did someone muck with the backend here

Re: Stop Cooking

1

Being a woman seems just way too filled with concerns.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:06 AM
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The secret to cooking without making it feel like part of the work on maintaining a relationship is to only cook food you like regardless of what everybody else in the house wants to eat.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:17 AM
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3

That is a really good piece.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:19 AM
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4

Yes, it was. But I still don't know how anybody has time to do anything else if they're going to be so aware of what they are doing and why.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:21 AM
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5

What struck me about it is how strongly I have internalized the underlying dynamic she's identifying and rejecting. I really strongly feel that a normal meal should be an event where the cook is expressing emotional connection by making something enjoyable to eat, and the people eating the meal are sort of participating in and completing the connection by eating and enjoying it and expressing appreciation for the effort and the skill. And that's awfully warm and good when it works, but when it's not working, it turns into grinding painful effort for no reward.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:27 AM
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6

The worst is when you make a specific meal that a kid requested and they still turn up their nose at it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:30 AM
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7

The nice thing about my son is you can just cook packaged ravioli and he is very happy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:32 AM
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8

With Paul Newman sauce, because profits go to charity.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:34 AM
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9

When I read the post, I thought it was linking to an article I had already read about a woman deciding never to cook again. But this is a completely different article. This must be a trend.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:45 AM
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7: That's how my stepdaughter is too. With the exception of a few hated foods, she's happy with whatever I give her. She will even compliment me, "You're a good cooker!" The thing is she just as likely to say this to me if I actually prepared something more or less from scratch, or if I heated up a frozen pizza.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:52 AM
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9: ME TOO! That article was not as good.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:53 AM
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12

California Kitchen frozen pizzas are great.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:55 AM
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13

Also, there's a perfectly good Wendy's down the street.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:59 AM
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14

I'm not sexist enough to suggest that there may come an end to the online "I am so sick of ____" personal essay economy, but that carrot pasta sauce sounds unpleasant.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:59 AM
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15

Let me be the first to recommend using tomatoes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:05 AM
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16

And an onion.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:06 AM
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14: I researched this and found -- http://makethebestofeverything.com/2013/04/carrot-pasta-sauce.html. Although the author doesn't say this, from the photo it looks like the idea is to trick your child into thinking they are eating mac n' cheese.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:10 AM
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That was something I liked a lot about the essay -- she's at a very familiar level of being a pretty good cook. Capable enough that making a really terrific fig galette is plausible, but some giant disasters and the good results are a significant effort.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:11 AM
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19

Spaghetti sauce isn't that hard, though it takes time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:15 AM
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20

Meatballs are the hard part.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:23 AM
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21

Stupid phone.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:24 AM
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22

For some reason I am starting to be more interested in cooking (as retirement approaches), so OF COURSE I will end up picking the one moment in 50 years when cooking becomes no longer cool.


Posted by: DonBoy | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:26 AM
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I have a whole lot of "Yes, this is what's wrong with society, and our relationship to food, and family, and health" stirred up here, most of which I think is probably idiosyncratic and unfounded.

That is, the dynamic I described in 5? I think that's emotionally and physically healthy for a family in an important way -- sharing a cooked (you know what I mean. Recognizable raw ingredients rather than opening a package) meal that's a pleasure to eat, and that's experienced emotionally as a sort of small scale, routine gift exchange, of generosity and appreciation. But it's really hard to sustain in the face of competition with more immediately appealing packaged snack foods, and in the absence of routine daily hunger -- people who are actually hungry at mealtimes will actively enjoy and appreciate fairly basic cooking (I just took Newt skiing with a friend, and wow does everything taste good after you've been skiing all day), but modern Americans are all fussy about their food. And it's really hard to manage in the face of long work hours and so on. And it's something that requires consistent buy-in from the adults in a family -- children often don't appreciate food (although some do), and so teaching this as a norm of behavior needs the adults to model it.

Miller seems to me to be declaring her intention to stop beating her head against trying to make this norm happen unilaterally, which is probably an individually healthy thing to do. But I think families and society would be better off if people bought into it more enthusiastically than they do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:29 AM
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24

I used to be really into cooking, but that was a combination of: 1) being really curious about food for a while because I had spent so many years of being a vegan and 2) telling myself I didn't have any time for creative (read: non-science-y) things, and so sublimating a lot of that energy. I was probably at the ability level of the author of that article. My food was often spectacular because, although super slow and disorganized, I was very obsessive about it. I never had the experience of not being recognized for it, but I was never cooking for kids -- only other middle class adults who had usually also As soon as I started letting myself draw, write, and sing, it became clear to me that actually cooking kind of sucked. When called upon to cook now my food is never as good as it used to be, which also means it scarcely seems worth the effort at all. What is unfortunate is that my friends still organize social events around ambitious cooking, and if I want to hang I somehow have to gin up some enthusiasm. I still have some interesting ideas but no genuine push to execute. There was this "Mad Tea Party" in January, and I thought, you know what would be cool? Xiao long bao, but containing pears poached in tea, and something sweet to dip them in. And I'll bet that would have been cool, but in the end I made much simpler cookies and still messed them up because I didn't really care. One of them is soon to move in with me and I'm hoping in the future I can recover some motivation by cooking with her.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:37 AM
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25

Let me be the first to suggest Tollhouse cookies.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:39 AM
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22: You're good. Cooking is still cool for men.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:39 AM
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24: I'm kind of curious from that description -- you're talking about 'when you're called upon to cook'. How do you conceptualize what you eat at a routine meal? You eat out, you buy something packaged, or you cook something simple that you don't think of as cooking?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:43 AM
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oh ack I didn't finish a sentence.

I was going to say something like: "only other middle class adults who had usually also absorbed the same bourgeois-cool aesthetic about cooking, and they knew what good results took."


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:43 AM
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29

Last night, I cooked hamburgers. The meat was kind of frozen on one edge, so everybody else had a hamburger and I had lightly browned steak tartar on a bun.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:46 AM
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30

27: a combination of all of those. Probably the first -- I buy something prepared -- accounts for most of my calories.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:49 AM
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31

I felt queasy for about a half hour after eating it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:53 AM
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32

30: Yeah, I think that's a norm, certainly for single people but also for a lot of families.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:03 AM
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33

If feel vaguely guilty that all our lettuce is pre-washed, but not guilty enough to wash lettuce.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:03 AM
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34

I'm gonna miss you, Moby.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:05 AM
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35

People with carts full of fresh vegetables and unprocessed things also make me feel guilty.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:10 AM
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36

Today I'm making this dish that the kids only like because my mom served it to them, and she calls it Jellybeans. It's pureed green pepper and mushrooms, and ground turkey, black beans, and kidney beans. It's pretty unremarkable. But I pureed the green pepper and mushrooms over the weekend, and sitting in the fridge it turned some hideous mottled black and bright green colors, and we shall see how it goes. It still smells fine, though.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:11 AM
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37

I won't eat green peppers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:14 AM
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38

For me, a huge part of homecooked meals for kids is to train them that "regular food" shouldn't taste "yummy" in the way that fast food and junk food does. Of course regular food can taste delicious to a discriminating adult palate, but it's not the same palate. So it's fine to serve quick crappy meals that aren't yummy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:16 AM
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39

37: that's why these are concealed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:16 AM
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38: Right. That sounds punitive when you put it like that, but it's not -- it's just that it's really hard to compete for immediate appeal with fat/salt/sugar bombs, and it's now perfectly easy to live entirely off fat/salt/sugar bombs. Which won't kill you fast, but it's not a great way to live.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:24 AM
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What can make cooking not suck is feeling like it's a communal activity -- it makes the process more enjoyable and it's less about you as a bourgeois domestic goddess whose self-worth is going to hinge on the results and more about building up to the experience of the meal with other people. The only recent one of these meals that my friends that my friends organized and I genuinely enjoyed cooking for was the one where my friend who seemingly really enjoys and is gifted at coordination tasks planned a meal from Ottolenghi's Plenty. I wasn't even on the shopping trips (though that would have been okay with other people), and literally all I did for hours was make pesto with an actual mortar and pestle, which I learned is totally pointless -- the result is not appreciably different from a food processor as long as you don't overprocess --but it didn't matter! I was hanging out in a kitchen with a lot of other people. It was fun! The resulting meal was also incredible and I didn't particularly care that I hadn't been the one to make the pumpkin souffles (for instance) and get a ton of public praise.

The fig-pomegranate-goat cheese salad from that book is a low-effort, impossible to screw up, yet delicious and visually striking dish to bring to a potluck by the way. If you don't have pomegranate molasses (and you might consider keeping it around any time figs are in season if you are forced to go to potlucks) you can just use regular molasses and some pomegranate juice -- I have done that with good results.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:30 AM
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42

Fig-pomegranate-goat cheese salad is the baked zitti of the fancy set.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:41 AM
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43

it makes the process more enjoyable and it's less about you as a bourgeois domestic goddess whose self-worth is going to hinge on the results and more about building up to the experience of the meal with other people.

