Margaret Button | Kitchen Comfort: A little slower, por favor


For over two years now, I've been brushing up on my Spanish. A trip to Mexico had me using decades-old-and-rusty high school and college Spanish. It was a pathetic attempt on my part — and a valiant attempt on the part of the resort staff members not to laugh. Fortunately, my limited linguistic skills did get me "una mas margarita congelada sans sal."

After we got back home, my son, ever helpful, downloaded a language app on my phone, adding he was auditioning me for the job of au pair to his future children, who he wanted to be bilingual. (Don't get excited and start rumors — there are no children in his present, or near, future.) I set a "serious" learner setting and I was off and running ... OK, off and stumbling. I try to do my daily lessons before I leave for work, but some mornings are just too hectic. Or I don't understand a point of grammar and I want to throw my tablet across the room in anger — and don't go back to it for a few days.

I've made friends with a fellow learner, Wyclif Murungi, a musician somewhere in Africa, who always wins the weekly learning competition. He keeps encouraging me and telling me I'll get the hang of it. I'm not that sure. I'm still at a very elementary level and I'm better at reading and writing it than speaking. If someone speaks to me in Spanish, I have no clue what they are saying unless they speak very slowly and enunciate each word.

Una mas margarita congelada sans sal — do I really need to know more than that?


This weekend, I tried a new recipe using spaghetti squash. I'm a big fan of the various pasta and noodle dishes you can recreate by using it. I really liked this recipe, although I think I might add oyster sauce and maybe some cooked chicken the next time.


Yield: 4 servings


1 1/2 pound spaghetti squash

1 small onion (finely chopped)

10 shiitake mushrooms (or button mushrooms)

2 stalks scallions (finely chopped)

1 cup coleslaw mix of carrots and cabbage

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1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon dried red chile, chopped (optional))

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce or regular soy sauce

1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar

salt and white pepper to taste


Place spaghetti squash on a microwave-safe plate or other microwave-safe container. Place the cut side down (skin facing up). Microwave on high for 10 minutes. If the squash is still hard, microwave for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender.

Use a fork and scrape the flesh into strings.

In a large pan over high heat, add vegetable oil and onions. Cook for 3 minutes or until onions are soft. Add coleslaw mix and red chile and cook for 2 minutes.

Add shiitake mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add spaghetti squash, scallions and sauce, and mix well until the sauce has evenly coated all the vegetables. Cook for 2 minutes and turn the heat off.

Transfer to a bowl, top with sesame seeds and serve.


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