The day our vegetable starter was too big, and no one wanted the main course. It happens.
While dining with a lifelong friend last night, she mentioned my Culinary Summer Series appeared picturesque. I laughed, “Sure, except for when I lose my temper after explaining measurements for the hundredth time, and after 2 hours of cooking and eating, I shoo them away from the kitchen so I can do a solid hour of dishes in silence. By then, they’ve worn me out.” Wait. Is it time for a reality post? Yes, Lydia declares it Lori-Reality-Check-Day, so here goes:
(1) I lose my temper in the kitchen. Some days I’m hungry. Some days they are hungry. Some days I’m just sick of hearing them argue about who is going to sit on what stool, and OH MY GOD please stop bickering! I prayed for patience when this summer began, and every day since. I can’t imagine it’s fun learning with me bellowing, “A HALF A CUP! It’s ONE HALF, not TWELVE! See the dash? The slash mark! We’ve gone over this and over this!”
Gourmet’s Mac N Cheese, each girl made 2 ramekins. We could each barely finish 1. So filling.
(2) I’m not good at judging how much extra cooking time we’ll need with 6 extra helping hands. Somewhere around 6x as long, I suppose. By the time we eat, we’re pretty hungry, and pretty testy.
(3) I try to prewash, if even just a couple of things, while I cook. With 3 little bodies wielding knives, hot grease on the stove, and flour creating an indoor dust storm, it simply cannot happen. Every single bowl, every single utensil, along with all of those cute hand wash only dishes from Paris, pile up in a tower that reminds me of the endless trash in Wall-E.
Crowder Peas I bought the morning they were picked. Horrible. Tried to make them into a soup to improve their flavor. Nope. Drought ruined the peas. But the good news is I spent almost 3 hours shelling them.
(4) The grocery bill. The attempts at teaching the girls how to grocery shop with my list. You don’t want to go there. A solid summer spent in the produce section, and not one child can accurately identify cilantro. Kelly puts holes in tomatoes with her fingers. Sara and Avery invariably get into a battle of non-wits. Grocery shopping is my personal game of Survivor.
(5) After working our butts off, they still say yuck from time to time. Today, looking at their first pureed pea soup, Sara asked how on earth was she supposed to eat warm puke? Thank you Sara. The greatest eater in the house just compared our vegetable starter to vomit. Sara wolfed down the bowl, ate a fish taco in about 1 minute, and left the table with Avery and Kelly still staring numbly at their cups of soup. Wait. First she blew out the candle triumphantly, making her 30th wish, because the best eater gets to make the wish. Sara, my Olympic eater, has a cup running over with wishes, leaving everyone else with cups full of soup. We call that “Culinary Lori Math”.
My peach picking peaches. HOT day, but such fun for the family.
(6) I’m putting on my summer weight. Not from the eating. Oh no. From the drinking. For the past 3 weeks, I retire into my evenings with either a beer, a glass of wine, or a Bloody Mary in my hand. I’d worry, but I’m fairly certain every other Stay At Home Mother is drinking at this point in the summer. We’re in the 9th inning stretch. I’d go to the gym, but my gym has a 1 “babysitter” for every 200 children ratio, at a tune of $30 extra dollars per month. For that kind of money I could hire a private nanny to teach them Italian while I run. Good Lord LA Fitness, are you joking? I’m going to pay you to throw my kids into a scene from Lord Of The Flies? I know what you’re thinking, “Lori, if you really wanted to work out, you could go in the evenings.” I direct you back to the beginning of Section (6). That would cut into time I have wisely allotted to Bloody Marys.
But all jokes aside, as I said to Lydia over a pitcher of Sangrias (again, I refer you to Section 6), nearly every single day, and my favorite part of any summer day I’ve ever had with my Trifecta, we sit down to a white tablecloth, cloth napkins, candles lit, music playing, and most of the time, we enjoy a meal like none other. One bite, and our hunger and impatience are gone. We talk about the most mundane, ridiculous, far-fetched, and concrete of things. We talk about the history of the food, the music, and stories of my travels when I was faced with beheading a duck in front of a banquet hall of people in Wuhan, China. The time my Grilled Cheese came to me swimming in white wine in the countryside surrounding Nice, France. They know if I could eat anywhere again, it would be Prague. Their absolute favorite is the time I got attacked by “eels” in Mexico. Dumbest Lori Travel Story Ever. We laugh and laugh. The girls have learned table manners and the ability to converse and eat and SIT. Wiggles don’t happen at our lunch table, not these days. The girls can out-sit Greg at dinner! For him to come home from a long day at work, and never have to beg them to behave at the table? That alone was worth the effort.
It took at least 16 attempts, but the girls finally ate and enjoyed herbed stuffing with Lodi apples.
In the end, no one is going to teach them to eat but me. It is simply not in the American Culture for our schools to teach “eating”. We somehow expect that if we give kids a steady diet of chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and spaghetti, they’ll grow up craving asparagus and pecan encrusted cod. They won’t. Those little tongues must be exposed over and over to new tastes if they are to grow into a rainbow diet. I may not love teaching, but I do love food. And I’m hoping in between my “elbows off the table”, and “Kelly, you’re about to slice off your entire thumb”, and “Avery and Sara, if you eat off those cutting boards one more time, you’re out of my kitchen”…they’ve learned something that will stick. Lydia asked if it was worth all the extra time and effort? How can America fit this craziness into our schedules? I don’t know. Give up Dancing With The Stars and Pinterest, I suppose? I only know it was worth it. Whatever we gave up to do it: running around town, crafting, practicing spelling…you name it…it was worth it.
The day to day reality isn’t always pretty, but the moments within them are priceless. And if all else fails, become a food salesman. Today I served pureed pea soup before the fish tacos. Fish tacos, the one thing I was sure Avery and Kelly would fight to their death. Let me tell you, after heated puke, a fish taco has never looked so good. They licked their plates clean. Tomorrow? Fried shrimp with a creamed tomato and lemon sauce and seasoned cucumbers. Wish me luck! And above all, thank you for supporting our journey this summer. The comments and emails have fueled me to keep going. I have loved sharing this trip with you as well. Godspeed, my friends.