Monday, November 19, 2007

nighttime mathematics (with substitutions)

10 pm, Friday night.

The Toddles, having struggled all week with the lingering traces of fish in his system (it takes 2 weeks to clear an allergen out, post-exposure), has been sleeping badly for some time. While the rest of the family sleeps a relieved, sabbatical sleep, he pops up in bed.

Toddles: I'm awake.
mama, dryly: I can see that.
Toddles, confidingly: My poops are coming out of my bottom. They are working hard.
mama, straight-faced: ah. and where are they going?
Toddles, airily: oh, into my diaper.
Toddles, thinking out loud: one bottom for me, one bottom for [Eldest], one bottom for Daddy and one bottom for Mummy. [pause to consider this] One bottom each.
[satisfied nod]
The Toddles cocks his head to one side, and considers the matter further: One penis for me, one penis for [Eldest], one penis for penis for Mummy.
Toddles turns to the mama, and lays a comforting hand on her slightly quivering arm.
You have no penis, but you have Josh Beckett.
mama, controlling herself very, very carefully: I have who?
Toddles, confidently: You have a Josh Beckett. You like Josh Beckett.

one can only hope that he refers to the poster thoughtfully supplied by the Boston Globe, rather than a rather unusual choice of euphemism.


Even during the daytime, the Toddles is turning into a fascinating little person. We have delicious, hilarious conversations, and I find myself picking my way through the unknown territory of his mind. His perspective isn't just about two and a half feet lower than mine, it's completely, absolutely different. And one of the things I love about it is his fearlessness. (That's also the same thing that makes me gasp, clutch and my chest and eat far too much chocolate, but it's a good thing. In moderation.)

The Toddles, you see, will eat just about anything.

We discovered this one day when I decided to reintroduce the guessing spices game that I played with the Eldest at this age. (what spice is in this? here are three jars..what do you think?) The Toddles, however, is uninterested in waiting for the foods to be cooked, and instead likes to try the flavors before cooking and combining. He proved his point over cauliflower dum (cumin, coriander, pepper, turmeric, salt, cayenne. my face is warm, said he and smiled) and Imperfect Joes (where the heck did that recipe go? Oh, well. I think it was pepper, paprika, dark chili powder...etc). Then he moved on.

He ate

  • artichokes
  • mama's in haste green curry paste
  • ginger preserves
  • lemon-ginger tea (to prove the point)
  • hempmilk (a suggestion by Mary Jr, which I tried and found even more disturbing than ricemilk, which may say more about me than about hemp as milk)
  • the various spices of tandoori chicken (see here, though I skipped the yogurt and marinating. Instead, I sauteed an onion, tossed in the spices, then the chicken and finally added about 1/4 cup of reduced fat coconut milk, covered the pot and called it done. Ten minutes, tops.)

We all paused briefly to admire this, considered his early training on Vegemite, and appreciated the fearless gourmand that is this child. Huzzah! Wonder how long it will last?


Mama's in Haste Green Curry Paste

  • 1 lemon, zested and squeezed
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 large handful of parsley, another of cilantro (if available)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 scallions, or a good chunk of red onion
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • small chunk of ginger, peeled

Toss the lot into a food processor, and whirl it around until fairly smooth. Remove and keep out of the reach of your toddler, while you spoon it into a jar. If you stretch an old plastic bag over the top of the jar before putting on the lid, the paste will be more airtight and keep longer - up to two weeks.

Best curry paste moment ever: watching the Toddles eat it straight out of the jar. Last shabbat, he hauled a stepping stool over to the fridge, opened the fridge, pulled out the curry paste, got a spoon, and asked me to open it. I couldn't help myself - I opened the jar for the kid, and then sat there wishing for a camera and non-sabbatical moment, as he ate it right out of the jar. Dang.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

and thank you, Mister Nietzche

God is dead, the Eldest announced at dinner tonight.
Wha' whatthe whatthe what the wha'? we said, while the Toddles looked on with pleasure.
He's dead, the Eldest said flatly. He was a hundred - a thousand - years old, and he died.
Um, said the adults cleverly.

Well, thank you mister Nietzche. Now to the challenge: the Eldest has an excellent point. If God is corporeal, then he's dead by now. Bodies live, grow and die in order to give life to other living things. The Eldest, as we've noticed, is very clear on this point.

