Sunday, September 15, 2013

A fight and then some cookies

my grandmother's cookie jar
Don’t worry, I’m not turning this into a blog about fights with Owen. The following did occur in the kitchen and afterwards I baked cookies. Plus, this dispute was so archetypal I may never need to describe another fight with adolescent Owen again. Only the details change. Good times.

Thursday I came home and found Owen hunched at the table eating cereal. I said, “What happened at school today?”

Owen: “Stuff.” A silence. Then: “When are you going to give me back my iPod Touch? 

He knew the answer to this, but wanted to bicker, to make clear right off the bat that we weren’t friends on this particular afternoon. The answer to the question was: You get the iPod back when you’ve emptied your lunch box, picked up your dirty clothes, finished your homework, and somehow managed not to be a complete jerk during the time it takes to get that done. Good luck with the last part, little buddy. 

The iPod issue passed without detonation.

A few minutes later, he went to the refrigerator, extracted the orange juice, and started swinging the bottle back and forth like a pendulum. It wasn’t a gentle swinging. It was the motion you make when bowling.

“Stop that please,” I said. “It makes me nervous you’re going to drop it.” There is precedent.

He stopped. I didn’t see his eyes light up, but in a cartoon, his eyes would have lit up. Immediately, he began to shake the bottle up and down. It wasn’t a gentle shaking, it was the motion people make when chopping wood with an axe, but faster. I hate the word "bark" when used to describe human speech, especially my own, but I barked: “STOP IT! I told you not to do that.” 

Owen: “What?! You did not!” He continued to shake the orange juice bottle, which I then wrested from his hands and returned to the refrigerator.

Jennifer: “I told you to stop swinging the orange juice.”

Owen: “I wasn’t swinging it, I was shaking it.” 

Jennifer: “You are definitely not getting your iPod back today.”

Owen: “Oh my God, Mom, you're so unfair. I was shaking the orange juice. You have to shake orange juice before you pour it. Don’t you even know that?” The last line spoken with withering condescension.

Et cetera. It went on for about 7 minutes. 

My mistake was shouting at him, engaging, letting know he got my goat. I can break this cycle only by keeping my cool and exacting stiff penalties, but I often find it hard to be unruffled, wise, far-sighted, tired, stern, and intensely irritated in a single moment. 

After that, I made cookies. Owen had said earlier that he wanted chocolate chip cookies, so I made gingersnaps. My paternal grandmother always kept gingersnaps in her cookie jar in the corner of her kitchen. 
 Sometimes when I can't sleep, I walk through their house in my mind. 
Not that anyone other than my sister cares, but you can see the cookie jar against the wall, behind my grandmother's arm. You can even see gingersnaps. They were supermarket gingersnaps the size of silver dollars, dark brown, very hard, incredibly good. I used to get up at night and tip-toe to the kitchen, take a handful of gingersnaps and carry them back to bed where I would eat them in the dark. Why did I feel the need to sneak the cookies? Would my grandmother have reprimanded me for eating them openly? It's possible. She was a cool, strict grandmother, not a soft one. No orange juice-shaking episodes on her watch.

I love gingersnaps. They’re plain-looking cookies, spicy and direct at first bite, but then they open up, become rich, warm, complex. I used the recipe for English gingersnaps from The Essential New York Times Cookbook and baked the cookies at the upper end of the recommended time range so they would be super-hard, which they are, though not as hard as the supermarket gingersnaps Do they use some deadly industrial fat to get the cookies so hard? A chemical? Also, these cookies could use a bit more ginger. But overall? Buttery, lively, crispy, delicious. 

Friday morning I put two gingersnaps in a bag in Owen’s lunchbox. Then I decided to run a little experiment and added two store-bought graham crackers, the '67 Dodge Dart of cookies. 
hopeless

25 comments:

  1. Sounds like you need a drink. :) Or perhaps some meditation. I thought boys got easier as they got older....?

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    Replies
    1. I think once they get over this 12-13 rough patch they get easier. I hope so. He's a great kid, but still more of a kid than a young man and I probably expect him to act how he looks. Taller than me, baritone, etc.

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  2. Ha ha haaaa . . . do you think he did it on purpose to spite you?

    In our family we make what we call ginger bends, but they inspire the same sort of nostalgia. They are my mother-in-law's tradition, and she keeps them in a rectangular dark red Tupperware with a clear lid, and I bet that Tupperware is going to cause fights when my in-laws die.

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    Replies
    1. Spite may be too strong a word. It's just amusing to watch me blow up.

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  3. I absolutely love very word of this post!