You're absolutely right about how great communally preparing a good meal is. But I'm bristling at "bourgeois domestic goddess whose self-worth is going to hinge on the results." That is, single adults can live how they like, but for raising kids, I think there's real health and social value in having them internalize that eating non-professionally cooked and packaged food is normal and can be a pleasure. (I mean, I think adults would also mostly be better off eating non-professionally cooked food as their daily routine, but once you're an adult, you're in the rut you're in with the constraints you have.) And if you think that's a meaningfully good way to live and raise children, it's a little dismissive to describe the cook's emotions around it as wanting to be perceived as a bourgeois domestic goddess.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:44 AM
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44

I really wasn't trying to say anything about anyone but myself, and maybe the author of the article linked in the OP, who clearly did think that her main motivation for ever cooking was being a bourgeois domestic goddess. You should do what you think is best for your family!


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:47 AM
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45

I think that's emotionally and physically healthy for a family in an important way -- sharing a cooked (you know what I mean. Recognizable raw ingredients rather than opening a package) meal that's a pleasure to eat, and that's experienced emotionally as a sort of small scale, routine gift exchange, of generosity and appreciation.

That's very well put, and I recognize the emotional dynamic that you're describing in which the cook can't expect that a meal will _always_ feel like an exchange of generosity and appreciation, but that it's important for those feelings to be part of the experience or it just feels like a chore.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:50 AM
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46

44.last: Once you start to use that standard, you never stop working.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:52 AM
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47

44: Right, and I think you're right about the article and didn't mean to be hostile to you. But while I found the article interesting and evocative, clearly, that's its framing -- that she's giving up on cooking because it's an empty ego trip, she was doing it for the adulation and she wasn't getting the emotional feedback on a level that made it worthwhile, and it was really silly of her to expect that kind of emotional feedback, the effort she was putting in was pure waste.

And while that's incredibly sympathetic on an individual level, and I absolutely understand where she is emotionally, I think that's a symptom of a sick food culture. That is, cooking daily meals in a competent way really is pretty laborious and annoying, so if the cook doesn't get some kind of status or gratitude for it, it's hard to sustain. And it's possible to live without ever cooking or being cooked for, you just end up, as a society, raising your incidence of diet-related illness a whole lot, and losing the social connection of routinely eating meals together, which I think is fairly emotionally important. So accepting that cooking is wasted effort and wanting appreciation and gratitude for it is contemptible self-aggrandizement, which is her framing (I'm saying this harshly and negatively, and I don't think she's advocating this framing as good in itself, just accepting that it describes the emotional situation she finds herself in) means accepting a culture that I think is unhealthy around food.

So, right, I really didn't mean to sound negative to you specifically -- I'm just reacting strongly against her acceptance of the situation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:01 AM
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48

I appreciate the damage done to health with a fast food diet, but I don't see why cooking at home from scratch is a necessary solution. Theoretically, less shitty restaurants would solve the same problem.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:07 AM
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49

47: I think there's a lot of room between cooking fairly healthy edible homemade food and making perfect fig galettes.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:08 AM
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50

The fig galette is a metaphor.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:08 AM
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51

I have thoughts!

First, I dearly wish we had the street vendors I saw in Thailand. Absolutely everywhere, so that at any time, an incredible dinner is a half block away, on the street, with the community.


In the alternate, I wish for the return of boarding houses. What if our household could board for three or four nights a week, and just walk to our nearby boarding house to eat with people we see regularly? I am trying to put together a co-housing-like thing, and I tell you what, I better get a long stretch of dinner rotations between household (in our common kitchen) to make this effort worthwhile.


Another thing I notice about that essay? Too much creativity. When my mom was married to the Iranian guy, there were a number of fantastic rices on the menu. All good! But all, always, the same as the last time. When one makes the green bean rice, one makes exactly the green bean rice. (My mom asked her then-husband if, as a child, he'd ever eaten a dish that didn't have a name, and he replied that he hadn't. One makes the named dishes, and don't just go throwing in other things.) Once those are learned, they are not an emotional adventure every time. They are perfected, but not an experiment. She had been making herself nuts by learning to make something every time. The deeply perfect dishes come from making them repeatedly.

I m still fighting the dinner battle, although not for an unappreciative audience. I had some success last summer with serving charcuterie boards rather than cooking. My partner used to do the super-elaborate dishes and take all day at it. I am glad those have not been a factor for a while.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:11 AM
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Cooking is a way of dominating a social situation. Look! You will depend on me for the food you need to live! It's like how pre-mediaeval rulers demonstrated their power by giving gifts. Beowulf and Hrothgar and so on are called "Ring-Giver" because that's what kings did; they gave rings (and food and drink) to their followers, just like Roman patricians did to their clients.

The obvious solution is baking. Baking is a wholly aleatoric enterprise. Your bread will rise or not depending entirely on the whims of incomprehensible organisms (yeast, household gods, Cthulhu and so on). Not for nothing is bread the symbol of the mystery of the Godhead in Christianity. You can't imagine the wonder and amazement of the Incarnation represented by stew.

I speak as someone who is trying to learn how to make bread, with so far only limited success.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:12 AM
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53

In the alternate, I wish for the return of boarding houses. What if our household could board for three or four nights a week, and just walk to our nearby boarding house to eat with people we see regularly?

You could just do this with the houses of your nearby friends. One night a week you cook for them, and they return the favour.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:13 AM
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54

I really like charcuterie boards, but it never occurred to me to make one. I just eat the stuff that goes into one as I slice it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:16 AM
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Like, she's doing a lot of self-flagellation (and beating up on her pathetically needy mother) about wanting appreciation or recognition for her cooking:

In my innocence, I didn't understand the part of cooking that isn't about fun or even duty, but is about trying to give someone something only you can give. It is all supposed to appear selfless: "I'm making you this pie so you can enjoy it." But when, let's be honest, people would enjoy ice cream just as much, their enjoyment can't be the whole reason. We cook to make ourselves indispensable and special. I'm not saying that cooking is 100 percent an insidious and underhanded act. Certainly, some part of my mother enjoyed making pies, and probably, when she first learned, she loved it. But then cooking became something to get to the other side of, something to excel at and to get needed praise for, and in the process of doing it, of failing and not getting that praise but instead ending up with something sweated over and uneaten, there is stress....

The housekeeper made a lot of meals but whenever we said what we were eating was good my mother would point out that she picked out the recipe, and then she would try to convince you that this was important, even though no one cared. My mother thought that meant we didn't care about her, but that wasn't it. We just didn't care where the food came from. People cook--particularly women, but not only women--because they think people are going to notice them, and love them, but no one thinks about who made what they're eating or how it got on the table....
The thing about this story that is disturbing to me is that even in not trying too hard with our co-op cooking duties I was still trying to attract attention. We still had a brand....
I am tired of the struggle to win and impress, to even impress myself, to be engaged mentally with food, which, if I just forget about it, will probably just present itself to me anyway....

She keeps on coming back to how stupid and wrong and pointless it is to want any kind of appreciation for cooking, and what a waste her mother's efforts were, and how shamefully egotistical she was to want anyone to care that she cooked or to want any attention for it. And that kind of sour grapes reaction is very understandable in the culture we live in, but I think she's too hard on herself and that she's accepting the bad values of the people she's surrounded by. When she was living in that coop turning out adequate low-effort meals? She was doing a good thing, that meant that people who had to eat could eat cheaply, healthily, and pleasantly. She's not a monster for having wanted praise for it. Giving up and accepting that no one cares that you're doing a good thing for them, so you're going to stop, is a sympathetic human reaction, but it's sad.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:22 AM
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I wish, but first, they aren't reciprocating my advances. And also, I think that most kitchens aren't scaled right. The difference between cooking for a crowd with enough burners and very large pots and cooking for a crowd in a regular kitchen is a lot of work (frequent dish turnover, clearing counters more frequently, etc). Also, I like the democratic aspects of bringing neighbors who aren't currently friends together at a boarding house. (Different from a diner, because money is exchanged monthly, rather than at every meal, and that the menu is determined by the cook in advance.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:24 AM
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49, 51: Yeah, there's a certain amount of making life hard for herself, but look at the co-op passage, she's even feeling bad about wanting to be appreciated for her low-effort spaghetti and salad.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:25 AM
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53: I would guess the result of this would be that almost everyone would end up spending more time cooking.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:28 AM
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56 was me, responding to 53.

AND ALSO, I think proximity is everything. Getting into a car to go to a friend's house, which I would have to do because I don't have a weeknights' worth of friends walking distance, would make it fall apart. FURTHERMORE, a boarding house could offer more flexibility. I could go online and select which meals I wanted to attend that week. It would be much ruder to do that with a friend rotation. THEREFORE, it should be the old boarding house style, which totally doesn't exist but I want it.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:28 AM
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I do lots of things that people appreciate and lots of things that the great effort. They're almost never the same things.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:29 AM
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That take great effort.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:32 AM
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58: Well, each household would only have to cook one night per week. Other nights, dinner is served by other families. I think the friend rotation is doable, and I'm going to build a common kitchen in the backyard to try to arrange it. But man, I am going to extreme lengths up front to try to make it happen. And wooing my friends like crazy, with uncertain results. I'll know better in two years how it will work, and spending a shit-ton of money to try for it.


(If it doesn't work, I can rent out the nearly-commercial kitchen to a cottage food operator or caterer.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:34 AM
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47.2 and 51.3 are both well said.

I like a shared meal, like being able to choose what to eat (at the very least how much salt sugar fat or meat). But it's a hassle to have to do that after the workday regularly.

