Shrimp and Corn, Cheddar-Caramelized Onion Bread, and Defining Moments

Last week, my two younger daughters attended camp, which means that we only had one child at home for the week.  Let me repeat: two thirds of our offspring were away for six consecutive days.  I almost didn't know what to do with myself.

There's something special about getting to spend time with just one of your kids.  It's like shifting from zone defense to man-on-man.  There were no split decisions about what to have for dinner, and no need to urge anyone to compromise about what to do for the afternoon.  Evenings were even better because, at thirteen, she's old enough to watch movies I'd actually want to see.

One afternoon after taking a few of her friends swimming, she said, "I've been thinking.  Nobody else is home tonight.  It's just us.  We should have shrimp for dinner."

She loves shrimp, and her sisters rarely want to eat it.  Shrimp it would be.

We planned our menu, ran to the grocery store, then started cooking.

I explained how to peel and devein the shrimp, even as she squirmed and balked while handling them at first.  Using a simple recipe that a friend calls Summer in a Bowl, we sauteed the shrimp and some fresh corn in butter, stirred in fresh basil and chives, then seasoned with salt and pepper.  (It's delicious.)     

We also baked a wonderful recipe from Chef Nick Wallace found in a Southern Living article: Cheddar-Caramelized Onion Bread.  (This bread is phenomenal.  In fact, stop reading this post right now and go make it.  Then cry some happy tears as you eat.  Just plan ahead for the first step, which requires you to freeze a stick of butter for 30 minutes before you start, which is a crucial detail that slipped past my reading comprehension and briefly stalled our progress.)

We ate the dinner in stages.  First, the shrimp and corn, because those little buggers cook quickly.  Then, nearly a half hour later because I botched the initial butter-freezing stage, the bread was pulled piping hot from the oven in our cast iron skillet. 

The lag time between courses didn't matter at all, of course.  We filled that time sitting on the stools at our kitchen counter, talking and laughing.  In that moment, with nowhere else to be and nothing else to do, I understood what Chef Wallace meant in the article when he talked about the beauty of "slow food."

At some point that evening, it struck me that while her sisters were the ones "out there" having a "special" week, that my oldest daughter was having a special week, too.  So was I.  And this simple moment -- working together at the kitchen island, making a meal that was specifically tailored for her -- was a defining moment in its own right. 

It was just a quick shrimp dinner eventually followed by savory bread, but it also was more.  It was a bit of love served on a plate, just for her.

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