Mercury scares me. Not the planet, just the idea of it being linked to Autism. I’m like one of those psychos they feature on Law & Order, except I let my children get their vaccines. When I was pregnant, I wouldn’t even stand near a tuna sandwich, never mind eat one. The bean sprouts happen to love fish… as long as we call it chicken. Mostly we feed them blackened catfish, grilled tilapia, the Nemos of the bunch.
I was ready to mix things up with a new recipe: the one my mother always seems to mention when recounting her dinner parties. “You know, I made that swordfish dish everyone loves—the one with the wine-soaked raisins.” As a rule, alcohol-soaked fruit should be limited to sangrias and dysfunctional family outings. There’s a reason, for example, rum-drenched fruitcake is always served cold.
I asked Mom to email me her recipe while I was still at the market. I foraged for pine nuts—oddly, they’re never in the nut aisle or the baking needs aisle, but on some random stand in the produce section beside tropical trail mix. But when I read raisins, I was certain I had them at home. I mean, come on. Toddlers and raisins go together like Bill Maher and contrarianism. Without one, the other is Les Miserables.
When I rummaged through cabinets trying to find the raisins, I remembered adiosing them in the trash, for fear that maggots were living in the box. There. I said it. I’m afraid of raisins. At age five, I was having a playdate with Melissa Chesler, when Mom gave us a box of raisins to snack on… then noticed we were snacking on white rolling bugs. Maggots. Holy fuck. Ever since, I’ve had a dreaded fear of maggots hiding in my boxes of raisins. Rather than open the box to see if there are any visitors—because what if there are?!—I toss them into the trash without looking. I even keep the box in the fridge. But if I don’t recall buying them, they’re out. Long story long, I resorted to sweetened craisins for the recipe, and it was lovely. I’d absolutely make this again.
“More chicken!” Abigail insisted.
“Oh, you want more swordfish, huh?”
“Yes, that. Chicken, yes.”
“No chicken, Abby,” Lucas corrected her. “Cake! More cake!” Then the two of them began to sing Happy Birthday. To no one. Because they were sure the fish they were eating was indeed cake. That’s how awesome a chef I am.