For myself and my kid (who can't be bothered to do more than mac and cheese when he cooks for himself), I have a few reliable half-hour meals (one of which is ostensibly Iranian-- favas and fresh dill with some turmeric (which maybe is a compromise for saffron?) topped with fried egg. ) that help me balance. Creative or long-prep meals definitely pose practical and emotional obstacles-- I worked on this, I tried, I had go to the special market. My gf is appreciative, definitely raises the incentive to do at least something and to try for something good or ambitious occasionally.

The struggle to think well of oneself and to be thought well of by people you care about isn't something to give up on-- maybe it's not good if that struggle is always displaced into food or (in my mind closely associated) home maintenance and decor, good to talk things through occasionally inshallah.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:37 AM
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On the other hand, appreciating dinner when my wife cooks seems to be more appreciated than me cooking dinner. Possibly fit reasons mentioned in the OP or possibly because too many raw hamburgers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:37 AM
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52: Have you got a copy of Artisan Bread on Five Minutes A Day? It gets you a limited number of styles of bread, but it's reliably low effort and good. Very very wet dough, no kneading, and long refrigerated rising time for the gluten to develop.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:38 AM
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59. Pere Goriot takes place basically in a boarding house. Spoiler alert, there are disadvantages.
https://balzacbooks.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/mme-vauquer/


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:40 AM
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64: Being appreciative of someone doing for you is something you have to do actively and thoughtfully, it doesn't just happen. Back to my own messed up marriage, we worked pretty well in the earlier years when he put in a lot more domestic effort, and I was demonstratively grateful and appreciative -- stuff got done adequately, and there was an emotional connection as a result. When he gave up on actually doing anything at home, he also gave up on noticing or appreciating that I had picked up the slack, and that got pretty grim pretty fast.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:46 AM
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You could just do this with the houses of your nearby friends. One night a week you cook for them, and they return the favour.

I used to live on a block in the city where we all front porches. Late spring and early fall was mostly cooking like you would describe. Day light was longer. Kids running around outside. The adults would figure out who had what food to make into a decent communal dinner while we would drink wine. I miss that.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:49 AM
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I am surprised by Megan's "boarding house" idea because in UK English a boarding house is somewhere where people live. It's not somewhere where people with houses go to eat meals together; that's, well, a restaurant.

A boarding house is like a long-stay hotel. You live there in a room and the boarding house owner provides you with meals - either "half board" which is breakfast only or "full board" which is breakfast and evening meal. (Boarding literally means that they serve food, as in the phrase "bed and board"; it's to distinguish it from somewhere that just provides a bed.)

I thought this was the same in the US: Mattie Ross in "True Grit" receives both bed and board at the Monarch Boarding House in Fort Smith.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:50 AM
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65: interesting. I will look out for it, thanks.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:51 AM
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My understanding of the term is that it means the same in the US as it does in the UK -- I think Megan is just appropriating it as the closest available word for something that doesn't exactly exist. I mean, it's almost an eating club, if I understand what that is, except that that implies a hired cook.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:52 AM
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Or a really impractical utensil.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:54 AM
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Googling is only getting me the US college frat-type eating club -- what I meant is something that I think I've seen in English novels, George Smiley might be a member of one? Like a stripped down gentleman's club, but just for a place for a single man to consistently have somewhere to eat dinner. A number of people would pay memberships to rent a location with a kitchen and dining room, and hire a cook.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:55 AM
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Like a stripped down gentleman's club

Phrasing, LB.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:56 AM
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Anyway, you can totally set your phone to remind you to appreciate something. Whether that's really thoughtful or really cynical is left as an exercise for the reader.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:57 AM
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"Dining clubs" are still a thing, but they are normally organisations without fixed premises; they have regular meetings for dinner, but you wouldn't rely on them regularly to eat.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:58 AM
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41 is very true. I volunteered to cook most of Christmas dinner went I was back home, mostly the vegetarian options since I'm vegetarian and also because I want to learn the family recipes (lasagna, stuffed artichokes, artichoke fritters, some eggplant dishes.)


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:58 AM
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Oooh. Explain your recipe for artichoke fritters? And stuffed artichokes, come to think.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:01 AM
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Cooking as a form of emotional labor is what this all boils down to.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:04 AM
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I can understand why she's simmering.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:04 AM
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I mean I'd be steamed too.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:04 AM
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raising your incidence of diet-related illness a whole lot, and losing the social connection of routinely eating meals together

I don't think this would *have* to be so. I thought about saying this earlier, but I'd appreciate some kind of public canteen culture in which the nutritional content of food was emphasized and it was customary to eat in groups without having to bother with table service. (On preview a lot of other comments have ensued maybe saying something like this. But I'm going to press post before I find out.)

Anyway, I don't particularly think wanting appreciation is contemptible (and actually I don't think the OP author does either). I am not describing my past self being motivated by admiration and praise as contemptible -- I do a lot of things that I hope other people like, and that if I thought it were hopeless I could get reinforced for them, I would stop. It was very important to me that I saw people enjoy my food and I got recognized for it and that was fine. I thought the woman who made the souffles deserved all the praise she got, and I lavished it on her. It's just that if it's recreation I also hope to enjoy the process, to feel like it's interesting work. Doing something that you are in fact mostly doing for praise for *fun* is dumb. "Bourgeois" is meant to indicate my past (and current) social niche where one might learn to regard hobbyist cooking as something other than labor. It is descriptive, not pejorative. I just came to see that as a trick I had played on myself with an assist from my social milieu, and I think that author is saying roughly the same thing. Mostly I think it is truest to my experience of it that it is labor, it isn't really all that fun as a hobby, and unless you're sure you lurve it, you should consider the value of it as labor weighed against all the other labor you do in your life. Maybe you determine it is important. But, eh, speaking for myself, I think I could eat pretty healthily never doing more cooking than microwaving steam-in-the-bag vegetables and frying an egg or a turkey burger (and I do "cook" on that level some). I mean, microwaving your food in plastic isn't supposed to be great for you I suppose. I could buy a steamer. But man, I am not interested in prioritizing whatever virtue might accrue to me from actually cutting the broccoli. (A lot of Trader Joe's prepared and frozen food is also all of inexpensive, palatable, and healthy.)


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:05 AM
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it's just that it's really hard to compete for immediate appeal with fat/salt/sugar bombs,

I thought the new thing was salt/fat/acid/heat bombs, although when put that way, it sounds like an IED...


Posted by: x. trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:06 AM
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Megan makes a good point in 51. The author experiences cooking as a fraught activity partly because it's entangled in issues of creativity and artistry. In modern America it's really important to make interesting, different types of food, and we are all aware of having a lot of choices. When I was growing up, my mom (who is maybe the best cook in the world) would make exactly one type of food: Korean food. Nothing was invented -- every dish had a name. She might tweak things from time to time, add shiso or not, switch out radish for potato or chestnuts, but at bottom, cooking was not a creative endeavor. When things were busy (which was always -- she had three kids and usually worked 60 hours a week) we would eat the same thing every day: rice, a half-dozen side dishes (most of which were preserved, and so could stay in the fridge for weeks), and a soup. We didn't complain about getting bored, because there weren't any other options (and also because we would be murdered).

Anyway, I'm always up against this dilemma of what I can cook that will be reasonably healthy, M and I will both like to eat, won't take forever, and isn't the same thing I always make. That time-consuming question would never even come up if I lived in a culture with a centuries-old cuisine. But I don't, which is why I spend so much time scouring the internet for new ideas for the preparation of quinoa.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:07 AM
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(and actually I don't think the OP author does either).

It's not unmixed, but "I'm not saying that cooking is 100 percent an insidious and underhanded act"? That's pretty clear that the part of it that's not pure blissful enjoyment for its own sake is at least somewhat insidious and underhanded. And "The thing about this story that is disturbing to me is that even in not trying too hard with our co-op cooking duties I was still trying to attract attention." She's ashamed of having wanted attention.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:10 AM
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My understanding is that those shared houses offered 'room' and 'board'. Those could be bundled or separate, and board is the eating part. When I was living in the college, for example, we had boarders who didn't live in the house but paid for meals and had the run of our kitchen. So that's what I'm thinking of. Room/boarding houses that also offer boarding services to the public.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:12 AM
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I think unbundling board from room like that is uncommon. Although my college coop had that less formally -- residents paid rent for the room and for meals, but alumni and a few official 'friends of the house' could come by for dinner whenever they liked without charge.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:14 AM
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We had a boarding rate, set by the central board, and usually about five boarders. Probably uncommon, but I think readily doable, especially with the new internet, to predict and spread the dining load. I maintain that it would be fucking awesome for nearby families with young kids. Wander down for dinner three or four nights a week, know most of the regulars, come home to an uncooked-in kitchen.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:20 AM
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they have regular meetings for dinner, but you wouldn't rely on them regularly to eat.

Not unless you wanted to die slowly. My father was a member of one such, and it only met four times a year. I attended as a guest a couple of times. It was harmless fun, if you like all male company (I don't, much), and the food was ample and excellent. But you could get much the same effect (apart from the 'witty' speeches) at much the same cost by booking a large table at an up market restaurant with some friends, so I never really saw the point.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:21 AM
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That's pretty clear that the part of it that's not pure blissful enjoyment for its own sake is at least somewhat insidious and underhanded.

