Third Culture

As you may have noticed, I changed the name of the blog. Same look, same feel, same sparkling wit—just a new name.

I thought an explanation was needed, so here it goes.

I named Baby Ghetto Gourmet when I was pregnant and unemployed. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things, but at the time I was making on-the-spot decisions without much forethought, pretty much due to the emotional ups and downs that come with pregnancy and unemployment.

And I had just seen Julie & Julia, and thought that having a food blog would be so cool. Silly me, I didn’t realize that everyone else thought having a food blog would be so cool.

Also, the name Baby Ghetto Gourmet might just seem downright weird to anyone who doesn’t live in the Bay Area or is a huge foodie. (Named after the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley, blah blah blah.)

So the change to Third Culture. Why Third Culture, you may ask? I first heard the name from a friend and former coworker, CE, who had taught high school to expats in Austria. Apparently, it’s a term for kids of expats who grow up all over the world, and at some point lose a sense of belonging to their “home” country. The State Department website has a pretty extensive description of it.

Well, when I was preggers and unemployed, I’d meet up with CE (also unemployed at the time, though he wasn’t pregnant) once in a while, where we would discuss our idea for a TV show, which in our mind would be called Third Culture.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the term, and wanted to make it somehow mine (CE doesn’t mind—I already asked his permission).

I thought the term was much more representative of what I wanted the blog to be about. Neither I nor A were born in the U.S. He moved here from Italy as an adult, and I moved here from Iran when I was 9. But my 20s were spent in Italy, so I have spent almost half of my life living on non-American soil.

I carry and American passport and an Italian passport, but don’t feel like either fully represents who I am. I don’t have an Iranian passport, but you can’t really shake the culture in which you were born. So I’m neither here nor there, nor the other place.

A carries an American and Italian passport, but definitely feels more Italian than American, and rightly so.

Now we have a daughter who was born in the U.S., but into a family that is going to be somewhat different from her friends’. She’ll have the advantage of amazing fusion cuisine, and will hopefully have tri-linguist tendencies. But she will also have to deal with parents who don’t know all the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and never took PB&J to school for lunch.

So I hope the new blog name will inspire me to post about the challenges and joys of this aspect of parenthood. Although I will probably still write about my favorite recipes, cool buildings, and random things that have nothing to do with the Third Culture culture.

So stay tuned.

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No Ice Cream for Me

I’ve been a mom to little P for a smidge over nineteen months now, and last weekend I finally had the irrefutable proof that I have stepped the line to thorough mama-hood.

For some reason, this proof didn’t come while I was pushing her form out of my nether parts into the world, or when we brought her home for the first time, or when we figured out that she was smiling at us.

Nope. The proof came in a frozen yogurt shop in Carmel. When I turned down a perfectly good opportunity to have ice cream. I love ice cream. I never turn down a good chance to get my hands on some frozen deliciousness.

We ended up in a frozen yogurt shop because, you see, P is a picky eater. Picky in quality and taste, yes, but also in the form of entertainment that is presented to her when she eats. As I told her doctor at her last well baby visit, A and I pretty much have to do a song and dance routine to make her eat.

The entertainment comes in the form of books, crayons, toy cars, and *gasp* Caillou. Anything to make the girl open her mouth. When we visited A’s parents in Italy, entertainment came in the form of our large, extended Italian family doing their daily thing. Loud uncles, dancing cousins, cooking grandma—who needed Caillou at that point? She opened her mouth for anything and everything (although the yummy Italian food served up by said grandma may have had something to do with it).

But in restaurants, we’re pretty much out of luck. We don’t go out to eat very often, because “eating” turns into one of us scarfing down food as fast as possible while the other tries to get P to open her mouth, then passing her along to the satiated parent to repeat the ritual. It’s great if the restaurant in question has some sort of coloring instrument, and we generally bring some toys along, but the attention span wanders after about five minutes.

This past weekend, we went to Big Sur for a friend’s wedding (FYI, a wedding reception happening in the background is also enough entertainment to make her eat). Adding a day to the trip to enjoy the California coast before heading to the wedding seemed like a good idea. Except, of course, for the whole having-to-make-a-child-eat-sans-Caillou.

On Saturday, we had lunch at a really cute bistro, which had a respectable kids’ menu. I ordered P a quesadilla and a side of broccolini. She had about a half an inch of the quesadilla, and the majority of the broccolini (what can I say, she does love her greens…for now). But as far as the calories actually consumed, I figured she’d had about 150, max. She needed something else.

Which brings us back to the yogurt shop. One thing P never says no to is frozen yogurt. So we bought her a cup and watched happily as she proceeded to consume the entire thing without any jazz-hands routines from us.

As she was eating, I suddenly had a flashback to when I was a kid, happily eating ice cream while my parents watched. And my 4-year-old self would think, “Why would you NOT have ice cream?” It didn’t even cross my mind that sometimes, you might not want ice cream. You may be too full for ice cream. You may not be having an ice cream sort of day.

That’s when I kind of knew that the line had been crossed, and there wouldn’t be any going back. I was full but not stuffed; I hadn’t had dessert at the cute bistro; I wasn’t having an anti-ice cream day. But I was perfectly happy to watch P eat her cup without any need to enjoy some myself.

Mama-hood, at this point I must embrace you wholeheartedly. I looked around the yogurt shop and noticed that there were multiple sets of adults there with their kids, and only the kids were having ice cream. We had all crossed the line.

The way I figure it, this is the ice cream thought process at different ages:

4 year-old: “Ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream!”

14 year-old: “My parents gave me money for this ice cream, but I’m too cool to share it with them. Or be within 100 miles of them when I eat it.”

24 year-old: “Ice cream? I’d love some! Who cares if it’s midnight and I just had a slice of pizza?”

34 year-old: “My child is sure enjoying that ice cream.”

Oh, ice cream, I love thee. But definitely not as much as P does.

The Stakeout

A few years back, a friend told me that one of her good friends had just bought a house in a gated community in my parents’ hometown in SoCal, Thousand Oaks. My haughty, incredulous response, “Why?” My friend, whose daughter was a toddler at the time, responded that the town is really safe and has great schools (all true).

You see, I was cool and childless at the time, and living in New York. I so didn’t need to worry about stuff like that.

As I’m typing this, I’m staking out the house that I hope will be our future home. It’s in the burbs. Seriously in the burbs. But guess what: The town is pretty safe, and the schools are superb.

Why the stakeout? The house is on a busy street—not Fifth Avenue busy, but busier than your normal cul-de-sac. So I’m staking it out during commute hours to see just how busy it is, and whether we’ll be able to live with the “traffic.”

Oh, how things change. There are too many clichés to count when people talk about parenthood…how your priorities will be completely different, how you won’t recognize yourself from your pre-parenthood days, and most importantly, how you’ll do things you swore you would never do.

Like taking a job because it has excellent benefits…or moving to the burbs. My (hopefully) new hometown is the most suburban area I’ve considered living since moving off to college. But the reason that clichés about parenthood are clichés, is that they’re pretty much spot on.

I do want P to be able to play in the yard, have enough room to play hide and seek, and get a top-notch public education. Isn’t that what every parent wants?

I am, however, starting to prepare our reasoning for when P is a sullen teenager and wails, “You lived in Venice, Rome, New York, and San Francisco and chose to live here? Why?

Dearest, because it’s safe and gave you an education that allows you to pinpoint all those places on a map.