Saturday, February 25, 2012

Kids Do Say...

Mine are all grown, on their own, have their own lives and families, and are building their own memories. I posted a funny story about my something my son said on Facebook and it made a lot of people laugh, so I realized it might be worth repeating:

My cousin's daughter just posted about her son's being so happy to have a new baby brother. It made me think of my first son who asked me for a brother when he was 9. (He already had 2 sisters.) When I asked how he was so sure I would have a boy, He told me that if I wanted a boy, I'd have a boy, but, a few seconds later, he came up with "By the time that kid's worth anything, I'll be 18 years old. Forget about it."

Thinking back to the years of living with my first born, a five pound, “chicken” about whom one of my mother’s friends said to her when she so proudly pulled out a picture of him, her first grandchild, “Those are the ones who turn out good,” all I can remember is that I really did think I was living with the village idiot. He didn’t say a word until he was over two.
Maybe it was because his sister, born 15 months later and talking when she was eight months old, but she’s another story. She taught herself to count backwards from 100 before she was three and I was too naïve to figure out that that was strange. What kind of kid would want to do that? And when she, at no more than two, was sitting with my father while he watched two football games at once, as he did every Sunday, she said to him, “I don’t understand this game, all they do is run around, go like this (putting two hands in the air), and fall down. She was the one who told my mother, as she lit up a cigarette, “Nanny, you’re going to die tomorrow.” My mother quit smoking before my third child was born, so she wasn’t yet three.
And so it went, one night, when they were both in high school, my son awakened his sister in the middle of the night with “If you were a girl, what would you do if….” Apparently he was madly in love with someone and had no idea how to do whatever it was he wanted to do.
Until he was invited to be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, I think I still thought he just didn’t measure up academically. When I called him in England where he was on an internship and asked if he wanted to come home for the ceremony, he asked, “What’s that?” See why we thought of him as Mr. Magoo?
Imagine how happy I was when my third child, a beautiful, normal little girl was born. I had a friend who used to repeat, as we did dumb things “Normal is boring.” No, normal, when it comes to children, is wonderful--easy, fun, comfortable, predictable. 
        My mother used to tell me when my children were little: “Little children, little problems, big children, big problems.” All I can add to that is “Do is the best you can and pray a lot.” Unfortunately, the image of the mommy and the daddy and the dog and the pretty house with the white picket fence might not last forever.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Am I Missing Something?

OK, I know I made a fuss about whisking the dry ingredients for the shortbread cookies. Perhaps I over-reacted because whole wheat flour wouldn’t have been quite as messy as white flour, although the recipe would probably have been much better if some white flour had been mixed in. The comments about the cookies on the website weren’t too positive. I just used it as a vehicle to gripe about editing.

But, it gets worse.  Today the March issue of Bon Appetit arrived, an event in my mailbox because I really do read recipes as if they were novels. The cover story is new (I guess) no knead pizza. First line: "Whisk flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl." I don't know about you, but I whisk with a whisk, stir with a spoon, and beat with a beater, either electric or hand operated.

Sure, I could accomplish the mixing with a whisk without turning my kitchen into a virtual dust storm, but the next sentence in the instructions reads “While stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually add 3 cups water…”  Is there anyone out there who can explain to me whether a whisk could by any stretch of the imagination really do a better job of mixing the dry ingredients or why it could possibly be necessary, since they surely would have been combined with the addition of the 3 cups of water?

Bon Appetit, do you need an editor. I start to work at 5 AM and I could squeeze you in.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another Love/Hate Relationship

Writing, I love it and I hate it. Cooking, I love it. Eating, I really love it.
      Bon Appetit is one of the few magazines that pile up everywhere. I love the pictures, I read and re-read the recipes, I respect the writing and the editing. Sometimes, I even try the recipes.
      I’m not a dessert eater. I don’t love cake or pie. I can’t eat ice cream. I love crème brulee and bread pudding, but can’t eat them because anything based on milk gives me migraines. Shortbread cookies are another story. I love them. I’ll eat Lorna Doones by the handfuls. The Scottish ones by Walker in the red plaid tins are my passion. 
I came across this recipe when I was re-reading an old Bon Appetit that was hidden behind the old Architectural Digest, Vogue, and New Times on the magazine rack in the head of the motor home. My granddaughter was engaged in an old episode of “The Simpsons,” probably appropriate to the humor I found in the instructions for the shortbread cookies. 
I’ve been working diligently trying to edit recipes for my book proposal, trying to figure out whether the instructions sound reasonable, trying to picture a cook following a recipe for the first time. If Marge Simpson wanted to bake these shortbread cookies, she would have followed the instructions to the letter.
What would have happened if she had whisked the flour, sugar, and baking powder? How high would the cloud have risen? Did the editors really think the dust bowl created by whisking a dry flour mixture in a bowl could have been worth saving another implement, like a spoon?  Or did one of their usually really good editors miss this one?
I now feel better about the errors I make all the time, about the edits my daughter, husband and daughter in law make to my writing. Even if Marge Simpson wouldn’t have made a big mess of the shortbread cookies, Lucille Ball certainly would have. Can’t you just picture her bright red hair covered in flour dust?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bagels, a Work in Progress

For the last three days, I’ve been messing around with bagels. Don’t ask me why, but now I feel like the bagels are laughing at me. I come from the land of the bagel and one of my son’s friends comes from a long line of award winning baglers, but I live in Miami, the land of the cottony Cuban bread. Once in a while a new bagel shop opens and claims to have the formula for the best New York or even Brooklyn bagel, but….

Some people really believe that the difference is the New York water. If I believed that, then I’d believe that you really can taste the nuances of “designer” salts. Yes, water does taste different in New York, but I have yet to be convinced that bagels know the difference.
New York bagels could be better because of the huge investment in equipment, but, if that were the absolute difference, I would give up right now--all I have is a residential variety electric oven. 

Sometimes I think that trying to produce the perfect bagel is as dumb a pursuit as making my own couscous out of semolina flour, grinding my own flour, or buying casings from a butcher supply house and stuffing my own sausages. I really do have a flour grinder and sausage stuffer, both of which fit on my very old but virtually unchanged Kitchen Aid mixer.

No, I haven’t been able to cure this week’s obsession, so I’ve made too many bagels. The first batch looked flattened out, like the ones the bagel stores pass off as lower in calories. The second batch was so bad that I threw them out. This batch is almost perfect.