Okay, she's confused. She's clear on the fact that cooking is labor, but confused about what follows from that. What follows is that its utility should be evaluated the way you evaluate any labor, and it should be appreciated the way you appreciate labor.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:23 AM
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78 The fritters are very difficult and time consuming to make, the stuffed artichokes are just time consuming. For the fritters since artichokes are really tough and you're going to eat the whole fritter you really have to cut it down so you're cooking only the tender parts.You basically cut with a scissors and knife all the tough parts of the leaves, which is most of the leaf. Then you open it up and scoop out the beard. Cut it in sections like you would a lemon but very thin. And it helps to soak them in lemon water so the citric acid tenderizes hem. I can't remember the batter for certain, basically flour, egg, and some baking powder I think. You batter and fry them. I'm a lousy recipe writer, sorry.

For the stuffed artichokes you only cut the top off to allow you access to the inside, then make the stuffing: in a large pan a lot of breadcrumbs, a lot of garlic (pulverize the shit out of it), quite a bit of parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, and mix it all with enough olive oil that it kind of sticks together but not so much that it's like cement (this is still quite a lot of olive oil.). Then stuff each leaf, this is tedious work, I find it helps to work from the bottom outside in. Put a ton of it in the very inside. Get a pot and put a few inches of water in it, put some lemon juice in it and bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to a high simmer then put the artichokes in and pour some olive oil on the top of the artichokes (in the center of them). Cover but make sure the water doesn't all boil off. You'll have to keep adding water periodically. I think it takes between 30 to 45 minutes but you can tell when they're done by trying to pull off a leaf, it should come off easily. Again I'm a lousy recipe writer.

Also, artichokes are flowers so wherever I wrote "leaf" imagine I wrote "petal" instead.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:24 AM
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91.2 is something my grandmother made but nobody has the recipe for. Do you have one more specific?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:27 AM
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That both sounds doable. Cut in sections like a lemon means in radial wedges? If you were looking down on the artichoke from above it'd be pie slices?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:28 AM
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You pull off a leaf and then use your teeth to scrape off the stuffing plus the edible part of the leaf.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:29 AM
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Anyway, call home, get more specific details and measurements and come back to us.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:29 AM
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Anyway, I basically like to cook. It's pretty fun, and there's also the satisfaction of making something with your own hands that comes out nicely, as well the comfort of knowing exactly what's in your food. She seems to overlook both those factors.

I identify more with the author when it comes to baking, which is kind of a pain in the ass but I do a lot of anyway, mostly for praise. But also because I really love pie, and it's hard to find a truly great pie for purchase without spending a fortune.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:30 AM
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For the stuffed artichokes too, in addition to cutting off the top you should trim each leaf, or petal or whatever, so that it's not stabby pointy.

92 Is that not good enough? I'll ask my mom.

They're both delicious. These are in fact my Sicilian grandmother's dishes, the fritters in particular were amazing, they'd were always made as appetizers and rarely made their way to the table, you'd just eat them as they'd come out of the frying pan. In retrospect we may have been lousy grandchildren.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:33 AM
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93 Radial wedges, exactly.

94 Yes, that's how you eat the stuffed artichokes. Then when you get to the heart you remove the beard and yum yum yum.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:34 AM
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This is actually what I like about meal kits-- I cook more and better than I would otherwise for just me and an unappreciative small child, and I don't have to think about it or plan it or put in more time than just the cooking time. And when he doesn't eat his share I have it for lunch. And somehow I resent it much less than if I planned a meal and he didn't eat it.


Posted by: Sand | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:34 AM
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What follows is that its utility should be evaluated the way you evaluate any labor, and it should be appreciated the way you appreciate labor.

That's fair. What I want to add to it, though, is that I think she's undervaluing it as labor (not the stunt cooking, but daily cooking. Her spaghetti and salad meals for her co-op), and that our culture undervalues it as labor for health and emotional reasons (you're right that it's possible to eat healthily without cooking, but it's harder. Any given individual can do just fine on selected prepared foods, but there's a link between the decline in cooking and the increase in diet-related disease.) So I'd like more pushback on how adequate, competent, repetitive cooking can and should be appreciated and valued, because if each individual decides how much effort to put in on cooking for others on the basis of how much they spontaneously value it now, I think home cooking will be underprovided.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:35 AM
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It's probably enough. I'll bookmark for spring. My grandmother who made stuffed artichoke was also Sicilian.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:36 AM
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But also because I really love pie, and it's hard to find a truly great pie for purchase without spending a fortune.

This is true. I find pie difficult, and I love it, and it's hard to buy. I end up reserving it for holidays. (And occasionally that maddening time in the summer when the fruit is good, even though it's really too hot to make pastry.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:39 AM
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95 I just texted my mom.*

If you're game next time I'm back if anyone wants to host a dinner party I'd totally cook them there for you reprobates.

*First she said she'd do it when she's got time, then she said I could look it up on the internet. I told here these are family recipes.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:39 AM
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98: Wait, you don't remove the choke(beard. The hairy bit) from the artichoke before stuffing? The stuffing goes on top of the choke?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:40 AM
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101 Did she make spidini? That was a favorite but I don't eat meat anymore. My grandmother used veal.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:41 AM
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Thanks a bunch Barry. That brings back memories. My grandma never made artichoke fritters, but did what sounds like the same thing with asparagus.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:43 AM
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104 Not for the stuffed artichokes. After they're cooked the artichoke should be so tender that it's easily removed with a knife after you get down to the heart.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:43 AM
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"Mom, all those years you said it was a family recipe, and it came from a can?"

"Didn't you know my maiden name is Boyardee?"


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:45 AM
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Cohousing!!! How far have you gotten? (I also like the boarding house idea.) My sense is that the pent-up demand for cohousing arrangements is pretty high here in the East Bay, but I guess the incentives are sufficiently perverse that supply is never going to make it.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:45 AM
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What's spidini?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:45 AM
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106 You're most welcome, my grandmother was an amazing cook and if she'd been born a few decades later might well have felt like the writer of the OP. She was very selfless and self-effacing but it was almost too much, after these amazing multi-course meals when we were all stuffed to the gills and sipping espresso she couldn't sit still, she'd ask if anyone wanted some oranges, get up from the table and start slicing them. No one wanted oranges but there was no stopping her. My dad absolutely doted on her.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:46 AM
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107: That's what I remember. You could use a butter knife.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:46 AM
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108 I cook here now that I've got a nice apartment with a decent kitchen but I used prepared sauces. Sometimes I can get really good stuff but one of the better supermarkets here happens to have a lousy selection of sauces. Or rather, one good fresh sauce that's refrigerated and has a limited shelf life and only one kind of sauce that comes in a jar and you can keep on hand for along time. That sauce? Ragu. Yes, I have made pasta and used Ragu and every single time buy it or cook with it I hang my head in shame.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:50 AM
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"every single time I buy it..."


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:51 AM
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Not very far! Maybe some inroads? Basically, we own a duplex on a block with all two to fourplexes. I am putting in a back house with a ground floor for a common kitchen, and another unit above it. That'll get me to three families on the property. I have medium interest from two other sets of people. I am then hoping that others will be on the block, either renting or buying the multi-family unit as we make it look attractive. It is the best I can do to retrofit existing housing into a co-housing situation and it is not perfect. I am offering most of the communal parts, and hoping that the rest will follow.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:51 AM
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They don't have just canned tomatoes for the Marcella Hazan onion/butter sauce?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:52 AM
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112 Exactly

110 it's on a spit, like a shish kebab. It's basically meat, sliced thin, stuffed with some kind of delicious bready/garlicy/parmesany stuffing and rolled up and alternates with tomatoes, onions, peppers and hunks of bread.

Another thing about my grandmother is she absolutely hated cheese. But she cooked with it for us all the time.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:53 AM
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You need to cook meat in the sauce fit at least an hour before it's good sauce.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:54 AM
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118 to 116.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 11:57 AM
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My grandma made a rolled up meat dish, but it was different. It was supposed to be veal, but she would simmer it in sauce. It was filled with ground meat, cheese, bread crumbs, and garlic. She called it vasamalu, out something like that. I've never seen it written.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:00 PM
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116 THey do and I've bought them but cooking is work and I haven't made a sauce using them yet.

Another family recipe from the other Neapolitan side of the family is spaghetti or linguine with cannellini beans.

You chop up a bunch of garlic and maybe some onions, sautee them in a large pot that you would use for boiling pasta. Then you add a few cans of crushed or diced tomatoes, pour in an equivalent amount of water (just use the cans), and a can or two of cannellini beans. You bring it to a boil then add the linguine. It most of the water should boil off as it cooks. At some point you add fresh parsely. Personally, I like it thicker (a state I call "congealli"). It's like great Italian peasant (paisan) food, really sticks to the ribs, and it's even better reheated in the microwave the next day. I bought ingredients to make it here but haven't yet (mostly because I was going to make it for a dinner party but have yet to host one here).


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:02 PM
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Megan: here's someone who (claims to) have figured something like this out. I liked the deliberate lowering of expectations they start out with.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:03 PM
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Not sure if 116 was to me. Or what Marcella Hazan onion/butter sauce is but it does sound good.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:03 PM
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120 falsomagru?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:03 PM
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It's dumb-simple tomato sauce, hardly more than opening the can, but it comes out really good: https://www.thekitchn.com/marcella-hazans-amazing-4ingre-144538 .


