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Float

shadow I’m writing to you from the kitchen table, next to a tumbler of water and a clutch of overripe bananas.  The windows are open and Seymour is barking ferociously at the mailwoman–who, I’ve noticed, has taken to wearing headphones as she makes her way down our street.  When I see her cross the yard I toss him a tennis ball, and for a beat his barks are soft and muffled.  In that moment of quiet I breathe and the mailwoman breathes and I feel the baby kick at the walls of the snow globe in my belly and the mailwoman reaches for the rusty box by the door—

And the dog comes uncorked.  Like a jazz musician taking the mute from his trumpet, he drops the tennis ball and begins to wail again, and the poor mailwoman adjusts her earbuds and heads to the next house, where she will be greeted by a Rottweiler.

It’s a funny thing, to look down and see this bump in my middle.  It’s as if I’ve swallowed something I shouldn’t–like a porcelain teapot or a Cornish hen.  It’s not a huge belly yet, but it’s big enough to catch little flakes of breakfast pastry and the crumbs from dinner rolls.  Yesterday it even caught two pennies that fell from my wallet at the grocery store, and I had to fish around for them in the folds of my shirt while the teenage cashier stared.

I joined a swimming group for pregnant ladies last month.  We don’t do much swimming, to tell the truth–we sort of bob up and down in the warm pool like a bunch of rubber buoys.  Technically the class is taught by a physical therapist, but with all the splashing and chatting we can barely hear her so we just float and stretch and talk about the weirdness of things.  I try to float next to a woman named Patricia.  She’s nervous about giving birth because she can’t stand the sight of blood.  She’s a phlebotomist, but she passed out routinely in phlebotomy school, and she passed out on her first day at her first job at the hospital, right after she stuck a needle (perfectly, she would add) into the arm of her first patient.  Her husband is nervous too, and has taken to cooking her a pork chop every night to keep her strength up.  It’s driving her crazy.  “Why can’t he make me some chicken?” she howls, as we rock back and forth on our styrofoam pool noodles. “Or some rice?”

So tomorrow we’re each bringing a recipe to class for Patricia.  This is my contribution:

riceIt sounds boring–who needs a recipe for rice?–but this rice is special, I promise.  It’s webbed with mozzarella cheese and creamy with a touch of butter.  It’s sort of like risotto without any of the work.

saltAll you have to do is boil some Arborio rice, drain it, and stir in mozzarella (the real, soft kind) and butter and Parmesan.  The result is a bowl of rice so cheesy and creamy that you could lift a forkful of it 4 feet in the air and it would still be connected to the bowl by warm, shimmering threads of mozzarella.  It’s satisfying like polenta or risotto, and goes well with meatballs and marinara, or sauteed bell peppers and onions, or even just grilled vegetables with a balsamic drizzle.

cheesy rice

P.S.  I wrote a little humor piece that ran on McSweeney’s this week.  If you’re interested, you can read it here!

Marcella Hazan’s Mozzarella Rice {Download & Print Recipe}
from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan. This rice takes 30 minutes start to finish. Plan to serve the rice right away when it’s done.  I often make things in advance, but this is one of those times when you’d truly be missing out by not serving the dish immediately. It’s great reheated, but the mozzarella won’t be as supple and you’ll miss out on the experience of rice suspended in melty, cheesy threads of cheese.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. Arborio or Carnaroli rice

1 Tbsp. salt

4 Tbsp. butter

6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese (the real, soft kind that comes in a ball)

2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese

6 fresh basil leaves, ripped into pieces (optional)

Directions:

Bring 3 quarts of water and the salt to a rolling boil in a large pot. While you are waiting for the water to boil, cut the butter into a few pieces and leave it on the counter to soften.  Cut the mozzarella into tiny chunks.

When the water is at a rolling boil, add the rice and stir immediately for a few seconds.  Reduce the heat to a moderate, constant boil and cover.  Cook 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice during this time, until the rice is cooked to your liking. (The recipe recommends cooking the rice until al dente, but I haven’t ever managed to catch it that early enough, and my rice has been deliciously soft.  So, either way.)

