French toast, coffee, and favor flowers. They say, “I will make my own snack when I get home,” and, “I will make my own bed,” and, “I will make my own lunch.”
Today we went on a garden tour in Old Fig. Such pretty gardens! Iso counted the flamingo flair in one– finding all of them, I am proud to say, including a tiny glass flamingo bead in a puddle in a wine bottle border. Impressive, right? The owner of that garden had an outdoor shower and said she never took showers indoors anymore. I wondered if she only took showers at night, then? I didn’t want to ask. Also, that garden had a smoke tree, which was gorgeous, and I want one.
The above picture, however, was taken at a really interesting garden– interesting to me because the house was built in 1912. It had to have been one of the earliest in the Fig Garden area. The house itself was not huge, but there was a mother-in-law add-on. The gardens were a really good mixture of rambling and manicured. I tend to like a rambling sort of garden– the kind that encourages wandering. I get no peace in a Zen garden, truly. Well-manicured gardens always put me on edge, like performance art. I think, “Am I going to be the one to mess this thing up? Should I really be stepping here? Is this art or a bench?”
That really did happen once. I went with a friend to the Fresno Art Museum, and she sat on what she thought was a very artistic bench– an aqua log with burnished gold texturing sponged onto it. It wobbled and she hopped off. I get that feeling when I’m in a very tidy garden, too, and I just don’t think I should feel like that around plants, you know?
My favorite part is Thor, though. He just wants to be wherever she is.
Today we went to a block sale near our house. I was looking for cooking supplies and books but found neither. My daughter, on the other hand, found two Magic School Bus books, a half-painted jewelry box, and this stuffed dog from American Girls. I’d never seen a big version of Coconut before! Of course, I’ve never looked for one, either.
We also bought two tamales from the first vendor we saw. I use the term vendor loosely, since it was really two teenaged boys–one holding a massive bundle of napkins and the other holding the handle of the ice chest– and their mom, who wore one plastic glove and wielded some tongs.
A little further along down the block we bought some mochi (what the hell is KOCHI and why does my computer’s spellcheck keep insisting that mochi does not exist???) from two Japanese ladies who were just setting up on somebody’s driveway. It is not every day you see people selling mochi on a sidewalk, so I got two red bean, two taro-peanut butter, one mango-red bean, and two miso onigiri. After we crossed the street a few blocks later, on our way home, I went back and bought all the mango-red bean she had! Ha! But seriously, you can only get this if you go to Kogetsu-Do– the Japanese bakery in town– and they are not always open when I am able to go. And this was homemade. And right there on the street, just hanging out, begging me to go and buy it (and devour it).
This was also a good time for my daughter to get introduced to mochi and onigiri. I’ve bought it before, but for some reason she is less likely to try store-bought or restaurant things than she is to try street vendor things. I know, what? Perhaps it is my aversion to processed foods run amok, or perhaps there is something in her that wants to be polite and eat the food somebody just gave her. I don’t know. Then again, she loves white rice and Japanese food in general, so maybe she tried it because I told her it was Japanese. That is the most likely reason.
Japanese food is great for picky eaters, and it got us through many toddler bad-food days.
1. California rolls and futo maki can be picked apart and eaten in toddler-portions. An activity and a food, all at once! These particular sushi have no raw fish.2. It is very easy to get sauces on the side, and most often there isn’t even a sauce to contend with.
3. Most of the time, the sauce is teriyaki, which is sweet and toddler friendly. At least, my toddler was friendly with it!
4. If you get a bento-style lunch, everything is separate! Nothing touches!5. Let’s have fun with chopsticks!
6. Everything is usually presented appealingly. Unless you’re getting curry over rice, which tastes fantastic, but I think it looks a bit like throw-up. Sorry to spring that on you, but there you go.
I suppose my kid isn’t one of those clinically picky eaters that have trouble getting enough calories, but all kids go through some phase, and Japanese food helped us through hers, and continues to be her portal into other cuisines.
Last night, my daughter and I were rolling around on the floor– just being silly– and my shirt pulled up a bit, revealing my tummy. I started to pull it down, but my daughter was too quick for me and gave me a raspberry right on my belly button, holding my shirt firmly in place and out of the way. My child is freakishly strong.
