Thursday, April 10, 2008

Consolation Prize

I wasn’t supposed to be here today.

By here, I mean cold, rainy Evanston, Illinois. I was supposed to be in warm, sunny North Carolina, soaking up good weather with good friends, wine glass in hand. But I, like thousands of others this week, find myself firmly and sadly land-bound, as American Airlines cancels hundreds of flights due to “inspections” and “federal regulations.” I really have no idea what the hell is happening this week, but whatever: all I know is that my vacation, which was planned months ago, disappeared without a peep from American Airlines or Travelocity. I know the flight cancellations have been all over the news, but is it really too much to expect at least an e-mail notification when your flight is cancelled well in advance of the trip?

Call me an unsatisfied customer. I am vowing that I will never fly American Airlines ever again. Ever. Again!

It was a rough night, frantically calling American Airlines’ customer support number over and over and over again. Not once did I get through to a real person, even when I used the trick revealed on this cool website. Last night, I managed to cancel my ticket and get a refund, but it was only this morning, after I had rebooked my trip for next week, that I felt relief. Maybe that sense of relief was really due to seventy-five dollars leaving my wallet to pay for my rescheduled trip?

In the midst of all this chaos, my friends once again revealed themselves to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Anne and James commiserated with me and helped distract me for a few hours. Shawn Marie double-checked my flight status and inspired me to call Matt, who prompted me to call Travelocity. After waiting on hold for half an hour, Travelocity refunded my ticket and THAT brought me enough relief to crawl into bed at midnight.

But really, despite the weather and my desire to see my dear friends in North Carolina, it’s not so bad being here. Despite anything I might say to the contrary, I love my life. I have everything I need, and thanks to e-mail, blogs, and cell phones, my North Carolinians are close at hand, even when we are separated by 600 miles. I wonder if the fact that Matt and I have to work so hard to see each other actually makes it that much sweeter when he’s within hugging distance. I certainly don’t take our visits for granted. But how nice would it be if I could just drop by for a visit without getting on a plane!

Salad is a poor consolation prize compared to luxuriating in the soft comfort of friendship, but you know, the black bean salad I’ve been eating all week is pretty damn tasty. A bed of crisp Romaine lettuce is topped with a delicious combination of black beans, sweet-tart Granny Smith apples, scallions, and cilantro. Add a few dabs of garlicky, tart sour cream dressing, and you have a meal just begging to be eaten while lounging on the porch, barefoot and happy. I, unfortunately, have to eat it inside while bundled up against the cold these days, but hey, what is life without hope that tomorrow will be better?

Black Bean Salad
Very loosely adapted from and inspired by Nigella Lawson’s “Mexican Chicken Salad with Black Bean Salsa” in Nigella Express
Makes 4-5 large servings

Fresh, crunchy, creamy, citrus-sparked—this salad is downright dreamy. It’s your call how much dressing you want to dollop on top; I tend to dollop with a light hand. That way, the flavors can sing without being drowned in dairy.

This salad is best eaten within a day or two of making the black bean-apple mixture; the apples do start to lose their crispness over time. So if you can, make it for yourself and a friend so that the leftovers don’t wither away in the fridge.

For the dressing:
½ c. sour cream
1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
¼ tsp. of salt, or to taste
1 clove of garlic, pressed

For the salad:
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into chunky matchsticks (not peeled)
2 scallions, snipped into small pieces
A handful of fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
8-10 big leaves of Romaine (2 per serving), sliced in half lengthwise and then cut widthwise into strips

1) Stir together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
2) In a large bowl, gently toss together the black beans, the apples, the scallions, and the cilantro. Add the lemon or lime juice and toss again.
3) To assemble the salad plate by plate, place a handful or two of sliced Romaine leaves on a large plate. Top with a generous scoop or two of the black bean mixture. Dollop some dressing on top and serve. Alternatively, if assembling the salad by plateful is too tedious, place the dressing, black bean mixture, and Romaine on the table in separate bowls and let each diner assemble their own salad. Store leftovers in the fridge in tightly sealed containers.


Nick said...

Those darn airlines, so frustrating! At least you weren't on that Hawaiin airline where customers who showed up for their flight were told the airline was out of business, go home.

I love black beans, but combining with apples is an interesting idea.
This sounds like a nice light but filling salad. Thanks.

- The Peanut Butter Boy

daphna said...

Awww, how frustrating! At least you got to rebook your trip. =)

Random P.S. Ian's aunt was on the flight that Nick referenced, and she became the spokesperson for the passengers. The news footage of her outrage is hilarious (if you know her).

Rosiecat said...

Nick, yes! Things could have been so much worse for me. I never went to the airport, which means I never packed and I did not have to get up at 4:30 AM to catch my flight. And never mind the fact that I never stepped into a plane that may not have been safe to fly.

Your description of this salad ("light but filling") is perfect. It IS rather filling, especially if you eat a big serving paired with something starchy like bread or roasted potatoes. I just wish a meal like that left a little bit more room for dessert...

Daphna, I too am glad I was able to reschedule. It's a little exhausting to think that I'll be dealing with going out of town, airports, and flying NEXT week, but I know it will be worth it.

So about Ian's aunt, any chance there's a URL that contains the news footage? I feel like I might enjoy seeing someone else express outrage at the way airlines do business these days. American Airlines is offering "profuse apologies," which, frankly, does not make me feel better. A strategic error this large is not easily excused.

soupdefleur said...

Here ya go, check this out:

The woman with the long hair and gray streaks is ... ah ... my aunt. *blushes outrageously*

Rosiecat said...

Hey, Ian! I can't decide if it's good or bad that your aunt has been captured on film for posterity to see. She seemed pretty reasonable and calm to me, based on the severity of the situation. When you want to go home, it's hard to accept any other solutions.

Thanks for the link!