Drain the rice and transfer it to a large bowl.  Immediately add the mozzarella and mix it so that it melts and strings out in the rice.  (This step always reminds me of making Rice Krispie treats.)  Add the Parmesan cheese and stir well so that it dissolves. Add the butter and stir until it, too, is melted.  Add the basil leaves, if you’re using them.

Serve immediately. Seriously. The rice is delicious reheated but the mozzarella will have lost its suppleness and you won’t get the long, melty threads.  It really is quite something to eat it right away.

Thunder napping in the sunThunder doesn’t bark at the mailwoman; she barks with Seymour for moral support.  If she’s in another room and hears him, she’ll come careening down the hallway, “sympathy barking,” we call it, until she figures out what’s going on.  Then, finding herself on the couch by the window for no reason, she’ll plop down and take a nap.

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36 Comments Post a comment
  1. When I was in teacher training at the ballet school, a classmate of mine was so squeamish that she’d basically pass out if someone even mentioned words like “muscle” or “blood.” (Not ideal what with three years of anatomy classes to get through.) It was the worst case I’ve ever seen, and I felt terribly for her. HOWEVER, we had to take a first aid course – she barely made it through all the blood talk, slumping to the floor on more than one occasion that day – and on her way home, a construction worker fell front a great height and landed on the sidewalk before her. She kept him alive until the paramedics got there. There was a lot of blood and other stuff. And she did it. I still can’t believe it. So, there is hope for Patricia!

    Also, I think this was one of your best posts. It made me feel all warm inside.

    October 1, 2014
    • I wish we could assign this outwardly squeamish ballet teacher to the ballet student who fell off the stage. I feel like there’s a beautiful friendship to be had there–one involving shared interests, pretty music, and prompt medical attention when necessary.
      (And thank you thank you for the kind words! It makes me nervous to write about being pregnant–I don’t want the blog to get all babified and jump the shark, but I want to keep writing honestly about my life, you know?)

      October 1, 2014
  2. Beautiful Capture of Thunder 🙂 Happy Hump Day or should I say Bump Day!

    October 1, 2014
    • Thunders are easiest spied on while they sleep. Catching an awake Thunder in a photograph is an entirely different undertaking…

      October 10, 2014
  3. Joy #

    Love reading your pregnancy posts. No worries about shark jumping. Still waiting for wedding photos?

    October 1, 2014
    • Thanks, Joy! The next post will be wedding photos, in fact! Finally. It’s been fun going through them–makes me relive it, in a way. It feels like the wedding was ages ago but it’s only been 2.5 months. Not even that!

      October 6, 2014
  4. McSweeney’s! Score!!

    October 1, 2014
    • Wheee! Life goal checked off with that one. Oh, how I adore McSweeney’s!

      October 10, 2014
  5. Oh man this sounds so good. You can’t go wrong with rice + cheese…

    And big congratulations on the McSweeney’s piece! I will be bragging to people all about it & how I internet-know you. 🙂

    October 1, 2014
  6. I’m at a loss to explain how intrigued I am by this recipe. I’ve never noticed it in Hazan’s book. I just sent the link to my boyfriend who is slowly working his way through her Essentials.

    October 1, 2014
    • Right?? I was intrigued too–enough to take a picture of the page in my sister-in-law’s cookbook and make it when I got home (and then become obsessed). Have you and the boyfriend come across any other real winners from the cookbook? I’d gladly try more from her. The only other thing of hers I’ve made is the tomato sauce with butter and onion (and it was fabulous).

      October 7, 2014
  7. This rice sounds so delicious and comforting! I love how easy it is too.

    October 1, 2014
    • I love how easy it is, too. I found it while flipping through my sister-in-law’s cookbook collection while I was visiting her and my brother in Atlanta last month. I used to hate rice (huh?) But over the past two years I’ve changed my mind. This is now my favortie rice ever!

      October 6, 2014
  8. Cindy Rogers #

    Y’all!

    October 1, 2014
  9. sue ellen #

    Please share your journey through uncharted waters with your ‘sweet little bump’ ~~~ 😉 Rice recipe looks scrumptious and a dish even I could prepare !!! Thanks ~~

    October 1, 2014
  10. Di #

    Exquisite. Your narrative and the recipe (not that I’ve tried it yet). Thanks.