Some months ago, we had this conversation:
Uncle Dennis died, the Eldest informed me.
Yes, I confirmed.
His body is in the ground, the Eldest said - now reviewing the sum of his understanding on the subject.
Yes, I agreed.
His body is in the ground and he's not in it, the Eldest mused, but he will come back in a new life.
Ye-wha? I sat up straighter and started to really pay attention. What kind of new life?
Oh, maybe a rabbit, the Eldest said airily.

Across the dinner table, my father looked at me, his poker face imperfectly in place. Buddism? Reincarnation? What do they teach them in these schools?

Oh, dear. We tackled incorporeality at the dinner table, but the Eldest didn't seem too convinced. I think he started tuning us out when we talked about how, if you don't have a body, you can't be either male or female. Again, the Eldest is very clear on this point.

Time for a strategic retreat, I believe..


Nietzche's Dinner

  • 1 bag of Tinkyada pasta, cooked.
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large handful parsley
  • 1 cup pitted Israeli green olives, or stuffed green olives
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest of one or two lemons
  • 3 Tb salad dressing (we used our current favorite)

Toss cauli and red onion in olive oil, salt and pepper. Set oven to 475F and roast oiled veggies on a cookie sheet until browning - maybe 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.

In a food processor, whirl the remaining ingredients until a little chunky - maybe 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how much horsepower you have in your machine.

Toss roasted veggies, pasta and olive mixture together. Need some protein? Add strips of lox! Unless you are the Toddles' mum, in which case stare at it suspiciously and wonder if it's why he's been having hives lately...not sleeping...been wanting to nurse a lot...fussy at dinner...itchy and

Nabisco versus Bachman: a consumer's grump

I emailed both pretzel companies recently, asking about nuts, dairy, sesame, etc (the Eldest's allergy list), whther these ingredients were used in their products, on shared equipment with products that didn't have the allergens I listed, or simply in the same facility. I've written this email many, many times before, and frankly nowadays I write it with a certain measure of skepticism. I rarely get a good response (With the exception of Amy's Kitchen and gDiapers, they were extraordinary in their response to me.)

Here are the responses I recieved. Please note that this is not a suggestion that you buy these products, if you share any of the Eldest's allergies - ingredient lists change regularly, and you should always check. Instead, I'm offering this as an example of how things can - and how they usually do - work in this sort of exchange.

Bachman said:

The Bachman pretzels are egg and nut free. We distribute nuts and peanut butter filled pretzels, but we do not produce them. Our pretzel facility does have dairy, poppy and sesame seeds in the plant. We do have two dedicated lines that do not use dairy or seeds and are in a separate location in the plant. The following pretzels would be safe for your child:

Thin'n Rights Fat Free
Thin'n RightsPetites or

If you need any further information, please e-mail me at


Debra Facciolli
The Bachman Company
Quality Assurance Manager

The Mama says: Bravo! Clearly responded, well done.

Nabisco said:

If there is an allergenic protein in a product due to the presence of sesame seed, sunflower seed, poppy seed and/or cottonseed, it will be stated on the ingredient line. If the seed is processed in such a way as to remove the allergenic protein (e.g sunflower oil that has been refined, bleached and deodorized), and is part of a natural flavor then it does not need to be added to the ingredient line.Please note that at this point the allergenic protein has been removed.

Allergist's Note: this is not necessarily true.

I sent a politely irked email pointing this out, and requesting specific information regarding the 'natural flavors.' I also reiterated my question regarding ingredients, shared equipment and facility. (See above: the response did not discuss shared equipment or facility.) The same person said:

The supplier from which we obtain the natural flavoring will not reveal the exact ingredients to us, as they consider it to be proprietary.We do require the suppliers to inform us if any of the following components are in the flavor so we can label them on the ingredient line:

eggs, dairy, celery, soy, treenuts, peanuts, wheat, fish, shellfish, seafood, gluten and sulfites

Also, we do not include monosodium glutamate (also known as MSG), hydrolyzed protein (sometimes known as hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP) or autolyzed yeast extract under the term 'natural flavor' in the ingredient line.