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:05 PM
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My grandfather was from Naples, but there's no food tradition in my family from that side.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:05 PM
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I'd never heard of it before a couple of years ago, but a wave of links to it went around the internet back then, which was why I was assuming you were familiar.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:06 PM
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124 Jesus but that brings back memories. My grandmother never made it that I recall but I had relatives who did. It was tasty but I remember being slightly frightened by it when I was a kid.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:07 PM
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I have one generation of food tradition -- both grandmothers were terrible midcentury American cooks. The Irish immigrant didn't like cooking and didn't keep up whatever her home traditional food was (other than sodabread occasionally), and the other was just a bad dull cook. Mom is an excellent cook, but she got everything out of cookbooks -- there are a number of things I make where I've been looking through her cookbooks and found the original unstreamlined version. (Also, entertainingly, I once found out that what she calls Armenian Lamb is in the cookbook as Turkish Lamb. Armenian Lamb is totally different and is on the facing page.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:09 PM
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124: Maybe. My grandmother pronounced every Italian word wrong. She was speaking some village dialect.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:09 PM
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127 Oh that sounds great, I've never used butter in a tomato sauce.

Moby did your family call it sauce or gravy?


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:10 PM
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On googling, yes, that's it. Thank you.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:10 PM
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121 Is one of my favorite dishes btw


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:13 PM
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We called it 'zupo' or 'supo'. I mean, grandma did. We called it sauce. I could never figure what the first letter was.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:13 PM
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Maybe 'zubo.'


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:17 PM
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unsurprisingly, i strongly endorse lizardbreath's observations in this thread. i feel very fortunate that my better half and i strongly agree, and always have done, that family meals are super important for everyone. when we got together his older kids were young, so we've actually never been in a relationship yet that did not include producing a family dinner as part of every day life. we share cooking, although during the week i rarely have time to contribute much.

having a base of technical skills and a coherent, enjoyable food tradition so that you do not have to devote a huge amount of thought or time to producing family meals aren't just helpful factors for sustaining the production and enjoyment of family meals, i think they may be necessary. and the widespread lack of both of those elements - tech skills and a coherent, shared food tradition - are imo important for understanding our public health crisis re: food and diet. and of course the food industry has been on a decades long drive to destroy both.

megan and lk do i ever share your longing for co housing!!!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:20 PM
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also love all of these italian family tradition recipes and commend to everyone rachel roddy, columns in the guardian and two truly excellent cookbooks - great reads both and superb collections of simple family dinner recipes. there are a few "project" recipes, but very few.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:25 PM
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In the alternate, I wish for the return of boarding houses.

I think of this as being Retirement Homes for All Ages. Wouldn't it be great if there was a cafeteria in the apartment complex? And well-used, central community rooms with games? And plants everywhere, and community artwork and local artists work hung on the walls?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:25 PM
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allotments! i so so so long for an allotment!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:26 PM
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one last comment before i plunge back into the work maelstrom - although the better half and i see eye-to-eye on mealtimes and enjoy cooking as well as eating together we approach meal planning from fundamentally different angles.

he thinks 1) meat or no, and if meat, what meat? and 2) how can i incorporate potatoes into this meal?*

whereas i start with 1) which cooked veg and salad are up to bat next? and 2) how can i incorporate pulses into this meal?**

*uk-raised.

**n cal hippie-raised.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:31 PM
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First, I dearly wish we had the street vendors I saw in Thailand.

Side note: I haven't been, but was recently reading nd article about the street food culture in Taiwan.

While most countries only have three meals a day, Taiwan worships food so much that there's a fourth and final meal: the midnight snack, or xiaoye in Chinese. That means while most of the world is winding down after dinner and getting ready for bed, the wakeful people of Taiwan are gearing up for their late-night ritual - which is, bluntly put, to hit the open streets and nosh until their jeans are ripping at the seams. "All we do is eat," Wang said.

...Taiwan's loud, messy nightlife heaves and breathes inside overflowing night markets; beer houses sizzling with stir-fried foods; and all-you-can-eat karaoke lounges. Taiwan's family-run midnight snack stands don't feature endless menus, though. Instead, they focus on mastering one signature item and serve that dish over and over again - ensuring 'perfection' every time, according to Li.

"Behind every night market snack is also the diligence of the cook and the preservation of continued traditions passed on from each generation. It can be said that the flavours of good food come from the cook's heartfelt persistence," Li said, himself a third-generation midnight snack-stand owner.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:33 PM
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They're Spanish?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:43 PM
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I'm hungry now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 12:57 PM
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143: Sounds like a real boarder crisis.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 1:02 PM
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When we lived like people who lived together,* I basically did all of the cooking. Which I like doing, and which I have done consistently since I was about 13,*** so I am pretty good at opening the fridge and cooking a fresh meal in 30 minutes. But we just can't do that all the time any more. So, it's more often than not the case that we each cook a couple of home cooked meals a week, and the other three days we graze on crap from the fridge, eat packet food, or grab something on the way home.

I watch the pattern of women -- 95% of the time it's women -- spending a lot of time slaving over meals for people who aren't really appreciative, and it sucks. My wife's mother is like this, my maternal grandmother was like this. My mother, though, isn't. I think she barely cooks these days.

One thing that is great, though, is I work near Leather Lane market,**** so I can walk out at lunch time and get really tasty street food. Loads of it, in almost any cuisine you can think of. So if I know I am working late, I can go out and get a box of Ethiopian food, or a nice curry, or some South American barbecue, or whatever, and then just not really eat in the evening.

* my wife and I are still together, we just have a routine where for work reasons, we each spend 3 evenings a week doing dinner and bedtimes for the kid while the other is at work, and then have one full day together as a family.**
** we still have time together later in the evening, but there's usually only one of us in the house on any given evening before 9-9:30pm.
*** for most of my childhood, both my parents were unemployed, or under employed, so there was usually one adult in the house in the afternoon to cook. But when I was 13-14, they both got jobs that kept them out of the house more, so I started cooking two or three days a week, and then my sister started doing some, too.
**** a market that predates the USA by about 200 years.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 1:17 PM
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I very much appreciate both the OP's conflicted feelings about the labor and effort and incommensurate praise, and LB's acknowledgement that food is important and undervalued.

In my 20s, I had a roommate and a friend, and it was fun to occasionally make special all afternoon dishes together. There's a real sense of camaraderie in the kitchen; I still remember our dedicated efforts at making a stuffed & rolled chicken dish... it was wonderful, both the experience and the resulting food. In between though, I mostly cooked for myself, and knew that it's hard to appreciate your own dish enough for the effort expended -- I did a lot of one-pot meals that'd make a few days of leftovers. Chicken and rice pilaf made 3-4 days worth of food, and I rarely went two weeks without breaking it out.

When I started dating my wife, I stepped it up a bit, since she was appreciative. We also established a routine where she worked long hours, and I'd spend much of time between the end of my work and the end of hers on domestic tasks. I mastered a few more recipes and became fluent in cookbook; Bittman's taught me a lot that I'd failed to pickup informally.

Over time, particularly on weekdays, experimentation dwindled and a lot more dishes were "X is in the fridge, how shall we use it before it spoils?". I picked up the grocery shopping, so things weren't too terrible on the waste front. Then we joined a CSA [community supported agriculture, basically a subscription box from local farms] and there was a big push to incorporate the new to us vegetables. We had a number of successes, particularly since the CSA would provide a recipe or two each week that used the box contents. After the novelty wore off, I'd added a dozen "go tos" for the seasons, but basically ignored anything that would take more than a half hour of active prep. After her pre-diabetic diagnosis two winters ago, we radically revamped out diet to reduce the number of potato/pasta/bread based dishes and increase our veggie intake. Unfortunately, the cravings are for flour and potatoes, and it's a real struggle to make any dark green that she'll eat -- and appreciation for making them palatable is miniscule in comparison to taking one of the dozen veggies she naturally likes and making something out of it.


Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 2:52 PM
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The Adultery Department is an entertaining novel involving, among other things, the dynamics of a co-housing arrangement. Also probably the micropolitics of cooking, but I don't remember for sure.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 3:00 PM
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The East Asian street food economy is great for the consumer, but I'm painfully aware of the cost, in people doing brutal work for brutally long hours for little money and little security. I stand to be corrected, but I think the Anglosphere factory farm-supermarket-fast food nexus arose in large part from a period where labor was relatively expensive, and food-processing was one area where a lot of low-skilled work could be automated. In principle I'm sure it's possible to square the circle and get the virtues of both, but I don't know if anyone's actually done that.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 3:12 PM
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As you all must know, I cannot identify with this sort of thing at all. I enjoy cooking. I put (roughly) as much effort into cooking for myself as I do into cooking for others*. I delight in my own cooking. I almost never find other peoples' cooking more enjoyable than my own, and certainly never prepared foods. But I liked cooking way back when my skills were rudimentary, and only occasionally screwed up badly enough to feel frustration more than satisfaction.

Knowing all that, I tried to come up with something in the same category: what do I do that I wish I didn't have to, that I could buy my way out of? Dishes, I suppose, but I don't think anybody needs an essay on why doing dishes isn't as great as people tell you. There are parts of my job I don't enjoy, but, again, I don't think that's a revelation.

I dunno.

*Kai was home from school today and came into the kitchen while I was making lunch for myself. He saw a pan full of peppers & sausages & onions and observed that it was more effort than most people go to when they're cooking dinner for others. He didn't even see me rubbing garlic onto the toasted baguette.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 3:12 PM
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As you all must know, I cannot identify with this sort of thing at all. I enjoy cooking.

