Za’atar chicken with garlicky yogurt and life on Lexapro

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Writing an angry blog when you take out the angry part isn’t easy.

Also, writing a blog when you take out the motivated-by-anxiety-about-how-little-you’ve-accomplished-by-age-42 part is not easy.

I’M A MIDDLE-AGED COPY EDITOR WITH NO CAREER OBJECTIVES ACCEPTANCE IS KEY.

For the past two months, Lexapro has helped with EVERYTHING. OH MY FUCKING GOD. These are the major changes in my life since I started taking 12.5 milligrams of Lexapro every morning: I go to bed at 8:30 p.m. and sleep right through the 4 a.m. anxiety attack about awkward text message exchanges/comments made in meetings/good people who still won’t talk to me because of shitty things I did ten years ago. I eat TATER TOTS. I buy PRE-PEELED GARLIC (I’M ITALIAN THIS IS A MAJOR FAILING). I sleep in the same bed as piles of clean, unfolded laundry. And DRUM ROLL PLEASE I put my kid in the other room and I BOUGHT EARPLUGS.

I also realized why I needed Lexapro so badly: There is nothing that does not cause me anxiety, and my response to anxiety is anger. Now, when I drop a small bag of specialty salt on my kitchen floor, my chest does not seize with rage. When I trip over my own pant leg, I do not scream in frustration. I have not hit my steering wheel in months.

Instead, I have become capable of waiting until “the right moment” to mention my preference that all surfaces in my home do not accumulate crumbs, drills, or piles of business cards that have been through the washing machine. I no longer dissipate into angry tears when I walk into my living room and see the life-size plastic skeleton SJ bought at Walgreens at the after-Halloween sale in 2018 IT’S JUNE 2019 ENOUGH ALREADY.

I still have tics. I still have pain from my surgery. But I do not have pain from anxiety, and this is a game changer. When I drive to work, I listen to classical music and I don’t think about ANYTHING. If I do, I think about how much I love my job, my son, my stepdaughter, and my husband. Then I think about the exact shade of blue I intend to paint one wall of my living room this summer (COBALT or ULTRAMARINE).

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I also have been keeping notes for my next blog post. Then another week without anxiety passes and everything with my son changes and I lose the context for every brilliant observation and every funny thing he says.

So let’s catch up.

Baby is 23 months old. He sings the alphabet fairly accurately. He counts to 10 in English and 14 in Spanish. He says, “Oh, man!” and “Wha happen?,” mostly to himself, when something doesn’t go as planned. He speaks in commands; my favorites are, “Mommy, lie down,” and “Mommy, sleep” BOOM DONE SON. He repeats everything SJ and I say directly after we say it. He freaks the fuck out every time his sister comes home, leaping off whatever surface he’s been sitting on and pumping his fat arms to get to the front door as fast as possible, picking up whatever new glitter-covered trucker hat or sneakers she’s tossed aside and immediately dressing himself in them so he looks like a groupie or Justin Bieber before he wasn’t cute anymore. He stands at the front door yelling, “DADDY. DADDY,” through the gate as if inside the house I’ve given him a broom and assigned him to sweep the cinders (response when I pick him up at daycare or come home from work? “(Blank stare). Daddy?” NOT DADDY). He makes himself understood although sometimes it’s process of elimination (“Do you want music?” “Yes!” “‘Wheels on the Bus?'” “NOOOOOOOOO.” “‘Banana phone’?” “NOOOOOOO.” “JESUS OKAY WHAT SONG DO YOU WANT.” “Yes!”). He laughs hilariously as he bounces up and down the hallway on the rubber donkey he straight-up stole out of another kid’s house (at daycare they call him “Mr. Mine”). He whispers, “Goodbye, Mommy,” right before he falls asleep, and sometimes, out of the blue, he will grab my chin and say, “Thank you, mommy,” plant a wet one on my lips, put his arms around me, and pat me on the back HERE ARE MY ORGANS LAID OUT ON A TRAY PICK THE ONE YOU WANT OKAY YOU CAN HAVE THEM ALL. Recently on a plane he fell asleep in my arms, and just now he walked into the room and kissed the palm of my hand.

LIFE IS GOOD.

Even my subconscious is in a good mood. I keep having dreams where, instead of getting lost in an apartment building or showing up to a math class I’m supposed to have been attending all semester, I have dreams about buildings with additions and new rooms.

