LET’S BURN THE MOOSEWOOD COOKBOOK

Original flame photo by Timothy Rose

A few years ago, I had to take a class that was supposed to be about graphic design, but instead focused on the moral superiority of mindful of food preparation.

Ah. Art school.

Fifteen minutes into the first six-hour class, I had heard more yammering about the meditative benefit of chopping each herb leaf thoughtfully than any parent of two should be required to endure.

Almost reflexively, I heard myself joining the conversation, “That sounds lovely, but if my microwave broke, I would cry.”

Silence.

Everyone stared as I shifted uncomfortably in my folding chair.

I wasn’t kidding, though. That was the year of chicken nuggets–the only protein my pre-school kids would consume at the time. Who has time to thaw and bake those suckers for 30 minutes when the kids are already melting down? If I could stop the crying in four minutes flat, I was going to do so. Much as I love food, sometimes life dictates that meals be reduced to emergency fuel injections.

Art school + childrearing = nugget photographs.

Art school + childrearing = nugget photographs. Note: Despite evidence to the contrary, the nugget of choice was Trader Joe’s drummette-shaped breaded chicken patties.

I can guarantee that the people who coined the phrase “slow food movement,” never stopped by my house in the late afternoon. It’s not only my kids who melt down, either. Just ask the college friend who traveled with me for seven weeks one summer. After a few days with me, she started shoveling snacks my way every 40 minutes–no doubt for her own self-preservation. Let’s face it, at 5:30 pm, the only coherent thought I’m capable of forming is: GOOD GOD, LET’S GET SOME FOOD ON THE TABLE, PEOPLE.

Somehow, all of my antagonistic feelings about hippy-dippy, artisanal, homegrown, hand-ground, infinitesimally slow food items have been channeled toward Mollie Katzen and her cavalcade of Moosewood cookbooks.

I blame this on the Enchanted Broccoli Forest, a recipe I tackled once fifteen years ago. Imagine a vegetarian version of Midwestern hot dish with broccoli stems poked in like trees. Bland. Floppy. Nothing forest-y about that hot mess, and no tater tots or Durkee fried onions to offset the disappointment.

I suppose there are many reasons why I should love the Moosewood cookbook, I just can’t think of any at the moment. I do know what I don’t like, however:

There is an ungodly amount of cheese in there. All kinds. Especially cottage cheese, which is foul.

There are no photos, and I know why. Hippie food is ugly.

Stupid, stupid 63 ingredients in every dish. I blame Mollie for the jar of asafetida that sits in my spice cupboard. Does everything need to be so darn complicated? Each recipe takes a million years. Maybe y’all plan your meals a year in advance. Not me. News flash: at 5:30, I will not be soaking anything overnight, nor will I be driving from co-op to co-op looking for dried mint and a half an ounce of tree ears.

What the *()$%! is Noodle Kugel, besides grounds for divorce? Who puts noodles in dessert?

And what about Scheherazade Casserole? Is the cook slain after serving it, or is she saved by reading aloud the long-winded recipes?

Which reminds me, it is exceedingly wordy.

For example, here's how to make fruit salad.

For example, here’s how to make fruit salad.

We played a little game the other night. Whoever was “it” would choose a particularly odd recipe, and everyone else would try to guess the ingredients. FYI: when all else fails, try “cheese” or “seeds” or “more cheese” or “raw bulgur.”

Here’s the main problem, though. It looks like a cookbook for nice people.

Little swirly things nestled between sections, sketchy drawings of seraphim and urns and trellises and lots of leaves that prefer to be carefully, thoughtfully, individually chopped.

And there is that cloying, lovingly handmade font. Given the date of publication, maybe the whole thing was hand-lettered, and I should probably be impressed. But to me, it is the visual equivalent of bad potpourri. A culinary bed and breakfast with stiff, frilly pillowcases…plus an annoying hausfrau who will not stop nattering on.

I’m sure there is lots of useful information and some tasty recipes buried in there somewhere. When my kids go off to college, I’ll take that thing down and read it cover to cover. In the meantime, though…I hear there is a website entitled: WTF should I make for dinner? Now that might fit better with our current lifestyle.

p.s. Sorry, mom. I will admit the shepherd’s pie was fairly tasty.

My Father’s Compass

newspaper2010 sm

A few priorities: the newspaper, a snack, and a view of the lake.