We all know so hard that we can tell who you are, even without your pseud.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 3:16 PM
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(but not without your kid's name.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 3:17 PM
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Heh.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 3:36 PM
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Because the kids are off school yesterday and today, and because I spent all weekend cooking, I decreed that they each make a meal. Because Iris barely leaves her room anymore, and doesn't get up before noon on weekends, I set her recipe for her, but Kai got to choose. So last night was a baked ziti-style thing that she didn't care for but the rest of us love, and tonight is Mexican meatballs using (gasp!) jarred salsa. No idea if it'll be any good, but I figure it can't be bad.

Anyway, I still mostly need to be in the kitchen while it happens, but less so than if I were 100% responsible, and I also get to take care of other things while giving direction. Things they can make with zero oversight are mostly too basic for family meals, at least on any regular basis, so we save those for nights when AB & I are out.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 3:45 PM
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145: I'll have to keep an eye out for you. I'm in that part of town pretty often covering court cases and sometimes get my lunch on Leather Lane (not usually in winter though as I can't bring it into court). Any tips for particular stalls?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 4:09 PM
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I am a very poor cook (I grew up eating frozen Kid Cuisine meals), and my husband does not cook. This is a frustrating state of affairs, because it means that we mainly eat fast food, microwave meals, or the occasional Instapot creation, often separately, and virtually always on the couch.

Family culture is interesting. On my dad's side of the family, the norm is to always praise the cook, every time, and woe on the person who does not. When my dad visits and cooks for us, I always have to remind Mr. Robot to enthusiastically appreciate what he's eating, or my dad's feelings will be hurt.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 4:13 PM
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I'm heating frozen chicken pot pies for dinner right now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 4:18 PM
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I...am really mystified by this whole thing. I understand that investing what has become emotional labor for the appreciation of a cheating s.o. might turn you off cooking for a while. but, what the hell is anyone supposed to eat? really. I do have the thing that girl x and I have a complicated exclusion diet that requires more planning. we can't eat onions or garlic (dying rn) no I have to make infused oils all the time. it requires either leftovers for her bento next day or foresight in having made enough of her special gluten-free bread that she can have a sandwich. so we don't really have the luxury of eating packaged foods. so sometimes cooking's just drudgery, sure, no household task is fun all the time.

but...firstly people like and praise my food. her claim that people would just as soon eat ice cream as my pie is crazeballs. secondly, dinner is the only time I get to sit down and talk with girl y for an hour, because she hides in her room in a teenage way. and thirdly, what are people supposed to eat, in the world, even? mcdonald's? chicken rice, but every day? making healthy food from scratch makes people healthier and permanently alters their palates. girl y complains I have made her a health food weirdo and now she can't eat out at the mall without feeling gross. finally and relatedly, you can sweet/salt/fat/sour your food all you like; there's no amount of butter and salt and chopped mint you put in your rice that will make it like packaged or restaurant foods. the vast majority of the salt people get in their diets is from packaged food--you can make free with the salt shaker in your homemade pasta sauce, while you punch it up with a capful of vinegar and 2t sugar, and it's fine so long as you didn't also eat a frozen pizza and a bag of cool ranch doritos that day.

in short, what are you feeding your family in this hypothetical brave new world of non-food preparation? and you can just make your children do the dishes, after all.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 6:31 PM
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Frozen chicken pot pie.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 6:35 PM
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If you're using the salt shaker on your pasta sauce you aren't using enough salt.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 6:38 PM
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I don't put that much salt in the sauce. You use a lot in the pasta water.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 6:40 PM
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I think I used 1t in mine. You don't get that much out of a shaker.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 6:48 PM
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We have a salt grinder, because the pepper grinder was feeling a little too special.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 6:58 PM
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Nutmeg is the snootiest.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:04 PM
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159: I was being metaphorical. in reality I dig around in the box with my fingers (we have boxes here lined with plastic bags.)

158: we can't eat frozen chicken pot pie, perhaps sadly. also, it's expensive.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:08 PM
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I figured it was good to run the oven and heat up the house before Polar Vortex.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:12 PM
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I just don't even.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:12 PM
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The news said a "once-in-generation" vortex. But I remember another one like 2 years ago.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:13 PM
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I get to stay home tomorrow, so they can say whatever they want about it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:16 PM
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Anyway, I think the answer to "what are you feeding your family?" is mostly "food prepared at home, but only the things that take less time."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:17 PM
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We looked into cohousing 15 years ago but it was too expensive for what we could afford. I believe there are three or four in our city now. It sounds like what's described above, every couple weeks you're part of a team that cooks a large meal for the community.
I like cooking complicated things partly for the mental and physical challenge. It's a common belief among chemists that anyone who can't cook well is a bad chemist. Unfortunately I tried this argument when I got a food service job in college and it was not well received.
My grandparents were professional caterers but unfortunately I was too young to appreciate it at the peak of their business. I would love to play around in such a kitchen now.
Our meal policy is the kids can eat what we make or they can have any fruits or vegetable on hand. Tonight our youngest cried for 15 minutes at the table because she didn't want the bread I bought or the soup or stuffed mushrooms I made (NYT red lentil soup, easy and good). She insisted she had to have a bagel or yogurt, so not the worst food health-wise, but we were firm with the rules and eventually she ate an apple and some bread. The older ones have mostly gotten to where they'll try what we make or get by on what's allowed so eventually they adapt. I usually cook two nights a week and I'm responsible for a third but typically that's our night out and I make the kids Mac and cheese from a box (which is her favorite, we have a funny picture from when she was toddler, she ate the corner of a box of it because she was trying to eat the picture.)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:27 PM
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I never had macaroni and cheese until college. We had pasta twice a week at least, but never macaroni and cheese.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:38 PM
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my husband likes pasta with tomato sauce and pizza, but doesn't like either lasagna with proper bolognese sauce and bechamel, OR homemade macaroni and cheese, neither properly baked nor fresh from the pot. it is the weirdest fucking thing in the world. the girls and I are at a loss. I should just make them more and let him eat a clif bar.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:52 PM
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I don't think I've had proper bolognese sauce either. I've had homemade macaroni and cheese that was great and some that was not.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 7:57 PM
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I suppose I must have had proper spaghetti bolognese at a restaurant. I just don't remember it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:00 PM
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I make the Bittman mac and cheese recipe, except I increase the butter and cheese because we're all gonna die soon anyway.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:02 PM
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If you die before you've eaten all your butter, it goes to waste.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:15 PM
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153. But Iris makes good pies! She can bake so I'd guess she can gain cooking skills too.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:16 PM
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Baking is supposedly the hardest kind of cooking.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:29 PM
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Chicken ceviche is hard to get right.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 8:37 PM
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I'll be solely responsible for food for myself and child March 27-April 14, while lourdes is in Japanland. It's unprecedented. I vacillate between ambitious plans to transform myself into an excellent all-purpose chef and pure blind denial. I come from a family whose food habits declined slowly from "adequate" in my childhood (we had some good home meals and always ate family dinners) to pretty much nonexistent now. I also had a weird phobia about lighting the stove (with matches), which probably stunted my cooking development during the critical period when it might have set in firmly...


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 9:20 PM
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You can tell I'm still single because this post title keeps making me think of the Parks and Rec where Chris gets sick and tells himself: "Stop. Pooping."


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-29-19 10:08 PM
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re: 154

There's a curry place, usually parked opposite the junction between Leather Lane and St Cross St (opposite Daddy Donkey, more or less). Unprepossessing little graffiti strewn white trailer. Those are really good, and the place I go to most regularly. There's an Ethiopian/Eritrean place, parked up a bit nearer Clerkenwell Road, also really good. Right at the top end, there's a silver Airstream that does pilau pots and nan wraps. Huge portions, but the mixed keema masala and chicken is excellent. Next to that, is sometimes a burger place called Wop Burger, which used to be tremendous, but Massimo, the guy who ran it, went back to Italy, and it's not as good now. They used to be, unquestionably, about the best burgers I've ever had. But still, can be pretty excellent -- rosemary chips, and burgers made with organic meat from the Ginger Pig.

There's a Jamaican place that's there intermittently that's also good, and all of the barbecue-ish stalls are pretty good, there's a couple of Brazilian ones, and a Filipino one, and also a place up near the Clerkenwell Road end that does vaguely Polish stuff: sausage, dumplings, etc. That's decent, too. Tongue and Brisket (deli place, more towards the Chancery Lane end), is good for salt beef, and pickles and things.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 1:25 AM
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For home cooking, we recently (last 4 months) got an Instant Pot. It's pretty great for certain things, like bolognese, because you can use the pressure cooking bit to make the sauce taste like it's had hours of cooking, when it's only had 20 minutes. Same with things like chicken thighs, when I can cook those and produce half a litre of stock to make the sauce, in about 20-25 minutes. I do find for bolognese, though, it renders more of the fat out of the meat than it would if I was cooking it on the stove, so I use much less olive oil when browning the onions/garlic, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 1:30 AM
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Huge portions, but the mixed keema masala and chicken is excellent.

An American would have used "and" as the conjunction here.

...a burger place called Wop Burger!!!!

