16 minutes

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Every night for the past week we have been up with a 6 month old baby who coughs with an unnerving violence for a few hours at a time. In his normal state Jude reminds us of a raccoon, rooting through books and laundry and diapers and whatever he may find on the floor, taking a break here and there to smile and bat his blue eyes at us, then continue on his merry escapade. It was only recently we learned that he has croup.

A week ago we took Jude into acute care for obvious pink eye and learned that he also had an infection in his right ear. Two days ago I took him to his regular doctor. The infection had spread to both ears. His eyes were still pink and the coughing persisted. Croup indeed. My doctor laughed politely when I asked if he could return to day care the following day. Maybe Monday, he said.

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. . .

When my 4 year old son, Porter, got sick my knee-jerk reaction was to call the doctor at all hours. I would report Porter’s condition with an urgent tone, half-believing he was about to die. And maybe its because Jude is our second baby that I felt less worried. Maybe I believed my experience raising Porter through babyhood had taught me a thing or two about getting a sick baby well. And yet…. after a week of nights spent in a hot bathroom, the shower running to soothe his throat, the endless buzzing of a nebulizer and trying just about everything else I could think of to comfort him did I pick up the phone to talk to an on-call nurse. She heard the sound of his cough and knew instantly what it was.

. . .

I have missed a full week of work now. My long-term substitute from maternity leave has graciously taken my place and I love her so much for it. By now, both of my eyes are pink and blurry and my hair wavy and thick from the humidity of hot bathroom sessions with a coughing baby. Our days have been spent focusing on small tasks: baking a loaf of bread, frosting frozen cupcakes, building with legos, playing cards and lots and lots of free-play. Porter is so good at that. And Jude, always looking much more like himself during day hours roots around and makes very serious, and now successful efforts to pull himself up on things and stand.

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. . .

I woke up to the sound of my husband making coffee yesterday morning. It reminded me of my maternity leave mornings; the heavy thud of his boots as he packed for his very brisk bike ride to work. Our dog’s collar tags jingled as he moved out of Jared’s way in our small kitchen. I rolled over and squinted in the dark to read the clock. A few hours of sleep is better than none.

Our bed sheets had been replaced by blankets from the basement. Jude’s coughing fits had caused him to throw up quite a lot the night before. Our sheets, comforter, and several changes of clothes now made a sad pile on the laundry room floor. My pajamas were a conglomeration of what I could find in my closet at 3 am. I put on socks and walked lightly through the short hallway to the boy’s room to have a peek at the finally peaceful sleepers. Instead I found them both awake.

Jude was lazily playing with his feet in his crib, the humidifier humming beside him, as if the night before never happened. And Porter, hot as usual, blankets kicked to the end of the bed, shirt-off and wide eyed, “Is it morning yet?”

Yes, I say, and no day care today. Jude has croup.

I pulled Jude, my chubby little raccoon from the crib and heard Porter whisper, “Yessss” as he jumped from bed, his ragged stuffed cat thrown over his naked shoulder.

I have croup too, Porter said. That is why I sleep with my eyes open.

Oh, I said. How long have you two been awake?

Porter answered immediately. About 16 minutes.

. . .

We have had our share of sick bugs thriving and spreading under our roof. But there have been a few positive things about being home this week. One being that I am finding my way back into the kitchen. In all seriousness, if you had asked me to make dinner a few weeks ago I would stared at you blankly and maybe started crying. Quietly at first. Then deep, throaty, dramatic sobs.

This week, however, I found myself rummaging through the freezer for bacon and peeling potatoes and mincing garlic and pulling pots and pans from cupboards and it dawned on me… THIS is what I do. This is what feels right.

. . .

This is a recipe for a hash we have made many, many times. We love it because it is robust and substantial and brings some color to our winter kitchen table. We have subbed the bacon for sausage and almost liked it better. I also like to use red onions to bring a little color and bite, but yellow or even white would work fine here as well. Feel free to experiment with spices, herbs, and even the base ingredients. Like Megan Gordon, you could make this a “red flannel” hash by subbing beets for the red potatoes. I love the earthy flavor of buckwheat, but you can substitute any grain that sounds appealing. You can also fry a few eggs to serve over top! With hash, the possibilities are endless.

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Sweet Potato and Buckwheat Hash

Adapted from a combination of My New Roots and Megan Gordon’s Whole Grain Mornings with a few touches of our own

Served 4

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 medium red potatoes, washed, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup cooked buckwheat groats
  • Sour cream for serving (optional)
  • Fresh parsley for serving (optional… chives would be nice too!)
  • Hot Sauce (option… though Jared would disagree)

In a large bowl toss potatoes, salt, pepper and dill. Set aside

In a large pan cook the bacon until brown and crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Reserve at least 2 Tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan.

In the same pan, sauté onions until fragrant and translucent, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Pour potato mixture into skillet and, with a wooden spoon, toss to coat. Press everything down firmly in a layer with a spatula and cover. Cook over medium heat for 25 minutes, checking every 10-15 minutes to turn the potatoes and prevent burning.

Once the potatoes are fully cooked pour buckwheat over hash and toss to combine. Cover a cook a few more minutes to heat the buckwheat. Remove from heat.

Serve with sour cream, under a fried egg, dashed on or sauce sprinkled with fresh herbs, or, if you are Porter, covered in ketchup.