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  4. I get some of that hairsplitting in "discussions" with my 13yo son. We got into a heated exchange last week as he was leaving for a four-day school trip, and I felt awful all day, with no way to reconnect with him. I think he forgot about it as soon as he was on the bus...

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    1. I know. I miss him when he goes to school after a bad morning and I'm sure he doesn't think about it at all.

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  5. Best caption ever! I walk through my grandparents' houses in my mind, too! For comfort. Also, I have a 3-year-old son (and a 6-year-old daughter) ... I fear the future.

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    1. There are good things about having adolescents, of course. No car seats, you can leave them home alone, you can take them to movies you actually want to see.
      Grandparents houses. They were special.

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  6. I loved this post. I hope it felt cathartic, did it? I "inherited" my stepson when he was 15 years old. It could have been worse for me, but not for him. His mother died, so he wasn't a product of divorce, but he compared everything I did to how she did it, and all of it was wanting. I kept telling myself he had a good excuse to pick at me, he missed his mother, and that maybe she did cook, clean, etc. better than I did. However, when he criticized my presentation, I almost bit my tongue in two. Now that he is 32, he is amazed at how difficult he was. And since he is not married, he is grateful for every morsel he gets from my table, no matter what it looks like! I think you show commendable restraint. Oh, and I walk through my parents and my grandparents houses all the time in my head. I didn't know anyone else did that.

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like an extremely tense, unenviable position you were in with your stepson. Poor you. Poor him. But with a happy ending.

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  7. When I can't sleep, I plan my husband's funeral from his early, tragic death that leaves me with enough life insurance money not to work again if I am thrifty, which is Good Part Number One, but more importantly, means I NEVER HAVE TO TALK TO HIS PARENTS AGAIN.

    They will not even be invited to the funeral.

    I mean, they can come. But I am not picking them up at the airport and they can't stay at my house.

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    Replies
    1. Can you stop talking to his parents right now? It sounds like maybe you should.

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  8. I loved this post- grandmother's house, surly children and cookies are all topics dear to my heart.

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  9. Thanks for sharing this recipe, It looks very delicious. The next time can you give us some recipe that using pressure cooker ? . I bought a new one but lacking the ideas to use it :(

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  10. "Owen had said earlier that he wanted chocolate chip cookies, so I made gingersnaps." LOL. I love gingersnaps too. We also used to have the storebought kind around the house. My father and I would sit and watch TV and eat out of the bag. Nowadays I think homemade ones are better though.

    Sometimes when I can't sleep I also think about houses I have known that now only exist in my memory. It's amazing how many details can float up in your mind.

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    Replies
    1. I'm interested to read how many other people think about lost houses. You can't really think about a lost person for very long at any given time. But you can dwell for hours in their house, you can walk around and open drawers and closets, remember what it was like to be in their habitat.

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  11. Boys are easy. Make the chocolate chip cookies. Please.

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  12. This post made me cross over from reader to commentator! As the Mother of three boys 22,19, and 16: Oh Boy, I hear you sister. Here is a small tidbit from my years in combat: Picture Owen as a little Bunny, a sly rabbit. He cleverly baits you and then merrily jumps down his rabbit hole into the Rabbit Warren of Teen Age Crazy. For me, when I would see my sons fluffy little white tale disappear down the hole ....Down I Went! But the thing is he knows his way around, in those endless circular pathways, where up is down and nonsense stands in for reason. And you my Dear Mother, will be lost forever in the warren of crazy. So when you see him swing the juice, let it fall. Raise your eye brows, tell him to get a crack-a lackin cleaning it up, get in the car and go. And when he baits you again ( and he will, again, and again...etc etc) and jumps in the hole...Don't follow him. Eventually his little ears will pop up, whiskers a quivering wondering where you are. It takes an iron will sometimes to stay in the land of Sanity! Good Luck Lady! Maybe it's time for me to make a video: "It Gets Better" sounds catchy!

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  13. I love your blog! It is so wonderful to have a REAL blog, not a perfect, made up, your life cannot possibly be like that kind of blog. There are many of those. When my son starts doing things like that I invoke Sandy the Squirrel from Spongebob- you know the one with the glass globe on her head? I pretend I am wearing the glass bowl and I cannot hear anything. Sandy is my hero.
    Keep cooking, maybe your grandchildren will sneak through your house to steal your gingersnaps from the cookie jar.

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  14. Take a quantum of solace that Owen will make a fine attorney -- and one with the additional advantage of speaking Mandarin.

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  15. I love your blog. I hope you get the chance to check out my best rice cooker website too.

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