When my father would visit, he had a knack for hunkering in with the MacNeil News Hour while my kids fussed and cried. I was usually busy burning something on the stove, entertaining telemarketers, arranging carpools, or hunting for very important lost items. I didn’t have a lot of time to chat. After wrestling the girls into bed, I would slump down the stairs, and Dad would glance up from his mountain of New York Times. “Say, have you read this editorial about inner city schools?”

I never had.

How I wish I had been able to stay awake then, to engage in conversation about something other than logistics and rashes. Later, when he couldn’t talk much at all, I felt such a tremendous loss. What I would have given–then, and now–to hear his thoughtful analysis, his historical anecdotes, even a little about the book he was reading. I have so many questions that remain, so many gaps which I long to fill with stories from his rich life.

But one cannot render a portrait of a man or a relationship with a macro lens, focusing on a single moment, of which there were two and a half trillion in his 84 years. Examining just one of these does neither of us justice.

Thankfully, there are other moments to cling to–moments that are easier to carry: the theologian on all fours, mooing, while my small girls shrieked and giggled. The tiny, illegible notes my father squeezed into the margins of mom’s chatty letters–notes full of the gratitude and humility with which he approached life. The time I called him on Fathers’ Day a couple of years ago. After a discussion of his day, the weather, Sunday dinner, he paused and I awaited his goodbye. He said, instead, “I wanted you to know: you are a blessing.”

I have been surprised and relieved to discover that my relationship with my father endures–grows, even–as I hear stories from friends, family, and strangers. They share glimpses I couldn’t see from my age or perspective. I am reminded that though his body has betrayed him, he has not been diminished by mortality. Instead, these stories add flesh to the bones I have known over the years.

Still, I will not pretend that I can see him in full. Who could? Yet here is what I know for sure. My father asked a single question repeatedly during his sojourn on earth: How then shall we live?

This was the question that guided his thoughts, his decisions, his direction. He believed we should take a look at what we believe to be good, right, or best, and use that as we go gently forth into the world. He forged a compass from his heart and faith, and as I try to follow in his footsteps, I find he is walking with me. He is alive in my struggles, my questions, and my actions. He is here, helping me as I choose what I think is best; helping me to set my own compass.

Beyond Bertie Bott’s: Jelly Beans That Will Never Be

Yep. That's what they call them in Oregon. Bad idea for a jelly bean flavor!  http://www.honeybucket.com

Yep. That’s what they call ‘em in Oregon. Great name; bad idea for a jelly bean. From http://www.honeybucket.com

Thanks to J.K. Rowling…vomit, booger, sausage, and earwax-flavored jelly beans already exist. Having recently reread the Harry Potter books and visited the Jelly Belly Factory, I started wondering if there were flavors that could never be made into jelly beans. I know the box says “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans,” but surely there are lines which cannot be crossed. Continue reading

Today’s Plan: Free-falling into my Box of Grief

Forty-five days ago my father died.

Shortly thereafter, the following advice magically appeared in my inbox: “Free-fall into what’s happening.”

I didn’t want to do that.

I’ve been afraid to think or digest or write or talk or feel. Luckily, I haven’t had time to do so.

I could fill today, too–with my stupid, endless lists and obligations–but for once, I put wallow on the list.

I’ve tucked my box of grief into a corner and left it to fester, to rot, to multiply and mutate. it’s time to bring it out in the daylight and examine its contents.

My plan:

  • Write.
  • Drink lots of decaf and eat something lovely and chocolate.
  • Listen to beautiful, sad music.
  • Make something I like.
  • Go for a walk. Sit in a tree.
  • Watch a Very Sad Movie. Bring lots of tissues.
  • See what happens.

But first, let me move the car. Parking tickets are not therapeutic.

Slumber-less Party

I have a handy little alarm mechanism: if I find myself desperately searching for a bathroom in my dreams, I can promptly rouse myself to take appropriate action. I am exceedingly grateful for this–as is the Spouse, undoubtedly.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a variety of embarrassing sleep behaviors, this afternoon serving as a case in point.

I lurched into consciousness, suddenly aware that my jaw was stretched into a silent scream and a large bubble of spit ballooned from my gaping crevasse. Since the cup and napkin had magically disappeared from my tray table, there was no doubt that my Munch face had been witnessed.

The original Munch face, the day Sotheby's sold it for $120 million. Flight attendants got mine for free! Getty image from www.nj.com.

The original Munch face, the day Sotheby’s sold it for $120 million. Flight attendants got mine for free! Getty image from http://www.nj.com.

