So This Happened

So I realized I haven’t put up a new post in about three months. There’s really no good excuse for this, other than the fact that I had a baby two months ago. Baby S arrived in the world a couple of days late, with a head full of what promises to be very curly hair. So far, she’s been a champ eater, sleeper, and pooper…what else could you possibly ask for?

In the past couple of months, I have become quite prolific on Twitter, probably because my thought process doesn’t go beyond 140 characters these days.

It was first on Twitter that I started writing some observations about being a parent of two children.

I want to compile them here in one easy list that will surely grow as the years go by. I’m sure these thoughts and observations are in no way, shape, or form original or earth shattering. But they’re mine and this is my blog, so I get to write them.

1. After having a second child, I realized that we had no idea what we were doing the first time around. From the 20 wipe diaper change to every freak out concerning a rash… Goodness we were completely clueless.

2. There really is such a thing as forgetting to eat. I always thought it was a dainty person’s way of saying that they were dieting. Alas, no.

3. I’ve already been disabused of the notion that second children are a lot mellower than first children. But I still can’t help feeling that it is true in some way. Things that S does that P just did not do very well: eat, sleep, be chill.

4. Before having a second child, I was somewhat worried that the amount of love that I would feel would be somehow less than for a firstborn. Man, was I wrong.

5. Once human cloning is an actual option, mothers of multiple children will be first in line for that technology. All of a sudden I am needed everywhere at once. I foresee this being the case for the next 18 years.

6. My oh my how do people handle more than two kids in a household?

Anyway, so far these are the only observations I can think of. If you have any nuggets of wisdom, please feel free to share in the comments section.

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The Cleanse in “Marathon Pants”

A lot of people have expressed an interest in the cleanse I mention in “Marathon Pants.” I didn’t feel comfortable “endorsing” a book or a diet on a national website, but hey, I can say whatever I want on my own blog, right? Anyway, it’s a book called Cinch!: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches by Cynthia Sass. It worked for me, but who knows if it works for everyone. Good luck and thanks for reading!

And while you’re at it, take a second to “like” my blog. Thanks!

Food Lessons Learned from My Italian Mother-in-Law

My suocera at home.

A is in no way, shape, or form a mammone (ma-mo-neh). What, you may ask, is a mammone? He would be the stereotypical Italian male who is practically attached to his mamma by the umbilical cord. He loves her above all else (at times, including his wife), loves her cooking and her cooking only, and lives a maximum of five minutes away from her his entire life.

Thankfully, the hubs doesn’t meet this description.

Italians are completely aware of the mammone phenomenon, and the self-awareness shows a variety of forms: TV specials, articles, shocking arrests, and of course, jokes.

My excessively devout brother-in-law (as in, he considered going to a seminary and becoming a Catholic priest level of devotion) told me the following:

Q: How do you know that Jesus was Italian?

A: Because he lived with his mother for 33 years, thought he was the son of god, and that his mother was a virgin.

I may be paraphrasing a rough translation…he told me the joke many many years ago.

I should also mention that the said brother in law is 39…and lives at home.

Anyway, as I was saying, A is not a mammone, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his mamma’s cooking. He even dared to say at one time that his mother made a certain dish—risotto—better than I. GASP! The horror! Well, he was right. I mean, she has been perfecting her risotto for about 45 years now, so she’s definitely got the upper hand when it comes to experience. And darn it, I honestly don’t know what she does, but her risotto is just plain awesome. Beyond good.

As any curious cook would, I’ve tried to learn as much as I can from her gazillion years of epicurean stylings in the twelve years that A and I have been married.  Thankfully, my suocera is not the type of person who hordes cooking secrets, or opinions (that one, less thankfully).

She loves it when we visit and I offer to help her out in the kitchen. She has three sons and a daughter, and only the youngest (a son, not A) ever showed any interest in cooking. My best times with her have been in the kitchen, chopping onions, working some dough, grating cheese. We’ll chat, or not, and we work with purpose. There are hungry mouths to be fed. Hungry, opinionated mouths.

I wanted to share some little tidbits that I’ve learned from A’s mom during our time in the cucina. Here they are in no particular order:

  • A few good ingredients can make or break a dish. At the top of that list are home-made broth, grana padano cheese, and olive oil. NB: if it comes in a green can and is not sold in the refrigerator section, it should not be considered cheese.
  • Good home-made broth is NOT made from chicken bones. It is made with a mixture of meat, namely hen and a fatty piece of beef. Since you can’t find hens in the U.S. for broth-making purposes, you can substitute chicken. With meat on the bones. Only the following ingredients should be used in making broth: water, chicken, beef, onions, carrots, celery, and salt. That’s it.
  • You can make a three to five course meal every week for at least ten people without blogging about it.
  • You can use seasonal, all-natural, local ingredients, and make a home-cooked meal for your family for you entire life without blogging about it.
  • Even Italian mammas use bouillon, but only in extreme situations, and never as a substitute for home-made broth in a broth-based dish (especially soup and risotto).
  • You don’t need a recipe to make bread. All you need is practice.
  • You don’t have to make a big production about making risotto. You make the base flavor (mushroom, asparagus, whatever), add rice, add broth (only the good stuff–see above), and stir. Yes, you can put a lid on risotto as you’re cooking it. No, you don’t have to stir it for 30 minutes straight. Yes, it can be a quick weeknight meal.
  • Quick-cooking polenta is a sad substitute for the stuff that takes an hour to cook.
  • Every special occasion is made even more special with a dish involving fresh-made pasta.
  • Don’t you dare make fresh pasta with store-bought eggs. Find a farm, find a friend who has chickens, anything. Just don’t use store-bought eggs to make pasta.
  • Sitting down together to eat as a family is pretty much the best thing you can do.
  • Every meal should end with a piece of cheese and fruit.
So there’s the list. It’s not Michael Pollan, but we try to stick to the basics of it as much as possible.
Although I must confess, I made some chicken-bone broth a few nights ago. Sshhh….just
don’t tell the suocera.

Bay Area Summer

If you live in the Bay Area, have lived in the Bay Area, or even just visited the Bay Area, you know how summer is here: nonexistent. Cold, foggy, drizzly, with an off-chance of a rare beautiful day (i.e. over 75 degrees) every once in a while.

When A and I lived in Italy (hot, humid summers with bugs as big as fists), coming to California to visit every summer was an incredible treat. We would get our three-week fix of cold weather, sleep with a down comforter in the middle of August, and then fly home to appreciate heat and humidity (aka being able to wear a tank top in the evening).

One thing we can still appreciate though, is the bounty of summer fruits and veggies. It’s good being here this time of year. This is a random list of yumminess I wanted to share…for no reason other than I’ve been thinking about all of these foods a lot.

  • roasted beets with goat cheese
  • corn, in any form (but heavenly mixed with jicama, avocado, mango, and a little bit of oil & lime juice)
  • avocado, in any form (see above)
  • strawberries
  • apricots
  • nectarines
  • tomatoes
  • tomatoes
  • tomatoes
  • tomatoes
Did I mention tomatoes? Cooking the simplest of summer pasta sauces (zucchini sauteed with a bit of olive oil and garlic, with fresh tomatoes added after about five minutes) always always takes me back to the first summer I was in Italy, living in Siena. I was totally penny-pinching (god knows why…it was one of the last times the dollar was kicking some ass over in Europe) and ate that pasta practically every day. It was good then; it’s still amazing now. Oh summer, how I love you, even in your Bay Area form.