I took the kid to Italy for his thirteenth birthday; we just got back a few days ago. I realized when we arrived in Rome that it had been fifteen years since I was last there, an inconceivably long time given the crucial part Italy played in forming who I became artistically and culinarily. The visual influences became apparent immediately in my paintings, and that continued until I left figuration behind entirely a few years later. The culinary influence proved to be even more durable, and increased in importance as I began growing and cooking food all the time when we left Brooklyn for the country. Now that I write about food for a living, the Italian approach to ingredients—the simplicity, the honesty, the glorification of peasant frugality—remains one of my touchstones.
Category: The joys of child ownership
So far this winter I have made four separate arrangements with a babysitter so we could go out and enjoy ourselves like people with lives and social skills are wont to do, and I have had to cancel four out of four times due to illness of child. It’s frustrating, to say the least, so I’m giving up hope of going out and doing anything fun other than by myself until summer rolls around.
This meal was a collaboration between Milo and me; lately he’s been making dinner on Fridays (with varying amounts of help) and this time around the inspiration came from his coining of the word gordolini. Since gordo is Spanish for fat, it seemed logical to use Spanish flavors in both filling and sauce, so that is what we did.
Last year, Milo told me that instead of a birthday cake he wanted an Eiffel tower made of éclairs. So I made one. It was lopsided and barely held together with bamboo skewers and ganache, but it killed; the 7-year olds in attendance were blown away and laid gleeful waste to it. This time around, I was informed that instead of cake he wanted his name spelled out in homemade doughnuts. So I made them. Read the Post Time To Make The Doughnuts
When it comes to the subject of desserts, having a child around the house is a lot like having a crackhead with a law degree as a roommate. The incessant negotiations, bargaining, and meticulous parsing of every word in a simple phrase like “If you eat your dinner” are exhausting in the extreme. How much of the dinner? During what time frame? Will the quantity of sugar correlate with the volume or percentage of dinner consumed? Can we renegotiate these terms after a nonzero percentage of said dinner has been consumed, pursuant to the the stipulation that the painful levels of hunger expressed during the preparation of said meal have in fact vanished mysteriously, leaving only a tiny amount of hunger that is exactly equal to the quantity of dessert, but no more? Will there be seconds?
With this crazy non-winter, besides the stirring in the garden all the wild edibles are rousing themselves bright and early. Besides the wild garlic–a perennial favorite, and every bit as good as its over-hyped and over-harvested cousin the ramp–garlic mustard is getting a vigorous start all around the house. Since it’s ubiquitous, invasive, and extremely tasty (it’s one of my absolute favorite wild greens) there is a multi-faceted pleasure in its consumption that encompasses ease, righteousness, and hedonism.
As much as I complain about never having enough time to make the meals I see in my mind’s eye, very often I actually do. Sometimes, prior to the crepuscular rush to get food on the table, I have an idea, and it comes together like I imagined; other times I have no idea, but the ingredients on hand provide all the fodder (literal and figurative) that I require.
Now that the Boy has figured out that if he requests things, I will make them, it’s been open season. And the memory thing is kind of scary. His ability to recall with granular accuracy exactly what I agreed to do and when is really making me wish that my wife had taken more drugs when she was pregnant. On the plus side, the meals in question are not too hard. Making them from scratch, as with lasagne in the previous post, does require some effort. That effort, though, is repaid a hundredfold by the splendid flavor of the result and the attendant adulation of one’s offspring. This affectionate worship is best savored now, before he is old enough to get tattoos and wreck my car, so I’m basking in it.