    October 1, 2014
  11. Wow, it’s been longer than I realized since I’ve visited…you are now eating, and writing, for two? I love your voice, it lures me in without ever being sappy or self-indulgent. This recipe sounds like a perfect risotto without the bother thing — thanks!

    October 1, 2014
  12. jenny_o #

    This rice sounds so, so good. It sounds like comfort food to me. I think my daughter would like it too … she is also pregnant for the first time and due a wee bit before you. She’s been pretty nauseated throughout, and knowing that she likes rice and cheese makes me think this will go down a bit more easily than some things.

    Lovely post, and funny about Thunder “sympathy barking”! I wonder why dogs do that!

    October 2, 2014
    • Oh man, poor thing! I was only nauseous for 2-3 weeks, and during that time I only wanted oatmeal and little pastas. That’s so exciting that she’s pregnant, though. Congratulations! Does she know if she’s having a girl or a boy?

      October 6, 2014
      • jenny_o #

        Not that she has said 🙂 I can’t wait to be a grandma!

        October 7, 2014
  13. Sweet Roux #

    Love this! Is your dog a Boston Terrier? ❤

    October 2, 2014
    • Thanks! Close–she’s a French bulldog crossed with an English bulldog!

      October 6, 2014
      • Sweet Roux #

        Aww, she’s a beauty!!

        October 7, 2014
  14. OMG! Is that weird shadow by your knee a shark fin?! Are you about to jump it?! Noooooo! How dare you write in such a funny way about yourself?! The nerve. Now, on to myself: When I was pregnant with my first I was already taking a water aerobics class at the Y. It was the early morning boot camp so that I could have time to get to work. My classmates were between the ages of 60 and 80. Those ladies could rock a spiderman stretch. And fill the pool area with ALL the snark. Hey. Maybe that’s what you should do. Jump the snark. I’d suggest doing it in the “cornish hen” phase. By the time you hit the “goodlordamercy ain’t you done yet” phase, you aren’t going to be able to jump without throwing out a hip.

    October 2, 2014
    • Ha! You know what? The shadow by my knee is Seymour, who was nudging me as if to say “more walking, less instagramming!”

      October 6, 2014
  15. That cornish hen line made this piece! I’m just picturing you giving birth to a little hen now…which, admittedly, would probably be easier than a full-grown baby…

    October 2, 2014
  16. I’M SO EXCITED FOR YOUR LITTLE CORNISH HEN. ^_^

    Note to self – if I ever get a cornish hen stuck in my tummy I will have to join a bobbing class. Done.

    In the mean time, I’m going to make about 3948234 pots of this rice because risotto makes me tired and this, my dear, sounds absolutely lovely.

    Maybe you should share some with that poor mail woman while you’re at it 🙂

    October 2, 2014
    • The mail woman could probably eat 35342 lbs of rice with no problem. I bet she hits 30,000 steps a day on her pedometer, which is about 29,500 more than some of us over here…..

      October 7, 2014
  17. Love the photo of your shadow and your little baby bump … congratulations! Such adventures ahead for you.

    October 2, 2014
    • Thank you, Marlene! Yeah, we are in for it, all right. It’s going to be wild!

      October 6, 2014
  18. Say, that rice will go great with a pork chop. Just ask Thunder.

    October 2, 2014
    • Sandy Sue, we had house guests this weekend–4 of them plus a pug. They left Sunday night, and Thunder was a nightmare today. She’s like a kid throwing a tantrum the day after her birthday party–solely because it’s no longer her birthday. She must miss all the excitement, because today she chomped on Scott’s tennis shoes, which she hasn’t done since she was a year and a half old!

      October 7, 2014
      • Ah, visions of things to come with toddler tantrums!

        October 7, 2014
  19. Love your writing and your content. You are definitely someone I would enjoy knowing! Continue to be amazed at that little growing bump – he or she will change your life forever 😉

    October 16, 2014
  20. Dude. This is just so beautifully written. Really gorgeous. I’m sort of glad I missed it at the time so I could discover it today.

    December 19, 2014
    • Oh thank you, Carol Anne!

      December 25, 2014

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