The circumstances of this last-minute flight to my childhood home are too recent and too raw to probe at the moment. Instead, I will tell you why I was so dang tired. I will divulge the wisdom I found at 3:28 last Sunday morning:

I am done hosting slumber parties.

The only caveat which might possibly allow for a future overnight posse of midgets would be a signed affidavit from the parent or guardian of each participant, asserting that the potential attendee would not, under any circumstances:

  • Yell or whine for prolonged periods of time as if the Disney Channel had come to life.
  • Pour copious amounts of the host’s toiletries into dozens of Kleenexes and toss the soggy blobs into the shower.
  • Dump three quarters of the contents of her plate onto the floor, survey the carnage, and proceed to stroll through it in her tights.
  • Break off a sofa leg.
  • Say things like, “you’re terrible at this game,” and “there’s no room for you in here,” to the birthday girl until she cries.
  • Interpret the words “no” and “stop” as encouragement to continue on course.
  • Have a complete meltdown over music selection and then hide in the attic.
  • Have three subsequent crying jags clothed only in underpants, making all the other guests fight to sleep in another room.
  • Yell “I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!” in host’s face as she attempts to soothe you.
  • Sneak downstairs and retrieve forbidden technology after bedtime, then keep a few guests awake all night with inappropriate garbage from the internet.
  • Lock herself in the bathroom in the middle of the night and proceed to pound relentlessly on the door while the host hunts frantically for a screwdriver.
  • Offer culinary critique such as, “I like waffles, but not when they taste like this.”

In the case of a breach of contract, the parent or guardian of the offending party would be fined an amount commensurate with an overnight sitter, lodging for two at a nearby resort, plus a couple of therapy sessions. Better yet, let’s collect the fee up front as a security deposit. Who knows, we might even return it if your child comports herself appropriately.

Why You Should Never, Ever, Ever Get A Tattoo (but Having a Baby is Fine)

Beret Olsen:

Just stumbled across this. Enjoy!

Originally posted on The Ugly Volvo:

I’m not super pro-tattoo or anti-tattoo.  I’ve debated getting one in the past but never that seriously.  But my mother is vehemently anti-tattoo.  Listed below are the reasons my mother has always given me for why I shouldn’t get a tattoo.

And I understand that she’s from a different generation.  And I love my mother very much.  She’s a really wonderful person and I’m not saying none of them is a legitimate reason, but I’m saying that after having a child, I find it really hard to take any of them seriously.

And so in case you were headed out to the tattoo parlor as we speak, here are:

10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER, EVER GET A TATTOO ACCORDING TO MY MOTHER (but having a baby is fine)

1.  “A Tattoo is Forever”

Yes, a tattoo is forever.  Totally forever!  Except that a tattoo can, if needed, be erased with a laser.

 *Some of you read that and immediately thought, "I am so exhausted, please I need a laser that can temporarily erase a three year-old," but sorry, that is not a thing that exists.  
No…

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What’s missing at your house

*NOT MY HOUSE* from kiweescleaning.com

*NOT MY HOUSE*
from kiweescleaning.com

I noticed something at your place:  a lot of things are missing.

Specifically, where do you keep:

*stuff that is broken and needs fixing?

*the item that is the wrong size, and must be exchanged?

*the sweater you just removed, but might need in five minutes?

*the glass/plate/spoon someone just used?

*that package that needs to get to UPS ASAP?

*the referral slip to take the kid to the orthodontist?

*the papers that need to be filled out and returned to school with your kid tomorrow?

*the empty bottle of Advil/detergent/deodorant/milk that is on the counter to remind you to buy more?

*your kid’s diorama project that is half-finished and due on Friday?

*the laundry that is clean and waiting to be folded?

*the dishes that are clean and sitting in the rack?

*the dish rack!

*the clothes that are waiting to go to the cleaners?

*the clothes that are too small for your kid, but might fit your friend’s kid–and you’re not sure when you’ll see them next?

*the items that someone left at your house last weekend?

*the gigantic art projects your kids bring home and want to display?

*the clothes that need a button/patch/hem job?

*the gift certificate that you have to remember to use before it expires?

*the library books that you meant to return yesterday?

Seriously, where do you put all of this stuff? The toaster? The coffee maker? Why is there nothing on your counter or in the hall or on the stairs? Why–when I open your coat closet to hang up my coat–does nothing attack me?