Tag Archives: food

Mirror, mirror

It may surprise some of you that mine has not joined the chorus of voices condemning BP.  The oil company has all the makings of a great villain – large corporation, terrible safety track record, environmental disaster.  The urge to paint an evil black moustache on the whole damned company is almost irresistible.

Yet, I have resisted.  Sure, I think BP fucked up.  And lord knows the oil spill is horrific.  I get why people are pissed at BP.

I just don’t think BP is the only culprit here.

While we’re at it, I know it’s fun to attack Obama from the left and the right, but that is futile at best and erroneous at worst.  Hell, I’m not even entirely sure we should be shaking our fists at George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and the “Drill, baby, drill” chorus.

Because we don’t get to blame other people until we examine our own deeds.

We have created an insatiable demand for oil.  We drive when we could walk.  We eschew public transportation because our cars are under our control and we really don’t want to have to wait for the bus.

We demand ripe blueberries in December.  Here’s a news flash: I live in New Jersey.  I don’t get to eat fresh blueberries in December.  That’s just the way it goes.  Any berries I might buy in the grocery store were flown in from another continent using a tank full of petroleum.

We think nothing of importing wine and food and goods and jet around.  Most of us aren’t complete numbskulls and don’t leave our SUVs idling for 45 minutes while picking up our kindergarteners, but I know at least one person who does.  I’m thinking of sending her a bill for her share in the oil spill.

We are to blame here.  Until I can say I live a life free of oil – and even Sara can’t do that – I don’t get to point fingers here.  You can if you want to, but I am treating this as a call to further reduce my dependence on oil.  The less oil I demand, the less need there is for drilling.  It’s that simple.

Now, since it is the summer, I’m going to go eat a fresh blueberry muffin.

Resistance is futile

My children’s friends come over and the first thing they ask me is, “Can I have a muffin?”  I’m thrilled they like my muffins, because my damned kids won’t eat them.  Zachary will only deign to eat them on the day they are baked, which leads me to wonder if just possibly I have spoiled him

On Sunday night, I mixed all the dry ingredients and all the wet ingredients so that Monday morning I could quickly throw it all together and have fresh muffins for Zach’s lunchbox.

I just can’t figure out how the kids got so spoiled.

On the drive home, I asked him if he had eaten his lunch.  “No,” he snapped.

“Why not?”

“It’s the muffins.”

“Was there something wrong with the muffin?” I asked.

“I wish you weren’t a cook!” he burst out.  “I wish you didn’t know how to cook!  Then I could have machine-made food!”

I’d offer up sage philosophical commentary on this little tirade, except I need to go measure out the flour for tomorrow’s bread.

Benjamin’s couscous

Lilah loves beans of all sorts.  Benjamin likes most bean dishes, although white beans are hit or miss.  Zachary would not consider eating a bean if it were coated in caramel and dipped in chocolate.

Lilah thinks squash is one of the seven wonders of the world.  Benjamin likes squash unless a better offer comes along.  Zachary would switch seats on an airplane if a squash were sitting next to him.

Lilah loves to try new foods, except on the days she doesn’t.  Benjamin assumes that any new food must be a treat that we’ve been hiding from him, and usually that turns out to be the case, like last week when he tried scallops for the first time and adored them.  Zachary hasn’t tried a new food since the Bush administration.

You see how it goes in our house.  About the only thing Zach does like is hamburgers, which Benjamin doesn’t particularly appreciate, so he ends up just eating the baked sweet potato fries.  Lilah likes burgers, though.  That’s how third children roll.

It’s all quite exhausting.

Sunday night I soaked two bags of garbanzos and then I cooked them up Monday morning while we were all getting ready for the day.  We had been out of town for the weekend so we were out of quite a few things, although we did have a couple of acorn squashes and quite a few carrots.  Unfortunately, they boys are off school, which is how I found myself at the grocery store with all three children, a situation I am usually far more successful at avoiding.

Sometime between the first and third time the boys decided to wrestle on the grocery store floor, we went down the rice aisle.  “I’m making chickpeas tonight,” I told Benjamin.  “Would you like them on rice or with this?  It’s a special pasta called ‘couscous.’”

“Um, I want that!” Benjamin replied, assuming if he hadn’t had it before, it must be delicious.