What I can tell you is that if any of our products contains protein from a substance recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to cause severe to life-threatening reactions in susceptible individuals, those substances are ALWAYS listed on the ingredient statement.

Kim McMiller

Associate Director, Consumer Relations
Mama's note: my questions about shared equipment/facility are not addressed. Nor is the FAAN study that I cited regarding tree nut proteins found in 'natural flavors.' Furthermore, she's overlooking that my list of allergens includes items that the FDA requires them to list (a.k.a. the Big Eight allergens). Furthermore, the FDA has yet to make a decision about cross-contamination, and is wavering over how much protein content counts as life-threatening. Which makes stating the FDA's position not exactly helpful in answering my question.

My final request for clarification and my restatement of my questions was ignored.

Meanwhile, all hail Allergy Grocer, which not only answers my questions with zest and speed, but has an extraordinary level of precision. They do not, alas, manage questions about products outside of their own selection, which leaves me out of luck where Triscuits are concerned.

BTW, Triscuit makes a sesame-containing version, the garlic-rosemary flavor. Seems like the answer to my question was: yes, we make a product with sesame. And anything made on the same machines as this cracker would be problematic. So why couldn't the contact person at Nabisco just say that, and tell me what is/is not made on shared lines? In the same facility?

Bah, humbug.

From the post over at Check My Tag, I suspect Utz would be another company worth trying to talk to... see here for some excellent labelling practices.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

conversations with the short

But first, a quick nod to my new persona as book critic: this one was a good read, I thought, with an absolutely delightful authorial voice, and blogospheric-worthy sense of self. I could have done without the chookhouse, but the tale of two mariners had me frozen in my seat. I absolutely had to know what happened next...

Yup, worth reading. But you decide for yourself - wiser heads might point out a certain bias on my part.
[During lunch, at which point the Toddles reminds us all that he really does have a bit of a lisp]

small person: I hear a duck
Adult: my ears hear a truck, too.
[truck rumbles down the street]
small person, scornfully: noooo, the other duck.
Adult: my ears do not hear another truck.
small person, mouth slightly full: it is the backoe.
Adult: oh, the back-hoe was by the river before
small person, now liberally daubed with tomato sauce, singing: I fink the backoe should wive [live] down-a, down-a
Adult: live down where?
small person, undaunted, still saucy and still singing: Oh, I fink the backoe should wive down-a, down-a, Sanniego [San Diego]
Adult, sensing a narrative to which she is not - quite - a party: oh. Right then.

Scene: at the table, the Eldest is carefully, patiently, folding an origami compsygnathus. The Man is with him, watching this latest generation of passionate hobbyists at work.

Man: You know, when you were about a month old, I had a dream that someday you would have an activity that you loved, and we would support you in it.
Eldest stirs briefly in response, then returns to his work.
Man, meditatively: you know, I think we’re living that dream.
Eldest, looking up, his attention caught: I think we ARE living that dream, Daddy!
Yes, said the dreamer, smiling gently. But not during dinner.

The Toddles is on my back, sitting happily in the Ergo carrier while leafing through a copy of Where the Wild Things Are.

How are you doing back there?
Oh, good.
And how are the wild things?
Oh, um, good. And also Max.
Excellent. And where are Max and the wild things now?
Oh, um, in my mouth.

[choked gargle from the sherpa, a distinctly pleased silence from her baggage]

Mama at the sink, washing dishes. A small figure trots by.

I’m going to work wif dis, drifts back to the maternal ear.
Oh, okay hon, she says, unthinking. But then, snikt

[running feet]

What on earth?

how one discovers that the two year old can open the child-locked cabinets and drawers.
a quiet, pre-bedtime moment. The Mama is leisurely inspecting the child's head for, alas, lice.

Mum, hemophilia is when you are missing factor eight and factor nine. But who is missing factor nine?
I blink, and reel off a couple of names.
Oh. But what about ----, or --------, or ---------?
Oh, they are missing factor eight, hon. Like you.

And so is [list deleted]. They were with us at camp , d’you remember?
Thoughtfully, Yes. Those guys are all my buddies.
Yes. And I’m glad.

