I ♥ To Eat

I don’t like to cook. There. I’ve admitted it. I’ve come out of the pantry. I don’t like to cook. It’s beyond the “I hate preparing dinner for my family every night” stuff.  After years of Gourmet and Bon Apetit floating in front of me and purchases of all sorts of kitchen things, working at a kitchen store, being part of the “foodie” generation, and dreams of entertaining and feeding my friends fabulous meals, I’ve finally admitted to myself that I cook like shit and I really don’t enjoy the process. I don’t like to cook. It’s such a relief to admit this.

Still I read cookbooks and food blogs. Something is compelling me to read this stuff.  Well, that something is the prospect of eating. You know, what I really just want to do is hang out with my pals and eat, for god’s sake. It’s tough to admit this because it is very cool, fashionable and fun to cook. And lord knows I want to be cool, fashionable and fun.

I come from a family that really likes food. We get a couple of cookbooks every Christmas and part of any given conversation is about food. Everyone likes to cook. In college my younger brother was making handmade won ton soup for his drunken buddies while I was in my dorm room, hunched over like some wild-eyed cavewoman eating Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese out of an illegal hotpot with a spork. I got sisters who whip up loaves of bread because they had and extra 15 minutes in the morning and who successfully make real, gourmet meals on weeknights. WTF?

My very own husband loves having people over for dinner. He is a really good cook and enjoys making the list and prepping the food, getting the presentation just right. He likes nothing more than the sight of a large cut of raw meat, just waiting to be massaged and finessed for culinary purposes. It’s endearing, really. (And yes, I know exactly how that meat sentence reads.)

I am not like these people. The signs were there all right, but I chose to ignore them.  The awful menus, badly cooked meals, and the dearth of joy while preparing food.  And it’s not that I’m lazy or cheap. I would love to have the wherewithal to whip up a kick-ass meal.  God knows I have tried. I want that warm and wonderful scene, but I just fail to produce it.

One of my dearest friends openly admits that she doesn’t have a keen interest in food.  Sure, she likes to eat, but she isn’t all that interested in cooking. Well, I’d think (not a little patronizingly), maybe some day she will learn about the magic and fun of cooking. Here, I’ll show her how great it can be by burning the crap out an entrée and serving it to her.

Friends have pulled me off of prep duty because I am so ungodly slow with a knife. I have savaged vegetables so badly at the stove that people couldn’t identify them. The shopping is sometimes fun, but the fun is dampened by the anticipation of cooking. You simply can’t depend on me to keep my head in the harried, cluttered moments of the kitchen and remember to do things like turn on the oven. And all those orderly steps? Come on. I read and re-read one sentence in a recipe over and over, to no avail.  Meh.

Look, here are the kitchen and food-related things that I’m good at:

  • Leaning on my elbow and talking engagingly/drunkenly with a glass of wine in my hand while you chop the shit out of some shallots.
  • Running to the store to get those 5 scallions you forgot.
  • Taste testing (well, duh).
  • Figuring out that one flavor in the potatoes and then talking in an asinine fashion about similar potatoes I had in France.
  • Eating large amounts of what you’ve made so that you feel your meal was appreciated.
  • Bringing the cups and napkins or ice cream.

I still love to eat and talk about the food I’m eating. I want to know that this is a triple reduction broth you’re serving me – I like to think about all the careful planning, the fabulous orchestration and hard work you’ve put into it. It is so very appreciated. I just don’t want to do it myself, that’s all. And, really, is that so wrong?

With my newfound identity of non-cook I entreat you to not shun me or behave differently toward me. I’m still the same person you knew before you started reading this, just a lot less cook-ish. I will gladly invite you over for a meal, but understand that you will be coming over for the conversation. Please, I ask you to just accept me for the eater I am.

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Does This Face Make Me Look Old?

I have three dermatologists flitting about in my social life. All are very dear, lovely reasonable women, whom I respect and really enjoy hanging out with. Never do they offer any unsolicited advice or make you feel they are judging you and your epidermal layer. Life generally goes on with them quite nicely with pleasant dinners, family outings, book discussions and tete-a-tetes.