Now, their father hates couscous, but, frankly, if I thought about that fact I was afraid my head would start to spin around and my nostrils would blow blue smoke.  So, I bought some whole wheat couscous.

And, here’s what I did with it all.

Benjamin’s Couscous


Olive oil

One chopped onion

Several chopped cloves of garlic

Carrots – sliced in discs

One bag cooked garbanzos, drained

Two baked acorn squashes (sliced in half, baked face down about an hour on 400 with a little olive oil on them)

Chopped dates


Melt together the butter and olive oil.  Fry up the onions and garlic until translucent.

I didn’t have any chicken stock on hand, or I would have used that, but instead I used plain water.  I poured in a little more than 4 cups of water to a boil because the couscous package said 1 ¼ cups water to 1 cup couscous, and I wanted a little extra in there since I was cooking up other things, too.  Bring it all to a boil.  Add the carrots and cook till soft.

Then, add the couscous (in this case, I used three cups) and the dates.  Mix up and cover.  After five minutes, fluff with fork, then mix in the cooked garbanzos and chopped up cooked squash.  Don’t worry if they’ve already cooled, as this particular dish is fine warm instead of hot.

Salt to taste, which usually means I forget the salt and then we all rush to add it at the supper table.

My husband actually loved it, despite his deep seeded prejudice against couscous, perhaps due to some childhood trauma involving a Moroccan restaurant.  Benjamin and Lilah loved it, much to the detriment of our dining room rug.

Zachary didn’t try it, but I had also made garbanzo muffins.  Because I’m not an idiot.

Diet incentive

When we want burritos, I soak the beans the night before, grate the cheese, and roll my own tortillas.  I bake honey-sweetened, vegetable-packed muffins at least twice a week.  We weaned our kids off frozen waffles by buying a waffle maker; my husband mixes waffle batter every few days.  From scratch.  I bake bread twice a week.  We work hard to minimize the processed foods our children intake.

So, perhaps you will be surprised to learn that nothing would make my middle child happier than to eat twelve hotdogs a day.  He adores pepperoni pizza, but he eats only the pepperoni, leaving the denuded and pockmarked remains of his feast in his wake.  When we go out to breakfast, he wants sausage and pancakes.  He eats the sausage, ignores the pancakes, and starts looking around the restaurant for bits of sausage left on other people’s plates.

He really likes encased meats.

Benjamin eats other things, too.  He likes broccoli and apples and tofu and Peking duck and pretty much any other food with the not-hard-and-fast exception of spaghetti and Brussels sprouts.  Other than his hotdog fetish, he’s a pretty healthy little eater.

His food vocabulary is remarkable, and if you list three ingredients, he’ll tell you what to make with them.  Food is his thing.  He loves food, and it loves him back.  He is such a good eater that sometimes, when we lift his solid little body, we groan and joke, “You’re getting so heavy.  I think we’re going to have to stop giving you so much food.”  The child eats carrots in front of the television and every now and then requests cashews for lunch.

But his first, great love will always be encased meats.

Today, as I lifted my three-and-a-half year old to carry him over the deep slush to the car, he put his arms around my neck and murmured into my ear.  “I want to stop eating ‘cased meats.”


“Yes,” he answered.  “Because I want you to keep lifting me up.”

Culinary Minefield

Zachary rang out 2009 much the same way he rang it in: complaining about dinner and eating nothing.  Come to think of it, that’s how he spent the last half a decade.

We went around the table, performing our nightly ritual of asking each person what the worst and best parts of the day had been.  Zachary’s worst?  “You making food I don’t like for dinner.”

Hmmm.  “Well, babe, that’s a mighty short list: foods you don’t like.”

“No it’s not.  It’s a very long list,” he spat back.  Five-year-olds lack a capacity for sarcasm.  He went on: “You can’t just make food for one person.  You have to think about everyone.”

“Dude.  I made pizza. I am pretty sure I was thinking about you.  Do you think Daddy and I want to eat pizza?”  My husband, mid-bite, shook his head.  The pizza was unbelievably bland by the time I left out the garlic and olive oil to which Lilah is allergic and the various herbs to which Zachary would no doubt have vociferous objections.  Benjamin was far too engaged in his third piece of pizza to bother telling us the best part of his day.

