Owen has claimed Isabel's Snuggie as his own, a practice we called "Indian giving" back in the day. They don't use that term around the schoolyard anymore, which is probably for the best. The Snuggie makes him look a little like Max in the Wild Things book, and I sometimes even think he acts more demanding and imperious when he's wearing his cape.
One quirk of our picky family is that everyone loves salad, so the other night we had feta salad with pita crisps out of Moro. It was fine; I was trying to diet. See wooden salad bowl in foreground. Didn't get around to setting a gracious table that night.
Yesterday, I roasted chicken with harissa and made the cauliflower with pinenuts, saffron and raisins, also from Moro recipes. I was feeling very disspirited and bored and cooking dinner seemed like a monumental drag and I decided it's because I've been picking the most boring, frugal, and easy dishes out of the book. There's little excitement in a conscientious work- and child-centered day if you eliminate even the cheap thrill of grilling a quail, or frying an imported chorizo. I am much less crabby when I try something new or fancy or challenging or exotic.
This is why I took Dan Duane's side in Eizabeth Weil's New York Times Magazine story that all my friends were talking about a week ago. Let the guy go wild in the kitchen, I thought. Especially if you won't French kiss! (You have to read the story.) A pig's head and some squab are cheaper than a divorce.
But I had more sympathy for Weil after reading Hanna Rosin's Doublex piece today about culinary turf wars and the rise of the male "kitchen bitch." You can read it here. I know these men, the ones who have you over for big, showy dinners with pricey cuts of meat and Tuscan wines while the little brown wren of a wife quietly clears away the dirty glasses.
I don't know what I would call my husband's kitchen persona, but this is not it. When I came back from Hawaii, the refrigerator was full of Oscar Mayer products, the super-cheap milk from Walgreens, and half-eaten jars of spaghetti sauce. Frustrating in its own way, but at least there are no power struggles over who's making Christmas dinner.
I started to wonder if I'm guilty of what Rosin and Weil complain about, of forcing my spouse to do the childcare while I pour my energy into time-consuming, show-offy cooking feats. On occasion, yes. But after some soul-searching, I acquitted myself. Almost all my cooking, ambitious or otherwise, occurs between 5 and 7:15 p.m. when I'm alone in the house with the children, helping with long division homework and listening to them fight. Cooking just keeps my hands busy; I'm available, but not idle. What else would I do?
In other news, I just read a dark little book (physically little, not little in any other way) called American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell. If I had my own 2009 top ten list, this would be on it. Campbell's stories are scary, precise and exquisitely written; the characters are meth addicts, salvage yard operators, and struggling Michigan farmers, so-called "ordinary" people but they're not given the usual, solemn "ordinary" treatment. It's funny and wicked and brilliant. Highly recommend -- but not for everyone. Definitely not for my mother, for instance. If you don't like dark, disturbing books, I would instead recommend Mennonite in a Little Back Dress by Rhoda Janzen, which I also loved, and is sweet, witty and altogether delightful.