The gift of camp was a weekend of joy without the mention of hemophilia, thus quietly linking hemophilia with a sense of opportunity and delight. Brilliantly done. The less subtle goal, though, was building community - and with it a sense of shared experience, normalcy, blahditty blah blah. All good stuff, no?

This past week was the National Hemophilia Foundation’s big annual meeting. Someday, I’ll take the Eldest, and he can look at rooms and rooms of people, all reluctant clotters like him, like us. Until then, I'll just bask quietly in the knowledge that for a kid with a rare thingummijiggy, he's got quite a few thingumijiggy-type friends.

Which reminds me - a (belated) good luck to you, exblick! I hope you had a great session.
The Rower’s Tapenade

a dip enjoyed by Head of the Charles competitors everywhere, but especially by one member of the Watertown Master’s team…makes one soup bowl-ful.

1 can of tasteless black olives. No, not kalamata, not green, the cheap-o, plastic-textured can of olives that should be offensive to all sane palates. Drained.
1 tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 large clove garlic, peeled
handful of parsley (try to avoid the stems)

Toss garlic and salt into a food processor, and whirl until pretty finely minced. Add everything else. Whirl until olives are in small pieces. Keeps in refrigerator for up to a week, though the liquid may separate. If it does, just stir it back in.

Note: this is not quite the tapenade that the MIL makes – I am given to understand that she’s made some adjustments. However you make it, please remember to include the following PSA: the following dip is an olive dip made for non-olive eaters. Please do not lick the bowl without offering first swipe to the cook.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

putting out fires

Today, I barbecued.

Yes, yes, yes, so it was cold. I ran outside (forgetting a coat), put the meat down (having forgotten to defrost it), ran back inside (forgot the lighter), corralled the Toddles (he wanted to play, too), and generally got dinner going.

I love barbecueing. It's my solution to a lack of culinary imagination, lack of time, and general kitchen blahs. And it comes in handy from time to time, like last week when Zina offered us the last week's delivery from her CSA. With the glorious bounty, came a pair of stalks with brussel sprouts attached. I stared at them for a while, and finally shrugged. What the hell, the things came with their own skewers, right? So I sprinkled them with kosher salt and olive oil, and 'cued them. They were pretty darned good, especially with a sprinkle of lemon juice.

Yup, bless the nice folks at Weber - they've been a boon. And I adamantly refuse to blame them for moments like tonight, when my darlin' Weber started shooting up flames. The hot dogs were crispy, the chicken was nicely burnt (but raw inside - natch), and there was, in case you missed this bit, FIRE.

Calmly, I turned off the gas. I unscrewed the gas canister, and moved it a fair distance away from the fire. I went inside and got the kitchen fire extinguisher. I took the extinguisher, read the instructions, and put out the fire. Done.

Still calm, I walked back inside, passing the Man. This is why we have these, I informed him. He looked up and realized what I was holding. Oh? Why? he asked. Grease fire, I said. And went to make the salad.

Eventually, it occurred to me that yes, I was cool, I was calm and functional in a crisis, and how awesome am I? Basking in my own admiration palls quickly, and once I was done admiring myself I realized I was also a little irked. Yes, I was cool and calm, but it was HIS job not to be. He should be shocked, he should be grateful and marvelling at my awesomeness.

Wazzamatter, did someone forget to give the guy his cue? Yeesh.

Half an hour - and one very yummy salad - later, the Toddles dissolved.
Milk! I want milk! Inna cup!
Okay, said the Man.
No! I don't want milk! I don't I don't I don't!
Ah, said the Man.
The Toddles, feeling that this response was insufficiently respectful of his current emotional state, repeated his position by banging his fists on the table and, when this didn't improve the situation, shrieked. (The Eldest was startled to see this imitation of himself, and made a fierce face at the Toddles because, as he explained, this is what you do when someone does that. Ah.)
I see, said the Man. Would you like to go snuggle? Read stories?
No I don't I don't I don't I don't I wanna read stories I wanna milk.

The Toddles, banked and loved, cuddled with his father in the big armchair until bedtime. I thought it over, and took my cue.

Afterword: the crispy but raw chicken? I dumped them on a pyrex pan, and stuck them in the oven. And forgot about them. I remembered them when I cleared the dinner dishes, yanked the oven open. A cloud of smoke billowed out... The chicken, however, was perfection.