No one knows why Zach elects not to eat.  All we know is that food is enormously stressful for him.  We’ve tried hard to make our house a stress-free zone.  I bake muffins with all the fruits and veggies pureed in.  We buy the fruits he likes.  We try to make sure there is one healthful item at each dinner that he will enjoy, even if it is just fresh, whole wheat bread.  Going out to eat is another story.  It is an experience fraught with potential disasters.  Butter!  Sauce!  Green things!

How is a small boy to know what could show up on his plate in a place as wildly out of control as a restaurant?

I feel sad for him.  While the rest of the world is out, gorging on flavors of all sorts, Zachary is hiding in the corner, terrified that someone might try to slip some butter onto his popcorn.

Life, I am quite certain, is not meant to be lived this way.


I want to thank all of you who have gone over to Babble.com and clicked “like” for Wheels on the Bus.  It means a great deal to me.  If you haven’t had a chance yet, please do consider registering your fondness for my blog, which you’ll have to scroll down to find somewhere in the 50s.  It takes only a few seconds and allows me to feel like perhaps I am not howling into the wilderness here…

In response to my lament about having to use canned pumpkin, Magpie ever-so-innocently asked why I can’t use fresh squash, instead.

Because, when I bake fresh squash, I invite Benjamin in to stand on our kitchen step-ladder and participate in the skinning and pureeing of said vegetable.   He decides he needs to eat some of the squash.  He proceeds to eat all but about three tablespoons of the puree, which is more or less useless in baking terms.  So, I offer the rest of the squash to Lilah, who stands on a dining room chair eating it with a spoon from a ramekin.  It is my chair, which gets squash on approximately three-quarters of its surface.   When Lilah indicates that she is finished, I wipe her down and she heads into the kitchen, where she cackles with delight as she climbs up and down the step-ladder in the middle of the kitchen.  I go to remove the ramekin and notice there are about two teaspoonfuls left, which at this point I may as well eat.  I walk past Lilah as I take the first of two bites, whereupon she screams at me.  I sigh and put the last spoonful into her mouth as she stands on the step-ladder, wash out the Cuisinart, put away the step-ladder when she gets down to go pull all the little cards out of Candyland, and start to scrub down my dinner chair.

I give up and decide to make garbanzo muffins, instead.

The recipe has been removed.  Please let me know if you need a copy.

Zachary’s favorite muffins

One of the biggest challenges of raising Zachary is that he changes his food preferences on a bi-weekly basis.  Today, he adores apples, but with the skin removed.  Tomorrow, he will eat only the skin, disposing of the entire white inside.  Next week, he will want pears.  Or star fruit.  Or cauliflower.

No, not cauliflower.  There’s not much I know in this world, but one thing I am pretty sure he will never, ever ask me for cauliflower.  That certainty lends an air of predictability to my universe.

This makes baking an extra-special kind of challenge.  By the time I actually buy the groceries, mix the batter, and bake the muffins, he’s likely to change his tastes.  We do best with recipes that require a short bake-time.  If they spend too long in the oven, he may not want them anymore by the time they come out.

One week, it’s all about the carrot-apple muffins.  He’s refusing any other food, handing muffins out to his friends at play dates, and telling me I am the best baker in the whole world.  Then, two days later, I offer him one.  “Yuck!” he exclaims.  “Those are disgusting.”

I sigh.  “I need to pack you something for lunch,” I tell him.  “What kind of muffins would you like?”

“I’ll only eat the pumpkin muffins,” he declares.

“So, if we get pumpkin at the grocery store, you will eat the muffins for lunch?  For three days?”

“Yes!  The pumpkin muffins are my favorites,” he tells me.  Now, far be it from me to remind him that two weeks ago, he declared the pumpkin muffins “monstrous.”  They are his favorites.  So, I will bake them.

They are best in the fall, when we can get real pumpkins.  I hate to use canned pumpkin.  For any number of reasons: BPAs in the cans, manufacturing pollution, loss of nutrients, extra rubbish created. Take your pick.  But, when Zachary is your child, you must sometimes make some concessions to necessity, and whole pumpkins are hard to come by in January.

I have removed the recipe.  Please email me if you would like a copy.  My email address is on the About page.

I have not worked much with dried, ground ginger before, but I must say I like it.  I don’t use a lot of ginger, and so I find when I buy the fresh stuff, some always goes to waste.  With the ground stuff, I always have it on hand.

I will delete this recipe in a day or two.