My abdomen has been my least favorite part of my body for I don’t know how long. Probably since I was her age, when my mom asked me at a clothing store, “Why are you sticking your stomach out like that? Hasn’t anybody ever taught you how to suck it in?” And of course I’ve been sucking it in ever since– but I have a tummy. Even when I was 117 pounds and I could feel my ribs through a thin layer of skin, my lowest weight ever as an adult, I had a tummy. Being pregnant was so wonderful and freeing, because for once I was supposed to have a round belly! And even better, it was supposed to get bigger and bigger, not flatter and flatter. No tummy-guilt.
“No, no, no,” I told my daughter, and I covered my stomach up before she could give me another raspberry. She asked me why, and before I could think of a better answer, I told her the truth. “I don’t like my tummy. I never have.”
“Well, I do, and I want to kiss it!”
“Why do you like it?” I asked, and she retorted, “Because it’s your tummy, Mommy! It’s my favorite part!”
And so there you go. This is one of the hardest parts of being a parent– forgiving yourself, liking yourself. Hating even a part of yourself makes no sense to your children, who love you unconditionally, foibles and all. It’s been eight years, and I still catch myself marveling at the fact that my child thinks the world of me. She thinks I can control things that I cannot control. I am the only one who can cut her toast the right way, make tuna correctly, or tuck her in at night. A few years ago, she was convinced I controlled the weather and refused to believe that I couldn’t. When I admonish her even slightly, she is crushed and hurt to the core.
My God, what power we wield over our children! How in the world am I supposed to live up to these impossible expectations?
But that’s just it– simply by existing and doing my best, forgiving myself and striving to be a better person– to her, I am living up to those expectations. Scary, but true.
In turn, I have to remind myself to do the same for my own mother. I am out of practice sometimes. We have, at times, an uneasy relationship. We have danger zones that I have to tread lightly near. I feel like one of those many, many dire wolves who has heard about those tar pit things, and knows they must be nearby. But then, FLOOP, I get sucked in just like so many before me. As I get sucked in, whether I’m the dire wolf or my current self, I think, “But I was looking out for this and I still stepped into it? Whyyyyyy?”
Today I’m going to make Smitten Kitchen’s Grapefruit Olive Oil cake. I’ve been doing very well on a diet, and want a reward. The only thing I’m changing (!) is that I won’t be using any turbinado sugar. I don’t think it’ll make that big of a difference this time, do you? Earlier this week I went to coffee at a friend’s house, and I’d had the foresight to make the Smitten Kitchen brownies the night before. They are horribly easy! I think the simplicity of the recipe is one of the reasons I’m on a diet now. Oh, excuse me: One of the reasons why I am trying to eat healthy proportions now. My husband has a problem with me calling it a diet, because in the past I’ve gone overboard in the calorie counting department. I get competitive. With myself. Isn’t that stupid? I’m using an app that says I need 1600 calories a day, though, and that just sounds way too high if I’m trying to lose weight, you know? It’s not like I’m incredibly active over here, except for housework, yoga, and walking to the bus stop.
Moderation in all things, I think, so I’ve cut out snacking, pure and simple, and then calorie count the meals to keep portions rational.
But going from Snackatron 3000 to nothing, cold turkey, is hard (whine, whine, whine) so I’m going to reward myself.
And to end with, this kitty has allergies, just like everybody else in this house. Is he allergic to himself? What the heck is blooming outside? I think it’s olives. Poor Thor.
Someday, I’m gonna steal this little guy!
About three years ago, not even a year after my mom gave us her Queensland Heeler, my mom acquired Rocky. He was a tiny puppy, sold at a yard sale in the Vons supermarket parking lot, benefitting the funeral of one of their checkers who had been killed by a drunk driver while he was on his way home from work.
Before this, my mom was not a Chihuahua person, not even a little-dog person. She had just gone through a bout of chemotherapy and radiation, and during that time she had given us her bouncy Queensland who was an escape artist.
Her idea was that if Rocky was a problem, she could just pick him up! She did not count on having to catch him first. Luckily, he is not an escape artist and will come when he hears kibble rattling around in a coffee can.