I don't even want to know what the Jamaican place is called.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 2:50 AM
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Good to hear about that Polish place. Nearly ate there last time but ended up going somewhere indoors instead.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:33 AM
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re: 184.last

Yeah, it's a joke by the Italian guys that own the place. Massimo left, but there are two other Italian guys who run it now. They are Italian Italians (rather than British-Italian), so they may not entirely get the implications. But it's not in the greatest of taste.

re: 185

Yeah, it's fine. I don't think you can really go wrong with a pile of potatoes, some dumplings, sauerkraut, and a burnt weenie.*

* Zappa reference.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 5:25 AM
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re: 184

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_porW8OSvNU

Giacomo, gah, not Massimo. I used to work with someone who had a friend called Massimo, and I'm getting them mixed up.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 5:27 AM
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You can get the virtual experience here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S64sGBZG7Pk


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 5:29 AM
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This is basically what LizardBreath says upthread, but the writer of the article just seems uncomfortable with the fact that cooking is a skill. As she cooks more and more, logically she should be cooking better and better and logically people should be complimenting it more and more. This isn't happening and it is producing neuroses. Maybe she'd be more happy with a chore that people appreciate but isn't really something you can do exceptionally well, like vacuuming.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 7:17 AM
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I just feel like I work really hard and honestly feel like I deserve more appreciation than that..


Posted by: Opinionated Roomba | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 7:25 AM
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Maybe you can't vacuum exceptionally well, but maybe that's what those guys who get their penis caught in the fan of a vacuum are trying to do. Show some respect.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 7:27 AM
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Cooking daily meals has been something that has really changed with young kids. I do a lot more functional "home" cooking with small children than I ever did for myself or for others before kids. There are so many reasons for the shift - kids change the schedule and increase the time pressure in the evening (cooking at home is quicker/simpler when you have small being who tend to scream) - but frankly it's just necessary if I want them to eat food.

Changing my routine from "making something nice" to "food on the table in 30min or less" has been quite the shift. I eat a lot more pasta. But it's not bad either (though I do miss being able to take the time to cook a special meal on whim because something seems interesting!).


Posted by: parodie | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 7:27 AM
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189: I see it a little differently. The author is expressing a philosophy that it is bad (or maybe just stupid or inauthentic) to do things to get praise (or attention of any sort). I kind of doubt she seriously believes that -- probably it's just something that she came up with so she could have a strong point-of-view for this article.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 7:34 AM
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Maybe there will be robot chefs in some of our lifetimes.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 7:35 AM
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Little kids are the worst for cooking because they need to eat early so they can go to bed. You have to eat dinner at 6, like a farmer, but you don't get home until 5:45. It's easier when the kids start to stay up late enough that you can have dinner at 7 or later, like normal people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 7:47 AM
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195: I recently discovered (or maybe I derived a false conclusion from unreliable data) that I sleep better, if I eat a light dinner early (around 6 pm). I doubt I will actually change my habits though.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:00 AM
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Try sleeping in a recliner.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:02 AM
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The author is expressing a philosophy that it is bad (or maybe just stupid or inauthentic) to do things to get praise (or attention of any sort). I kind of doubt she seriously believes that -- probably it's just something that she came up with so she could have a strong point-of-view for this article.

I think she believes it specifically about cooking, and I think she believes it because her experience is that cooking is not appreciated, and she doesn't want to blame the people being unappreciative so she blames the cook for expecting appreciation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:15 AM
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Kids suck at appreciating things.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:18 AM
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And plenty of adults.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:35 AM
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I have lower expectations for adults.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:38 AM
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198: Yes, I guess I was indulging my tendency towards inferring generalizable philosophical principles.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:41 AM
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And I am clearly bringing lots and lots of my own baggage to the table. So baggage. Very issues.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:47 AM
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Baggage is one reason to have lower expectations for adults. Kids shouldn't have as much.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:54 AM
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Well, I have my own second-hand baggage. Certainly my ex-wife and wife both had/have fraught relationship with cooking. I think it's both because cooking has a special place in the realm of female domesticity, and because they had/have fraught relationships with food.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:55 AM
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There was a guy on Reddit who was fucking coconuts, but that's probably different.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 8:58 AM
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206: Probably different, yes.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 9:11 AM
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Was he perhaps trying to fuck Goofy?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 11:17 AM
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The one thing I can't quite get about the article is that she doesn't seem to appreciate her own cooking? Like, she claims that A. she can make a perfect pear galette, and B. any sub-perfect pear galette isn't worth the effort. But I don't see how those can both be true.

I mean, B is subjective I suppose, but she also claims that prepared foods are perfectly adequate, so it can't be the case that she's unwilling to eat sub-perfect foods.

Again, I've been frustrated by cooking experiences enough that I don't really enjoy the meal, but that really doesn't happen much. Food tastes good, and if you can cook well enough to make a "perfect" pear galette, then your average output should be good enough to make yourself happy, regardless of whether others fawn on you.

I'm not saying that she's wrong or weird to want external validation, I just don't understand why she doesn't seem to have an iota of internal validation.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 11:22 AM
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Depression?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 11:35 AM
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It's not just the thing you make to hold the filling.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 11:42 AM
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209: I think she feels unappreciated for cooking, and is really conflicted about wanting to feel appreciated for cooking -- that is, she wants the appreciation but she's ashamed to want it. And so the focus on perfection is a way to beat herself (and her mother) up more: (a) they're both contemptible monsters of ego for wanting anyone to care about their food, but (b) my god they're really contemptible if the food is less than perfect. She wanted affirmation for an undersalted fig galette? She is despicable.

I don't think she has no internal validation (like, she says pleased things about several of the things she makes), but the negative feelings around wanting to be appreciated, not being appreciated, and despising herself for wanting appreciation are strong enough to poison the whole enterprise.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 11:48 AM
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That kind of thought process would be really hard to model.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 11:57 AM
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If you can't put it in an equation with a reasonable number of terms, did you really experience it?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 11:59 AM
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212: I'm not like this about food at all, but having higher standards for yourself that don't allow you to enjoy something that you made, but that you would find perfectly acceptable if it was made by something else, doesn't seem that odd to me.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 12:02 PM
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215 corrected -- italics for corrected part

I'm not like this about food at all, but having higher standards for yourself that don't allow you to enjoy something that you made, but that you would find perfectly acceptable if it was made by somebody else, doesn't seem that odd to me.

(perhaps the correction needed is for the sentence never to have been written)


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 12:04 PM
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The jellybeans turned out fine last night. Two kids ate it without complaint.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 12:08 PM
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And I'm talking about her as if she's a whimpering mass of self-contempt, and she's probably fine. Just that she's gotten to fine by abandoning cooking, because cooking was a thing that was making her unhappy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 12:10 PM
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217: 2 out of 4 ain't bad.


Posted by: Opinionated Lowered Expectations Meatloaf | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 12:11 PM
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"Jellybean" was Nancy Reagan's safe word.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 12:12 PM
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I'll do anything for love, up to a modest point.


Posted by: Opinionated Lowered Expectations Meatloaf | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 1:01 PM
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I think she believes it specifically about cooking, and I think she believes it because her experience is that cooking is not appreciated, and she doesn't want to blame the people being unappreciative so she blames the cook for expecting appreciation.

Maybe she's just a bad cook.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 1:13 PM
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(The link is blocked by my work for some reason so I haven't read it.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 1:16 PM
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Yes to 216 and frankly, I have trouble enjoying food I made even it is perfect (unless it's extremely minimal low effort grub, which I enjoy fine). By the time it's on the table, I'm sick of it. And I can usually hallucinate something wrong with even perfect food. Sometimes I'm into the leftovers when there's a little bit of distance between me and the cooking process and it's just some tasty thing I found in my fridge.

Perfectionism combined with an underlying boredom with the process doesn't make for an appreciative relationship to your own output.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 1:37 PM
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This isn't the pooping thread.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 1:41 PM
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24, 224: Tia, your description of yourself as a dissatisfied superchef reminded me of the House episode(s) in which he took up cooking as an outlet when he wasn't allowed to practice medicine.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 1:48 PM
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I think I used to enjoy cooking a lot more than I do now. By now the good, easy, convenient recipes have become boring due to sheer repetition. I can't experiment too much when cooking for a toddler - obviously we want to broaden her palate, and we try, but there's no point in offering her authentic vindaloo, for example. Even without all the gender and class issues in the article, it makes me wonder a tiny bit how much worse cooking will be in another 10 years. ("Class issues" - everyone's talking about the gender issues and I agree that's the most interesting part, but also, the writer could use "summer" as a verb, in Cape Cod no less, and had a housekeeper as a child, albeit not full-time. Her mother wasn't a typical homemaker.)

I definitely find cooking less fun for larger groups. Cooking for the three of us is basically the same as cooking for the two of us was, except as noted above. Atossa doesn't eat much. Even when I make something Atossa likes, she doesn't eat all that much, just because she's still 3. When we have one or two guests, it's a bit of a hassle limiting myself to tried-and-true recipes that don't conflict with any dietary restrictions, and either doing the math to scale up a recipe or making a third or fourth dish. I've never cooked a whole meal for six+ people and I hope I never have to. My kitchen isn't big enough. When we have parties, we have finger food like chips and dip or order pizza.

