I got to see Diana Kennedy at the Texas Book Festival in November. If I had dragged myself away from Facebook long enough to write a blog post that month, she would have been at the top of my list of (non-political) things to write about. She is a goddamn marvel. She’s 93, British, and fiercely opinionated. She wore tight leather pants to her session and told us, the audience, how shitty and wasteful we are. I was charmed. You can get a little taste of her glory in this interview with the San Antonio Express News. Anyway, I’m bringing her up here because one of the things she shared with us, when asked for her advice on how to live a good life, was to be more critical. Kennedy’s doing her part, for certain. Her newest book (an updated version of one of her classics) contains two separate chapters on her pet peeves, which she refers to as her ‘betes noires.’ Which brings me to my point. What is the best way to be critical?
I’m judgmental. Really judgmental. To me that means that I’m quietly critical, though I don’t have a poker face to speak of, so if I’m being quietly critical around you some of that judgment is going to come across without me having to say anything. But how should this play out online, in the Trump-era specifically, when you can’t see me wrinkling up my nose at the shitty thing you just shared? Is it worth speaking up and calling out your Facebook friends when this happens? Or better to not waste your time on it and judge them silently and move on? Don’t tell me that not judging them at all is option C. It’s not for me! Some examples from the past few weeks:
- After the women’s march, a friend posted a picture of some Army ladies in their fatigues holding big guns with the caption “Real women who march for rights.” I thought about asking her why being afraid that my family (and millions of others) would lose our health insurance and marching to try to make my voice heard meant that I wasn’t a “real woman.” But I ended up not saying anything. I thought about saying something snarky about not being a real woman again this week when this same lady invited me to a LuLaRoe (?) party. I didn’t say anything then either. But I judged, oh, I judged.
- Another friend posted an image of Kurt Cobain with a made-up quote from him saying that Donald Trump was just the sort of outsider our generation would call on to save our country. I thought about posting the Snopes article that explains that this is a made up quotation, but didn’t because this friend has put Snopes in her “fake news” category, so what’s the point?
- Someone else shared a news article that said Iran would ban U.S. citizens from entering their country in response to Trump’s ban and said “Oh darn! I really wanted to go there. Smirk.” I did leave a comment on this one, and tried to explain that this will have devastating effects for families and to urge him to think about the lives that would be upended by this.
So that’s what I did in three cases out of dozens, but what’s the right thing to do? Do you speak up every time and hope that you can get through to someone, or at least be a voice of dissent for other people who read this stuff? Do you stop following or ignore these people because it’s exhausting and the fight’s not with them, it’s with the politicians? I just don’t know. I wish Diana Kennedy was available to coach me through it.
Here’s what we ate this week.
Homemade Chorizo, Mexican Rice. Henry ate his way through the bowl of pickled red onions like they were a side dish. It was mesmerizing to watch.
Hoecakes and Bacon. A parkour anecdote! George and I head into the active play room where he immediately throws his body on a big peanut-shaped yoga ball. He rolls around erratically for a minute before moving on to the trampoline. Meanwhile, a little toddler wanders over to the peanut ball and picks something up. Her mom follows her and says loudly, “These are NAILS!” Of course they’re George’s. We’re still working on the master bathroom and there are little piles of nails here and there on the tables in my room. He’s been carrying them around in his shirt pocket all day, taking them out periodically and pretending they’re lightsabers, and I forgot they were in there. So I had to walk over there and say “Oh, I’m so sorry, those must be my sons- he’s been playing with nails.” She looked at me like I had two heads. It didn’t occur to me till later that night that most parents probably don’t let their three-year-olds play with nails.
And a note about hoecakes. Andy’s dad takes deep dives into any and every subject that interests him, no matter how trivial. There is a famous family anecdote about him spending hours in the barbed wire section of the Smithsonian reading everything they had posted about the history of the stuff. Recently, an episode of Cook’s Country led him to research hoecakes, and the meaning behind the name- were they cooked on actual hoes? (Signs point to no!) Anyway, he told me about how people would use them like bread to make pulled pork hoecake sandwiches, and I spent some time daydreaming about that. Later, when I was flipping through my Big Bad Breakfast cookbook looking for dinner ideas, I came across a recipe for hoecakes, along with a long headnote about the etymology of the name, and figured it was a sign that I should make them. They were delicious! I’ll have to try them again in sandwich-form when I can get my hands on some pulled pork.