Don’t you wish people were like that?
I’ve often pondered some of the ideas put forth in this article by Emily Matchar, “Is Michael Pollan a Sexist Pig?” Not if Michael Pollan is a sexist pig, because quite honestly that particular thought had never crossed my mind. In fact, that’s a pretty weighty accusation to throw at a person, so I’m still not inclined to think that thought very hard.
But what I have wondered, and quite often, is how feminism could have affected how we eat. The article clearly shows other historical factors– not just feminism– affecting how we perceive and produce food. Big business isn’t really discussed. Yet. After all, this is an excerpt from a book. I’ve got the feeling Big Business will be getting its own chapter– at least I hope so. On the other hand, I don’t see how something as huge as feminism could not affect how we eat. I really want to read this book!
You see, I am also reading this article in the New Yorker about Shulamith Firestone. It provides a lot of context, not just about Firestone, but about the movement in general. It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge that this era did see marriage as shackles, childbirth as a brutality– so why not see food preparation as something equally destructive? They had to be militant at this stage, as counterintuitive as it seems to me now as a modern woman, because they had so much to rebel against. They were probably a fairly unlikable and brash bunch– at least that how it seems in this article. But if they lived in a society that was so primed against them, and they really believed in their cause, I’d really like to know how they could possibly have fashioned themselves in any other way and still get the job done.
They did get the job done.
We have the luxury now of being diplomatic. Many of our husbands and fathers are not afraid to call themselves feminists. Women in the 1960s did not have that luxury.
So, when the Salon article (book excerpt!, I must remind myself, to allow for the things that I felt needed more discussion) dismisses feminism from the question of household food preparation, it feels hasty. How can something so far-reaching not affect something that mostly housewives did?
On the other hand, blaming feminism and the working woman for our nation’s nutritional decline is a cop-out. I make meals at home nearly every night, and it takes about half an hour or less, if it doesn’t involve making dough or something. All from scratch– if you count some occasional frozen vegetables as scratch. For example, here’s a sample dinner: catfish, greens and rice.
I put the rice and water in the pressure cooker. It will be done in about 15 minutes. In the saucepan it takes 20– still no big deal, right? I like using the pressure cooker, though, because I can make enough rice for my husband to take for lunch for the next few days.
I put oil, garlic, fresh greens and cherry tomatoes in a stockpot on medium low. They’ll be done in about 15-30 minutes, too, depending on if I’m using kale or collards. If you’re in a hurry, don’t cook kale! Choose something like chard or collards. Or spinach! That’s done almost before it hits the pot!
Then I heat the frying pan with oil, slap some catfish fillets in some flour (both sides), and cook them for about seven minutes on each side. Everything’s usually done at about the same time. It’s one of our favorite dinners, and it honestly only takes about half an hour to make. No cans of soup, no bottled sauces (however, I LOVE the Island Soyaki they have at Trader Joe’s. No preservatives, though!). It’s not fancy, but it’s fast, tasty and homemade, and there are no processed foods in it. Admittedly, I’m not working this semester, but I’ve been making variations of this dinner since I was about eighteen– working, not working, pregnant, nursing a baby, single, married, perky, and in a zombie-like trance.
Nearly all the dinners I make are interchangeable with this timeline. Exchange chicken, beef, or another fish for catfish. Switch another vegetable for greens. Do noodles or gnocchi instead of rice. It still all takes about half an hour. Seriously, what’s the big deal?
So when people tell me, “Oh, I’m so tired when I get home from work!” I think, what do you do for half an hour that isn’t this? I also think of my husband, who often comes home straight from work and shoves me out of the kitchen so that he can do this himself. He comes home and wants to cook. And I think that’s what it all boils down to, regardless of gender. You either want to spend that half hour avoiding preservatives and extra sugary calories or prepackaged hidden sodium, making a home cooked meal, relaxing with a glass of wine and chatting about your day– or you want to spend that half hour with your feet up on an ottoman, channel-surfing or on the internet. If you are the latter, don’t be lazy and blame it on feminism. Call a spade a spade, and declare that you’d rather be doing something else.