and all the familiar and comforting things and people that I’ll find there. I won’t need flannel sheets, and I won’t be making fancy mac and cheese for dinner because it will be summer, and what will happen between then and now?

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