By Barbara Sibbald
Saturday morning chores: Luc’s gone to buy groceries while Fiona makes the satay sauce for the chicken*. She’s washing up the blender when Trish barges through the backdoor. Bald.
— Omigosh, Trish! Your hair! What happened?
Trish bursts into tears.
— I know I look terrible. Like a tondue.
— Oh honey, says Fiona, wrapping her arms around her friend. It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.
Fiona can’t help reaching out to caress Trish’s head. There’s a fine stubble already, but her exposed skull is beautifully smooth.
— At least your head isn’t all lumpy, like mine, she says.
— It actually looks okay. What happened, Trish?
Trish wipes her eyes and sits down heavily, her legs splayed to accommodate her pregnant belly.
— Craig and I had a big fight. I quit my job yesterday.
— You did? But you’re not due for what…six weeks?
— Yeah, but I’m just too tired and big. My boss has been great, he let me sit on a stool behind the cash most of the day, but I feel like a cow and every customer who comes into the bookstore makes some comment or another.
— You look fabulous, Trish. And people comment because it’s a happy event, a new baby.
— Well anyway, I quit and Craig went ballistic last night: “You have no self-discipline,” says Trish, mimicking him. “Don’t expect me to support this family all by myself, that’s some 50s woman’s wet dream.”
— He actually said that: a wet dream? That’s pretty funny.
— Yeah, well, it flopped with me. Anyway, it’s the other stuff that upset me. He has no faith in me, no confidence.
— Did you tell him you were going to quit?
— No. It’s my business. Besides, I just couldn’t do it for one more minute.
— So you quit on the spot? Burned your bridges?
— It’s just a minimum wage job at a book store. A summer job. I thought you’d be supportive, Fee!
Trish snuffles into a squirrel’s nest of Kleenex. Fiona grasps Trish’s hand but shakes her head.
— Trish, I love you, you know that, but you’re in a relationship now, a family. It’s not just your business. I understand why Craig’s upset. You should have talked to him first.
— Oh, so now you’re taking his side!
— No, I’m not, Trish, I’m not taking anyone’s side. I’m looking at the big picture. In your defence, the mitigating factor is that you and Craig haven’t known each other very long and now you have a baby coming. It’s a lot to get used to. It took Marcel fifteen years to get his head around buying a house. People adapt to things at different rates. Craig’s probably anxious about the baby coming, about money. About his responsibilities.
— I guess, says Trish, slowly. He was really upset. We argued, then he went out, said he had to get away to think. But what about me? I’m the one who’s pregnant. I’m the one who has to give birth and look after the baby.
— Oh my goodness, says Fee, I just thought of something. What about mat leave? Will you still get it now that you’ve quit?
Trish shakes her head.
— I’m not eligible anyway. You have to have worked six hundred hours.
Fiona looks into Trish’s pale face.
— Oh, honey.
She wraps her arms around Trish, giving her a hug, then sits across the table from her.
— It’s always difficult getting used to living with someone, Fiona says.
— I can only speak from my experience. Counselling has always been good for us.
— You and Luc go?
— A few times a year. I think all couples need to go now and then, just to keep things going well. To check in. One of the key things is learning to be patient with each other. We expect so much. I mean it often comes from a good place — a desire to see the person we love succeed or to make a nice home together. But it gets distorted by our own agendas. You have love and limerence on your side, so I’m sure you can work it out. Do you want our counsellor’s phone number? She’s great. She’s very fair, doesn’t take sides at all, and she helps you set rules of engagement. You’ll like her.
— I don’t know, says Trish. I’m not sure if Craig will go.
— Just take the number, says Fee. You can talk to Craig about it. And if he wants to talk to Luc, I’m sure Luc won’t mind.
— Okay, says Trish reluctantly.
— Sorry I can’t help with your hair, says Fiona. Oh, but I do have a head wrap. Black silk. I bought it on sale at Holt’s eons ago, thinking I’d wear it, but I don’t have that dramatic flair. You, on the other hand….
— That would be great, Fee, says Trish, grinning. I’m such an idiot for doing this. I was just so upset with him and I wanted him to see.
— What did he say about it?
— He says I look great. And this morning he said he was sorry for getting so angry and that we needed to talk, but then he rushed off to work. Thank goodness I caught you at home.
She rubs her head.
— It matches your belly! jokes Fiona.
— Ha ha.
Marinade or sauce for chicken or pork. Makes wonderful chicken satay on skewers.
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 cup (200 g) raw peanuts (without skins)
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
4 shallots, chopped (or 1 onion)
1 teaspoon shrimp paste (optional)
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon red chili powder or ¼ teaspoon red chili seeds
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 cups water
1 tablespoon tamarind water or juice of a lime
3 tablespoons raw coconut
2-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped
- Heat a skillet on low heat (no oil). Put in the raw peanuts, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until they turn light brown. Remove from burner and leave for about 15 minutes to cool.
- Grind peanuts into a fine powder in a blender or with a mortar.
- Blend the garlic, shallots and shrimp paste with a mortar or in a blender with a pinch or two of salt.
- Heat the peanut oil in a wok or non-stick frying pan. Fry the blended paste in the oil for about 3 minutes on medium heat, reducing the heat if it starts to burn.
- Add the chili powder, brown sugar, soy sauce and water. Bring to a boil, add the ground peanuts.
- Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce becomes thick; about 8–10 minutes.
- Add the tamarind water or lemon juice and more salt, if needed.
You can refrigerate in a covered jar for up to two weeks. When you need some, take out the required amount, put it in a pan, add a few tablespoons of water, and reheat on low heat.
Thank you to Anne Fouillard for this wonderful recipe.