mom life

Food, Glorious Food

The profession of preparing food is extremely male dominant. Seriously, think of it - do a quick google search and type in: famous chefs, and you’ll see tons and tons of men. There’s always Julia Child in there, and of course Rachael Ray and that little Giada woman who cooks delicious looking things, but from the looks of her, she only tastes it and doesn’t eat a slovenly portion like the rest of us, but I digress.

Fact of the matter is, in so many homes (may I venture to say the VAST majority) the mom is the cook. And the mom is often frustrated by the fact that she not only does all the preparing, as in from store to table (because most of us don’t live on a farm, mmmmkay?) as well as menu planning and actually cooking and plating the meals. Then dad makes Walking Tacos ONCE and the children think he’s not only the best cook in the world but that he is also the most fun human being because eating tacos out of a Doritos bag is WAY more fun than a balanced dinner of healthy chicken, brussel sprouts, and salad.

These little humans who we are responsible for keeping alive have to eat every. damn. day. Multiple times a day and let’s be honest, that gets friggin exhausting! And while the chef profession is male-dominated and men of the industry are often praised above their female counterparts, lauded in fact, when we hear people reminisce or miss a certain food, it is almost always, “My mom’s chicken pot pie.” “My grandmother’s sweet potato pie.” We all love our mama’s cooking and remember the special recipes, so how come mamas don’t get more credit.

A girlfriend of mine was talking about pizza bagels - they are the one thing she can ever recall her dad “making” and she said to be honest it was just a bag of bagels and a jar of sauce put out on the counter- everyone got to make their own(!) - but she and her siblings thought it was magic! Mamas in their homes are trying to insure the kiddos get good nutrients, plenty of protein, calcium, iron, etc. etc. etc. While it seems their counterparts are concerned with convenience and (dare I say) delicousness? Because don’t get me wrong I’ll take a bag of Walking Tacos over grilled chicken breast and steamed spinach most any day, so why wouldn’t my offspring?

Now, now before the in-home cooking dads get your hair nets all in a twist, I acknowledge there are plenty of homes where partners split the responsibility, alternate nights, or plan together. (But I really don’t think that’s the majority - and no, David, I didn’t take a Doodle Poll, I’m assuming and it’s my blog so I get to - so there.)

Why then, when we’re making delicious Chicken Picatta with a fresh Heirloom Tomato salad for a special dinner night are we not celebrated the way Guy Fieri is over a damn hamburger? Why are all the most celebrated cooks special dudes at Le Cirque? Is it because the restaurant industry functions primarily on nights and weekends? The exact time our children are home and we crave that time with them? Possibly. Are women deciding cooking for their offspring is more important than for a food critic? Also possible and highly likely. And good for the mama kitchen warriors who are at it - chopping and sauteing and crock potting for your families - I salute you!

What the hell is my point? Celebrate the nourisher in your life - and if you are the nourisher demand celebration. Remind everyone that food doesn’t just fall out of the sky onto the table ready to be consumed. In the beloved Christmas movie A Christmas Story - the narrator says, “My mother had not had a hot meal for herself in 15 years.” Teach your kids now that food is not just about filling their bellies, but a time for family to actually be nourished and that includes the chef - tummy nourished as well as soul.

And, listen, if you’re the mama who can’t tell a stock pot from a skillet and Trader Joe’s frozen aisle is your best friend - just read the late Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential - and rest assured that even the chefs at Eleven Madison Park have their secrets too.

This Ain’t South Padre, That’s For Sure

The end of Girl Scout Cookie season is a really bittersweet time for me. Over the years, I’ve developed the perfect strategy - four boxes of cookies - but the children and the hubs only know about three. See where I’m going with this? Yep, that fourth box is a hidden treasure. Just for me. Each night after the goblins have (finally) gone to sleep I delicately enjoy my Thin Mint with either a cup of hot tea or alongside my Cabernet - both combinations are heavenly. Well, the Thin Mints are gone - have been for a few weeks and now I’m morose as I sadly slip into bed without my chocolatey minty delight - and neither Safeway, nor Whole Foods, nor Target can help - it’s just not the same. However, there is hope! It’s Spring Break and due to the fact that I suffer from dreadful mom-guilt (because there are all those pictures of amazing families on the beaches of Mexico while my kids are stuck in their Denver bungalow during Spring snow storms) it’s the perfect time to bake cookies!