But there comes a point during my time with them where I have to ask them THE question: “What do I need done to my face?” It’s a loaded, stupid question that never ends well for me.  An updated version of the classic jack-ass question: “Does this dress make me look fat?” That “fat” question is so old school. Back then all women did was slap cold cream on their faces at night with the occasional “beauty masque” and cucumber slices under the eyes. Face lifts were for the Mrs. Howell types. Fewer beauty options would leave women plenty of time to focus on weight. It was all Ponds, cigarettes, coffee and speed. So simple.

But today we’ve moved beyond the simple. Our faux affluent society and technology have upped the beauty ante.  Dermabrasion, laser treatments, Botox, collagen and Retin A are just a handful of things that are paraded before us. There is always some kind of beauty treatment that could be shoehorned into your budget. That is, if you really cared about your appearance.

For a while it seemed that every time I picked up an Oprah magazine it would insist that I love me for myself, girl, but then give me 10 pages of products and procedures to keep me from looking like the 43-year-old hag that I am. Marionette lines. Never even knew what they were until some fashion rag mentioned them. Now it’s all I can see and they are so glaringly awful that I’m sure they are the reason I haven’t been invited to various social functions.   I’ve always had a problem with marionettes and now I know why. It’s their freaking mouths.

So, anyway, I ask THE question to my dear derm friends. They don’t even want to talk shop but they respect my question and answer it honestly and professionally, surveying my face and telling me about fills and lasers and botox. It’s exactly what I’ve asked for and I walk away with feelings of inadequacy.

What the hell was I expecting, anyway? I’ll tell you what. I want them to look surprised and say, “Well no, you don’t need a thing. Maybe a stronger moisturizer for those tiny, teeny crows feet. But, golly, you continue to be a marvel of flesh!” Then we’d hug and order another margarita. It could be such a sweet moment.

But no. It’s like I’m repeatedly opening the fridge for that piece of cake that isn’t there. I open the door over and over in a needy, hopeful sort of way, but that cake simply isn’t showing up.

I’m concerned that I care about all this face stuff. Youth and beauty have been studied and debated forever and I should know better and understand where a human’s value lies. Yet I wrestle with some age old questions: Do all Botoxed women have that certain Olive Oyl quality to their face or am I just defensive and bitter? If I get face work, won’t I just look like a middle-aged woman who gets face work?  What’s the point there? Who will I be fooling, really? If a woman fills her marionette lines in the forest, will she be more beautiful?

Thinking about these things makes me feel vain, pathetic and tired. I know, I know, I should coax out my inner beauty by meditation, yoga and probiotics.  But really, the coffee, cigarettes and speed regimen is pretty tempting.

Peanuts: A Short Rant

Please do me a favor and stop using those foam packing peanuts in my packages. I don’t care what you’re sending me – crystal, Faberge Egg, macramé, whatever. I hate those little bastards. They flutter and float about, scooting just out of reach when you’re trying to scoop them up. They break loose from your trash can on trash day and spread all over your street, causing your neighbors to hate you. Your toddler thinks they would be cool to chew on, so now it goes in her mouth, breaking up and choking her. Then you have to try the Heimlich maneuver or some MacGyver tracheotomy using your Martha Stewart cake server. It gets complicated. I called the 800 number to “recycle” them, but I would have to drive quite a ways. Environmentally, what is worse: using gas to drive to this place or just throwing them away? Could you please just stop using those fucking peanuts?

Irksome Aspects of Parenting: III

CHILDREN

I’ll just come out with it. I don’t like children. Oh, I put up a good front most of the time, smiling and calling them sweetie. Providing them with snacks, toys, and playdates. But, really, they irk me. My husband, who is every kid’s fun-time favorite person, thinks I’m a bit of a nasty malcontent, but he’s an idiot.

I’ve got three reasons for disliking children:

They Don’t Do Things the Right Way

What’s with their inability to properly blow and wipe their nose? Why can’t they wash their hands with just one pump of liquid soap? Why do they care if they don’t get the red cup? Why do they always want me to look at what they’re doing? Why do they wear plaids and floral prints at the same time? Why don’t they draw a proper picture? Why don’t they do things my way? The right way.

Social scientists go into all this talk of stages of development and self-esteem. Well, maybe. But, if a 7-year-old kid across the world can solder bracelets 15 hours a day, then my 7-year old sure as hell can set the table with the fork on the left, thus doing it my way, which also happens to be the right way.