Egg McMuffin. Thinking about hoecake sandwiches made me think about the time I made homemade McGriddles and that made me want a hammy eggy sandwich thing. That’s all.
Sticky Balsamic Ribs, Garlic Cheese Grits, Burnt Green Onion Dip with Curly Kale. When I was planning this menu I thought it might be too ambitious. The ribs and the kale (both genius recipes on Food52!) require multiple steps, and the grits have to be stirred continuously for 15 minutes while you’re simultaneously tending to the grilling of the ribs and the production of the weirdo kale dish. But I decided to go for it, because the kids have been playing together, without maiming each other, for longer stretches lately and maybe I could get away with it. It ended up being pretty damn hard to accomplish. George was impossibly clingy and needy and difficult the whole day. He clung to my leg, stood on my feet, stepped in my way every step of the production of this meal. I got the ribs on the table and went back out to grill the green onions (which is one of the top five best smells in the world, by the way) and he stuck his head out the back door to tell me that the ribs weren’t good. They were good. Don’t listen to uncharacteristically-rude George.
Red Beans and Rice. Mary came to watch the kids for me on Thursday and I got to drop off the bags of stuff for Goodwill that have been hanging around in the trunk of my car for the last four weeks. I worked in the yard all afternoon, while Mary and the kids kept me company. Mary (she’s my mother-in-law, did you know?) talked about maybe doing a half Ironman in the fall (she’s also a super-human, did you know that too?) and it was the first time I have ever felt intrigued instead of repulsed by the idea of all that physical exertion. I don’t think I should start with an Ironman (I cannot jog the length of my block without getting a stitch in my side and giving up on the whole idea) but I do want to do something. Molly mentioned joining her for a class led by a Very Handsome Man in which you run on a treadmill on a steep incline while listening to hip hop music. This sounds promising (aside from the treadmill part). But I also want to do my brother-in-law’s patented workout program, Shovel Fit, in which you do grueling manual labor in the garden to get fit. Joanna has given me the green light to come out to their farm and get to digging. Opportunities abound!
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Roasted Brussels Sprouts. This is from the Food Lab cookbook, though it’s called pasta with three kinds of garlic, or something along those lines, but it was great. I’m sorry the recipe isn’t online- Lopez-Alt is the master of taking the same ingredients anyone would use for a classic recipe and handling them in a new way that makes it so much better than the swill I would throw together on my own.
I’m doing a free month of a meditation program. I didn’t know anything about meditation, and what it involved beyond sitting somewhere quiet with your eyes closed. What do you do while you’re sitting there quietly? I’m a bit behind already, but I did the second day on Friday, after the kids had gone to bed. It was a hearing meditation exercise, and I was instructed to listen to the sounds that were all around me, to take them in without judging them, to simply notice them and let them wash over me. Adelaide, our elderly boxer, spent the duration of this exercise at the foot of my bed snoring, farting, and then licking herself with her giant floppy tongue.
Super Bowl Fare. Meats and Cheese, Fruit, Cheesy Beer Muffins, Korean Fried Chicken Wings. We watched the Super Bowl and ate snacks in front of the TV. The kids were enraptured. They loved the game, they loved Lady Gaga, who they were surprised to find wasn’t a baby, and they loved getting to stay up past their bedtime to watch TV. These wings are delicious. I skipped the red pepper flakes because the kids were eating them, but there’s a full cup of sliced ginger steeped in the basting sauce, which lends a delightful, kid-friendly, spiciness to the wings. It was fun and sticky and fun.
That was our week! Some of it! For those of you who have asked about our insurance and my lady parts, two random bits of housekeeping: We still don’t know what’s happening with our insurance. We have been assured that people somewhere are working on it. Someone said we’d be covered for January. We don’t know if the new plan costs a trillion dollars or basically anything else about what’s going on. I went off birth control and had a normal period this month that lasted about a week like a normal human woman!
I’m off to meditate on how to be my best and most Diana Kennedy-like self while listening to the sound of dog farts. See ya next week.