Scene: Small Kitchen in an Urban Denver neighborhood. The trappings of cookie making lay on the counter - powdered sugar covers every surface, including the floor where we can see tiny person powdered sugar footprints leading off SR. Enter woman SR - covered in powdered sugar with fresh streaks down her face and cheeks - it’s unclear if she’s been crying or sweating. From off-stage we hear:

Child 1: (screaming almost hysterically) HE GOT TO DO TWO SCOOPS OF FLOUR AND ALL I GOT TO DO WAS ONE SPOON OF THE OTHER STUFF AND IT WAS A TINY SPOON!!

Child 2: (also from off stage, also shouting) GROW UP YOU BIG BABY!

Woman: (also shouting) I said no talking and stay in your rooms!!!

Woman looks at wall clock which reads 2:50, sinks to the floor, her back resting on the cabinet, buries her head in her hands and sighs the sigh only a mother with children on Spring Break can understand.

Slow fade to black.

This scene is from a biographical play based on real events. (Read: it’s an excerpt from my actual life.)

And the thing is if it weren’t for the Spring Break Guilt of trying to be so FUN! And CREATIVE! And MAKE MEMORIES! I probably could have happily (or begrudgingly) settled for some of the very delicious overpriced gourmet cookies from the gourmet grocers. Had I simply learned my lesson with the koolaid pancakes over Winter break or the Mud Pudding last summer. But noooooo. I refuse to accept that cooking projects with my children are neither fun, nor memory makers, nor a good chance to bond and learn. And again, the reason? Guilt. Mom-guilt. Kids-out-of-school and pinterest-makes-it-look-easy mom guilt.

Truthfully, they’re just as happy to go to the jump-til-you-barf place, get a slushy and play some video games. While these activities cost money and don’t necessarily involve us doing it together (but I will jump like a mo-fo), at least they have a good time and I don’t turn into an irritable mommy-monster who is now wishing it were bedtime and who hates cookies and baking cookies and chocolate and sugar and everything!!

Working mamas and stay at home mamas and part time mamas and single mamas and young mamas and old mamas and all of us experience this at some time or another. It’s just kind of hard wired. We so want the kids to be not only entertained but to have fun memories of doing things with their hands with their parents. I think our generation has it the hardest, because while my mama got Southern Living in the mail for most of my life, she didn’t have Facebook, and Instagram, and Pinterest to remind her all the time of all the things she wasn’t doing with my sister and I. Plus, she was good with plants and not only am I not a baker I sure as shit am not a gardener. (Don’t get me started on the fact I can’t keep a succulent alive.)

This Spring Break I’ve worked every day so far. Not full days, but the boys have been enrolled in full time Camp Daddy. And while no one has been hospitalized, let’s just say I don’t think we’ll be getting any applications from other parents for the summer camp. Tomorrow I’ll stay home with them all day and yes, we’ll go to jump-til-you-barf, and yes before that we’ll attempt to make Animal Faces toast (which then the little won’t want to eat because it’s all touching). I’ll think next year we’ll plan ahead and we’ll get to Mexico finally or we’ll VRBO it in Vail. And who knows? Maybe we will. But most likely we’ll be right back here and I’m going to have to say - f*ck it. They can be bored and learn to get along and play some video games because next week they’ll be back at school with the tests and the homework and so for now, it’s ok just to veg.

And I’ll need to repeat this mantra that it’s ok again and again. Because I need reassurance and cheerleading to help me thru this guilty feeling I have of not making memories. That then evolves into making cookies, that then evolves into yelling, that then evolves into feeling guilty for yelling, and then evolves into feeling guilty that I hate making cookies with my kids.

Ugh. The guilt.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to google that new place where they get to train to be America’s next American Ninja Warrior - because it’s Spring Break and we’re going to have fun, damn it.