Kids are Boring Playmates

  • How many times do I have to read that *&%$# book to you?
  • Do I and 15 of your stuffed animals really need to sit on the sofa and watch you dance to “Mama Mia” again?
  • You want me to play the kitty Polly Pocket, whose name is Meow Meow?
  • I’ve told you over and over that a full house beats a pair

And just for the record: I NEVER get to play the princess – only the prince.

Awkwardness

There are the run of the mill embarrassing kid moments – public tantrums, pronouncements of a personal nature made to people in line at the grocery store, as well as snotty and rambunctious behavior. But this is small potatoes to the one-on-one moment with some kid stranger.

Kids do not get the first thing of the art of conversation. I get anxious with the random youngster encounter in the park. What’s with the “watch me” stuff? Okay, okay, so you can wave a twig in the air. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And what if I attempt conversation and the kid just stares me down? Or what if I don’t understand his learning-to-talk language? What if there are uncomfortable silences in our conversation when I’ve clearly given him a conversational opening? So awkward. And by the way, a big wow that you have a dog. I have one, too, you know.

Irksome Aspects of Parenting: II

(I split these up into 3 posts because it did go on so….)

TOYS

I ask you: why haven’t they invented the 3-hour TOY? The one that will keep your child from unwrapping all your sanitary napkins while you’re trying to finish making dinner. Oh, the righteous say, shouldn’t you be there, sitting on the floor, playing lovingly with your child? Enjoying every blessed second of blessedness? Sure. But what about those RARE moments, when I have other things to do and they’ve already watched tv….

We have a ton of the Plastic Pieces of Crap (PPC) that I break immediately as I try to wrestle them out of the packaging. These will amuse for a short time, but as they’re formed from vapid, fluffy concepts (shopping! puppies!) by exhausted overworked humans (sweatshops!) and sold because of their pink sparkly plastic-ness (microchips! phthalates!), I would not expect them to hold up. Still, these are the toys my kids desperately want and swear they will play with. But they lie.

Educational toys? Ah, learning about the world, science, art and self. These toys (often made of wood, featuring primary colors and hedgehogs; invariably from Germany) are supposed engage children’s magical curiosity and sense of wonder. So says the catalog. Alas, they are talking about someone else’s children. My kids will immediately break out into a rash when they touch them. I really want them to play with these things of wonder and science, to learn and be fascinated. But they take no interest in this kind of goodness. I’m sure that if I hadn’t had those extra lattes in the last trimester, my daughter would revel in figuring out how to power our stereo using only a potato, but that’s really all just water under the bridge now.

Irksome Aspects of Parenting: I

I’m operating on very little sleep these days due to some awesome anxiety-driven insomnia. In what is surely a reasonable, calm state of mind, I’ve been mulling over my life as a parent and the things that trouble me. Here’s what came to mind at 4am.

SNACKS

God forbid that your child does not get a SNACK. Kids need their snacks or else THEY WILL DIE. Now, I’m the first to acknowledge that a kid on low fuel is not a good thing. They fling stuff and become incredibly disagreeable and generally don’t feel so hot. They need to not be hungry. But it’s become a parental sport, this giving of the SNACK.

The concept of a steady fuel throughout the day has morphed into this slightly angst-ridden need to make sure our children HAVE SNACKS. It may be that they are experiencing hunger. Right at this moment. Good God, we all know that brain development depends on being fed. Can Jack come over to play for an hour or so? Yes and here are his 50 SNACKS. Make sure he gets them or he’ll fail math in 3rd grade. And worse, the snacks are crap. Do you really believe the “made with juice” or the word “natural” on the box means anything? Have you looked at the ingredients?

A Wasa cracker doesn’t have the appeal of, say, chewy sweet fruit snacks in the shape of princesses. My 3-year-old, understandably, wants nothing to do with this cracker. It’s fun to give her something sweet and brightly colored – her joy brings you joy. Yet you know that letting her have this crap is just training her taste buds and expectations.

But they’re hard to pass up, these brightly-colored cartoon-shaped, sprinkle-laden things. They look so fun, and who the hell doesn’t want to have fun? Our food culture of processed, sugary foods is scary to me, because refined sugar and wheat are in everything and our society eats way too much of that everything. And too much of it is responsible for a host of ills, not the least of which is a big fat ass. It’s also scary to me because I have such a problem keeping it out of my own mouth.

