When my mannequin’s head popped off and rolled onto the floor, Marie Antoinette-style, and I hit its neck repeatedly on the table in an attempt to screw the head back on–thereby horrifying the infant CPR teacher, embarrassing Scott, and possibly causing Child Protective Services to preemptively open a file–it became clear that we need to stop taking classes and just have this baby already.
Our timing is good because he’s due next Tuesday. Next Tuesday! I’ve got all the signs of being nine months pregnant–I waddle like a penguin, I burp like I’ve just chugged a beer, I eat more Nutella in a week than a French teenager does in a year–but the actual baby part doesn’t compute. When I walk past the nursery we set up, I think to myself, “that’s a baby’s room,” as if I’m looking at something that’s not really relevant to my life, like an Audi dealership or a golf course.
We’re physically ready for his arrival, even if our emotional awareness of what’s happening is on par with that of a goldfish. The car seat is installed. The freezer is stocked with stews and homemade bread. The hospital bag is packed and waiting by the door. Technically, we’re prepared (except that my car is blocked into the garage by two feet of snow, we only have 4 days’ worth of diapers, and the fancy new baby monitor seems to have eaten our wireless connection.)
Late at night, when I lie in bed awake and burping, I wonder how I’ll remember this last week before everything changed. It’s been quiet. Work has simmered down as if on cue, and I’ve had time to start studying for the bar exam, which I’m taking again in July because my New York license doesn’t transfer over to Illinois. Volume I of the study guide is several thousand pages—so heavy that when I heave it onto the passenger seat of my car, it triggers the fasten seatbelt ding. Sometimes I study at a coffee shop and sometimes at a bookstore. It’s so cold here that Barnes & Noble is like an indoor playground on weekends and snow days. Yesterday, to my surprise, a couple of ruddy-nosed children bobbed and weaved between the shelves of the fiction section yelling “Marco!” “Polo!”
I cook. I make lentil minestrone, roasted butternut squash, carrot cake, meatloaf—and I freeze it for later. For after the baby comes.
1 medium butternut squash
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (you can substitute olive oil)
1 Tablespoon + 1 tsp. brown sugar (for sweeter squash, use 2 T)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt
a dash of cumin (only if you like cumin)
feta cheese (how much is up to you–more and it will be more tangy and salty (in a good way), less and it’ll be sweeter)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. (An oven thermometer really helps here–I have never had an oven that actually runs 425 when I set it to 425–I always have to set mine lower.)
Peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. Cut it down the middle lengthwise if you can, otherwise cut it in half and then lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out with a soup spoon and discard. Cut the squash into 1″ or 1.5″ cubes and place in a large bowl. If you’re using olive oil, drizzle it over the squash. If you’re using coconut oil, heat the oil and drizzle it over the squash. (Use 2 liquid Tablespoons, not 2 solid Tablespoons of coconut oil.) Toss the squash with the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cumin (if using) until it’s evenly coated.
Spread the squash in a thin layer onto a baking sheet or two (you can use however many sheets you want, but just make sure that the pan isn’t crowded, otherwise the squash will sort of steam instead of caramelize and brown.) Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring part-way through, until the squash is caramelized and tender when pierced with a fork.
Transfer the squash to a bowl and, if serving immediately, toss with feta to taste. If you’re not serving it immediately, wait to add the feta.