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Archive for July, 2011

Abdication

This week, I cooked.

I engaged my kid in the process.  We sat and ate together.  It was a proper meal, and she was with me at the local farmers market when we bought the ingredients.  It was food we could talk about and try together.

This would seem a no-brainer considering I write about our family, food, cooking, and parenting.  I write about our daughter’s developing palate, and how we lucked into a kid that eats and tries without too much complaint.

Except I have not been writing.  Only one post so far this year!?!  I have a long list of half-hearted ideas, all a steady foundation in self-admonishment.  We certainly have not stopped eating.  But I haven’t really been cooking either.  We have been in the food-is-fuel mentality for some time now.

Occasionally I would get a spark of inspiration, but these thoughts repeatedly centered around one theme.

Abdication.

Child rearing sometimes feels like managing abdication.  It would be hypocrisy to continue writing about our successes without acknowledging the stumbles.

Of course I have a host of handy excuses.  A job change for The Spouse.  Living mostly-apart while figuring out the new school and a mostly-move to the other side of the Bay.  Living through six months of construction in the midst of it all because, of course, the cabinets and fixtures were ordered mere weeks before the job offer arrived.  Plus, initially we didn’t really think we’d move.  (Or maybe just I didn’t.)  Oh yeah, and that successful spinal fusion a few years back?  The next disk is on the degenerative slide into oblivion.  And double oh yeah, I needed to pack and prep The Dog and The Child to travel for the summer as soon as school let out.

The extra pathetic aspect is that all these demanding circumstances are founded in really good stuff.  It’s a good job with great medical in a crap economy.  It’s a final stage remodel, watching eight years of dreaming come to fruition.  The Child is thrilled about the move to a new community and new school, even though she spent a happy 2nd grade year at the old school.  And by renting a small apartment we can keep our connections to our old ‘hood while exploring another community.  All of this stress is very good stress.  We are very lucky.  Did I mention we spend summers on a lake?  We’re really, really lucky.

But somewhere along the line with all the positive on the horizon, I gave up trying to make sure we were eating right.

It was a gradual slide into abdication for me.  Construction debris and drywall dust meant we ordered Chinese or Indian take out or hit the sushi bar often.  Turns out the kid loves uni.  A growing child who loves uni and anything else on the special board takes a chunk of change.  So as soon as conditions would allow I made us… stuff.  Stuff.  It was food but it wasn’t quite cooking, and I was not proud.  Initially I found myself laughing off an evening of beans on toast by telling The Child I was introducing her to an important component of British cuisine.  For months we enjoyed locally-made Massimo’s pizzas delivered through spud.com, telling myself at least it was unprocessed and local.  But before I knew it, many meals a week were a tortilla nuked with cheese, and breakfast was peanut butter toast or cereal day after day.

At the end of the slide I find myself sitting down six months later to a dinner at the cabin of freezer-burned Ore-Ida ‘seasoned’ fries, ketchup, and a martini.  I muttered with a disapproving smile that omnivorous means being able to eat whatever is available, right?  They were leftover from my father’s spring fishing trip.

Seriously.  I didn’t buy ‘em.

But I liked ‘em.  Uh oh.

I had fallen a long way, and the epiphany meant pulling out the camera, just like I used to when we sat down to fabulous meals.

I could feel my own palate changing.  My cravings on a personal level often devolved into an evening of putting The Child to bed and pulling out a bag of spicy chips and a tub of sour cream.  Yeah, that’s right, if you dip the Thai Spice Kettle Chips directly into sour cream you don’t even have to mix up a proper dip.  Now that’s lazy.  Deliciously lazy.  During the six months of construction I gained over 12 pounds.  My clothes stopped fitting.  And by June, those awful fries with ketchup actually tasted good.

What’s worse, I could see my kid’s patterns changing.  She was craving sweets and salts when bored or tired.  The habit of asking for a snack in order to avoid facing anything from chores to homework was well developed.  She started walking in and asking for candy for breakfast?!?  And it wasn’t even Halloween.

“Really? You thought that would work?  On what planet do you think…”  We’d never once had candy for breakfast.  She would shrug and wander off like some sort of zombie.

We lived in our completed home for a total of nine days before school ended and we trekked to the cabin for the summer.  Travel was smooth and easy for Child, Dog, and Mom, but it was late.  We collapsed into bed in our clothes upon arrival at midnight, grateful for the feel and smell the Northwoods around us, even in the dark.  When this summer ends our family will be living together again 24/7.  The new school is close enough to ride bikes on a nice day.  Hopefully my grumpy spine will benefit from less time in the car driving to and from school.  The new community has a gorgeous farmers market, and dear friends.

We woke to a mostly empty fridge that first morning and I made Fake-Cheez Singles on toast for breakfast, handed her one, and we went outside to feel the breeze blowing up off the lake.  While standing there, The Child handed it back to me, “This is gross.  Do I have to eat this?”

“No honey.  No you don’t.”  Her tastes don’t have the plastic-cheez 80’s muscle memory to fall back upon.  Mommy ate two.  Ew.

Then I thought to myself, “Okay then, time to reboot.”  First step is to forgive myself for the failure.  Learn and move on.  Each day this summer there has been a little less abdication, and The Child sees me more aware.  Our healthy routines and patterns are returning, slowly.  I actually feel like cooking again, and even a little writing.  Halle-freakin-lujah!

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