Oh, I had my older daughter eating the tree-hugger stuff in the early days. I was a Nazi about sugar and partially hydrogenated products and really tried to keep it to a minimum. It worked for a while and I patted myself on the back for my superior parenting. But once she entered kid society it was all over. “Mom, Emma gets S’mores Pop Tarts in her lunch. Can I have S’mores pop tarts?” “Well honey, Emma’s mother doesn’t love her as much as I love you. Pop Tarts are Satan’s food. Here are some awesome whole wheat carob-filled pastry sticks covered in sunflower seeds for your lunch tomorrow.” At which point she drops to the floor in despair, because not only does she not get the good snack, but she has no trading leverage and she’ll be ostracized from her group of friends for having weird food.

It’s especially painful when my daughter has her friends over for a playdate because there’s the pressure of the snack. I either have to embarrass my girl and offer the “healthy, boring stuff” or I scramble and buy some nasty processed shit that tastes kind of good that I end up polishing off after the friend has gone home, saying to my daughter as I’m chewing, “you’ve already had your sugary snack. One is enough.”

Living It Up

As Martha Stewart makes her usual fall/winter holiday forays that I so enjoy, I’ve been thinking about how often “Martha” is used as a backhanded compliment. I find myself a bit self-conscious about the Living magazines in my house, defending them especially because I myself fall so solidly into the slob/frozen food making/cartoon-watching genre.

Well, I’m going to admit it here: I love Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. Love it. I love the glossy, dreamy pictures. I love how it heralds in each new month and season. I love that it tells me how to keep my candles from wobbling, the history of Tyrian Purple, and the many chicken pictorials. Yes, sometimes it’s a bit much and I’m forced to do a series of eye rolls and derisive snorts. That feels good, too.

People get so mad at Martha. I’m not talking about the people who say she steam-rolled over them and ruined their lives in her pursuit of fortune and fame. Maybe she did. Maybe she didn’t. I don’t know. But among the rest the untrammeled masses, many feel that she sets an unrealistically high bar. But where they see a bar, I see fantasy Walter Mitty-like inspiration. When we read about mountain climbers, we don’t run out to scale K2, do we? Surely we can recognize our own limits.

All those projects that require glue guns, florist wire, and antique German felted animals should not distress you. You’ve got to know that the majority of the human species do not do these things for all kinds of reasons, like cost, time, and pride. And besides, Martha gives you practical instruction using simple ingredients like baking soda and vinegar (not all at once). Tips and techniques that I never use, but feel all the better for just reading about them. Yes, I feel earthy and wise.

And the people she’s always having parties and family dinners with? It’s true that they’re often at their 2nd home in the Hamptons or Aspen. Generally, they are fabulously rich and have beautiful, dapper kids, their houses are pristine and white, even with 2 children under the age of 5. But honestly, what would you rather see photos of: a Mimosa sushi party at a Beaux Art Santa Barbara cottage or a birthday party at the Old Country Buffet?

I’m just saying I’m a whore for the pretty, pretty pictures of mostly unattainable lifestyle and glam. But not too much glam. Town and Country is too much. The spreads of those people make me want to take a stick to them on general principle. How many underweight, languorous, effete poses do we need by the stable or poolside? You see, Martha shows me how the other half lives and then tells me how to use lemons to solve my everyday household problems. She keeps it real.

So no, I don’t hate Martha Stewart at all. It’s the bitches who can actually pull her stuff off that make me fly into a blind red-faced rage. Oh yes. I know some of these everyday reader people. They act all nicey-nice and “oh it wasn’t a big deal,” or “oh, do you really like it?” These civilians effortlessly put bric-a-brac on a lampshade, stylishly decorate their own home, concoct the 5-course snowshoeing picnic, assemble the wedding memory collage…whatever the challenge, they rise to it and succeed.

And when they show me what they’ve done, I just want to ask: what the hell is your problem? I mean, it’s okay to be sequestered away in Manhattan in the Omnimedia design studio hollowing out acorns to make into eyeglass holders. That’s someone’s job. But who do you people think you are, doing it at home? It’s not natural and, frankly, I hate them.