About a month ago I had the best dream. I was in an Italian villa with high ceilings and tons of sunlight and spare wooden furniture and a huge wooden work desk. I’d won a $60,000 grant to work for one year on a writing project I was excited about. I thought, I can’t do it. Then I realized I could do it for six months because for some reason SJ and Baby were taken care of.

At breakfast I rhapsodized to SJ about my dream.

SJ: Your dream sounds like the opposite of the end of The Wizard of Oz.

Jenny: I don’t get it.

SJ: “And you weren’t there! And you weren’t there!”

Notes to self from my phone:

    1. There’s a honeymoon period with folding baby laundry.
    2. There’s no we in packing.

Final note: A couple months after my surgery, I brought a laundry list of symptoms in to my primary care physician (this turned out to be a bad idea: She ordered a CT scan, then called me at home the next day and ordered me to take myself to the ER because she thought I had an abscess. I spent six hours in a hospital gown, not allowed to drink water or eat food because they thought I was about to go back in for emergency surgery. At 1 a.m. they sent me home with nothing more than a hospital bill because I DIDN’T HAVE AN ABSCESS. FUCKING DOCTORS).

Anyway, at the time, I thought it was prudent to bring up every symptom.

Jenny: This one might be weird, but I’ve been a regular drinker for, like, my whole life, and I had to quit before the surgery because of blood coagulation and then after because of the painkillers, but since then I haven’t had any interest in drinking wine.

PCP: (Blink, blink).

Jenny: Like, none.

PCP: So … do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?

Jenny: It’s just a weird thing. I thought I’d mention it. I have no interest in it. I’ve drunk a couple glasses of wine a night for, like, twenty years. And now there’s almost this revulsion.

PCP: (Long pause) So, most people who don’t drink think it’s a good thing. Like, “Hey, I’m getting healthy! I quit drinking!” And I know you don’t drink seven bottles of wine a night …

Jenny: (Says nothing)

PCP: … but overall I don’t think this is a problem.

Jenny: No?

PCP: No.

Jenny: You don’t think I just need to start slowly with a little bit of wine, like just kind of choke it down, and build up my tolerance again?

PCP: Is there anything else?

I wanted to try this recipe from Bon Appétit because I grew up in Saudi Arabia eating large round flats of bread with olive oil and za’atar, and in the past few years za’atar has been trending in the U.S. so you can get it more easily. My chicken doesn’t look like the chicken in the picture, but my chicken never does. (Are you getting the subtext? I had the TIME AND PATIENCE TO MAKE THIS THANK YOU LEXAPRO.) You need:

  • 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 2 ½ lb. total)
  • 2 medium red onions, cut into 1″-thick wedges
  • 2 heads of garlic, halved crosswise, plus 2 cloves
  • 1 lemon, quartered, seeds removed
  • Kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp. za’atar
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lime zest

You need to:

  • Preheat oven to 325°. Pat chicken legs dry with paper towels. Arrange chicken, onions, halved garlic heads, and lemon in a 13×9″ baking dish; season liberally with salt (remember to season both sides of chicken). Pour in oil and toss everything to coat. Turn garlic cut side down and nestle it in so it is in contact with the baking dish. Roast, rotating pan halfway through, until meat is almost falling off the bone, 50–60 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, finely grate 1 garlic clove into a small bowl. Add yogurt, a big pinch of salt, and 1 Tbsp. water and mix well. Set aside yogurt sauce.
  • Remove baking dish from oven and transfer onions, garlic, and lemon to a plate. Increase oven temperature to 425° and continue to roast chicken until skin is golden brown, 10–15 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Set aside pan with juices.
  • Finely grate remaining garlic clove into another small bowl. Add za’atar, coriander, lemon zest, and lime zest. Pour reserved juices in pan into za’atar mixture until you’ve reached an oily consistency (about ⅓ cup). Mix in a pinch of salt.
    Spread reserved yogurt sauce over a platter and arrange chicken legs on top.
  • Scatter onions, garlic, and lemon around; drizzle with za’atar oil.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Angie Zimmerman says:

    My fave thing I’ve ever read: “Jenny: You don’t think I just need to start slowly with a little bit of wine, like just kind of choke it down, and build up my tolerance again?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Angie, will you choke down some wine with me?

      Like

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