This is yet another reminder that I actually wish we ate out or got take-out more. I can think of a lot of dishes I've made that I enjoyed less than I would have enjoyed a lot of alternatives. Of course, it's hard right now, in the winter with a 3-year-old. Maybe we should even have a regularly scheduled night for it? Not sure.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 2:24 PM
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Pizza delivery every Friday is our habit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 2:39 PM
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Even when I make something Atossa likes, she doesn't eat all that much, just because she's still 3.

Pokey ate 3/4 of a large pizza as a three year old. We used to order three adult entrees for Ace and Rascal to split between them at certain restaurants, circa ages 2-4. Geebies are good eaters, at least as small children.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 2:44 PM
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Why not just only go to buffets.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:01 PM
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I get 215--I say (and mostly mean) appreciative, grateful things about other peoples' cooking that would leave me grumpy if I'd made them--but what I don't get about the author is that anything short of widely-acclaimed perfection leaves her miserable. I"m perfectly capable of identifying the jaws in a meal while still enjoying it. Obviously, if I crew up some holiday meal or an expensive roast or whatever, I'm harder on myself than that, but my self-standards aren't so high that I can't genuinely find pleasure in middle of the road meals.

Anyway, 212.2 makes sense to me--for reasons not really tied to cooking, she's wrapped all of this external validation in the act, and it's poisoned the well.

Honestly, IMO some of this is just hedonic treadmill--I doubt that the author is cheerful and satisfied about everything else, even if cooking is where her frustration is most focused.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:03 PM
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SMDH about the non-agreement between "cooking" and "them".


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:05 PM
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One thing that occurs to me is that non-perfection inboxed cooking suits me well, because once the meal is gone, it's over. Where I spend the rest of my creative life, the imperfections last forever. I rebuilt our back porch this summer, and while it gives me joy every time I step on it, I also notice all the flaws, and always will. Even my worst cooking failures only linger as stories about that time I got really mad about gnocchi.

One thing that occurs to me is that my primary cooking frustration is with process, not results. That is, unless I ruin a good piece of meat or burn the shit out of a stew, I'm rarely unhappy once I'm chewing. But in the kitchen, when the parchment won't come unstuck or the sauce won't reduce, throwing off the timing? That can drive me around the bend. That's my general MO in life as well--if I'm taking care with something, anything, and it doesn't work as it should, I get super-mad.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:11 PM
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If it helps, you also spelled "screw up" wrong.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:12 PM
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identifying the jaws in a meal

Is it too late to switch to veganism?


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:12 PM
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Where I spend the rest of my creative life, the imperfections last forever.

Nah. For xmas Jammies is making the railing on the mezzanine higher.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:25 PM
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======
Did you read the story about the 2-year lost in the woods in cold and wet weather in NC? VA? When they found him, he was fine. He talked about his friend, the bear that sheltered him for a couple of days. It is the kind of thing I'd like to believe.
======


Posted by: Robert | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:27 PM
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229: Impressive. Out of curiosity, how much do you allow snacks? We've never been all that strict about them around the house, and on school days there's nothing we can do about it.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:28 PM
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238 was me.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:29 PM
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the negative feelings around wanting to be appreciated, not being appreciated, and despising herself for wanting appreciation are strong enough to poison the whole enterprise.

Oy! This is familiar. Also, on perfectionism, I was implicitly and explicitly taught that if you can't do it right (without flaws) then you shouldn't bother wasting everyone's time. And, asking for instruction was seen as a character defect (at best).


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:48 PM
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just in case this might be helpful to anyone with small children:

we never did snacks, although when the kid was young he had more meals (second breakfast as well as gouter/tea). if he is home in the afternoon he still has tea, and we send him with tea on his super long days (long school day followed by two dance classes). once he was eating solid food he's always gotten the same food as we did, of course we backed off the super hot chili pepper incorporated into the food for a few years. the usual unpopular suspects (bitter foods like eggplants, cruciferous (sp?) vegetables, texture challenges like mushrooms) and random strong dislikes were always subject to the "you have to take one taste, if you don't like it you don't have to eat the rest" rule, but this applied every time the food showed up at the table. sure enough, at some point everything started tasting great and he usually forgot he used to hate it. he will never admit that at one time he strongly disliked plums because between one summer's end and the next's beginning they became delicious to him.

how much he eats has always varied depending on his physical activity level and what is going on growth-wise, including cognitive expenditures - there have been times when his brain was clearly evolving at breakneck speed when he really amped up the amount of food he eats. but it always settles back down when the phase passes.

i've worked hard to not model disordered eating, that has been an explicit and very important parenting goal for me. i may have been too successful in this, as the extended run of asthma and viral pulmonary infection i've had for the last couple of months meant i've had to really cut back on physical activity, and while i'm back to the gym and bike commuting i'm not yet back to the pool. even mild attempts to moderate my intake so as not to turn into a giant blanc mange are strictly policed by the kid. he'd kind of ferocious.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 3:49 PM
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237: It's like the Soviets did. Get an agent while young, let them grow up among the enemy, and activate them when they are old enough to be in a position of trust.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 4:01 PM
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236: Wise. Although if you haven't lost a kid by now...


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 4:34 PM
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I worry that I sublimate working mom anxiety/guilt through cooking, especially baking. But the Calabat loves fresh bread, and it's really easy to whip up muffins for quick school-day breakfasts, and maybe Pebbles, who tells me she wishes her daycare teacher were her mommy*, will remember that she liked the muffins when she's older.

*she assured me I could stay in the house.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 5:53 PM
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I'm sure she'll remember liking you more than the daycare teacher! But oh my, what a thing to hear. Is that even something you can take in stride? I can imagine many reactions.


Posted by: Rance | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 6:27 PM
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She said it all lovey and snuggly and while hugging me, and shiv's interpretation is that she really loves her teacher (who is amazing -- I mean, it's not at all bad that she has a great connection!) and that she probably wants her teacher to come to our house to play, and doesn't get that she can't just add a second mommy. This is plausible, because on the rare occasion when the teacher has come over to babysit, Pebbles has expressed shock that I'm going out, instead of playing with both of them.

But yeah. More muffins, I guess.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 7:55 PM
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"Opinionated Lowered Expectations Meatloaf" is the best pseud on here since "Soviet Tank Commander/Lactation Consultant"


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 9:45 PM
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You took the words right out of my mouth.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 9:54 PM
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227: no kitchen is too small to cook for a ton of people. look at old houses where tiny kitchens were meant for the servants, but dinner parties were supposed to be huge. at my friends grandmother's estate they have a little kitchen with a weird stove (still there) and they once made baked alaska for 50. I've made thanksgiving dinner for 22 adults and 10 children with literally everything from crackers to the ice cream (admittedly I was having a manic episode). I don't mean this as a weird flex, just encouragement that you can do anything.

separately, I think the real thing no one cares about or appreciates is housework. you have to mop and iron, but does anyone even notice? yet this, like cooking, must be done.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01-30-19 10:04 PM
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re: 241

We do do snacks. Probably he's over-indulged with cereal bars, yoghurts, and the like.

He's 5 now, and greedy.

But, we did do the whole baby-led weaning thing, and introduce him to adult solid food very early. So, unless there's a reason why we are not eating at the same time, he always eats what we eat, and has done for years. Including the various texture and taste challenges you mention. The only thing we hold off on is really spicy food, although he's getting to the point that if we don't draw attention to it, and he's tasting something from Daddy's plate, he doesn't actually mind things that are very spicy. Adding a bit of chilli to a pasta sauce, or something, though, we'd just do without thinking, as he'll eat it.

He's also been eating out in restaurants with us since he was tiny, and will eat almost anything. He's going through a phase at the moment where he always wants sushi.* His child minder was carefully checking with us if she can feed him something Chinese for New Year, as I think she was worried. I nearly laughed, as noodles/rice with loads of veg/mushrooms/corn and especially prawns or something similar, is basically his dream food.

* cheap high street stuff from Wasabi or Itsu, not some fancy thing.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 4:54 AM
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You can get sushi with mayonnaise in Nebraska.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 6:02 AM
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I bet xelA could find mayonnaise closer than that if he tried.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 6:39 AM
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Apparently, if you work for the TV station and put "Known Cheater" below Tom Brady, you can get fired. I guess you'd be O.K. if it were Belichick?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 6:40 AM
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251: Did I tell you all about peanut butter & jelly sushi at the local fast-casual sushi chain, Fusian?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 7:31 AM
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No. Ugh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 7:32 AM
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Please tell me that's a joke. Don't hesitate to lie.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 7:38 AM
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255: It's get over 55,000 hits on Google! Lots of recipes for it!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 7:39 AM
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Cyrus, we do snacks. Didn't do much when they were little. At some point it became clear that hunger is a contributing factor on situations where the two biggest are emotionally unstable, and so we relaxed on snacks.

There's not a whole lot of pre-packaged snack foods in the house that they can grab themselves, but we definitely keep that stuff in the car, especially the heat-stable stuff, for when we pick them up and they're losing their goddamn minds.

Speaking of, I will now write a venting comment. Or maybe I'll make it a post, why not.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:03 AM
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re: 258

Yeah, our snacks are not things he can grab himself, but he'll come and moan and beg until he gets one. The main time we hand them out, is coming home from school, when he's tired and hungry, or between sports classes and things at the weekend.

Thirst is the thing that makes him mental. Hunger can make him a bit annoying, but when he was little, if he was thirsty, he'd transform into a little demon.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:08 AM
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Probably the comments are more appropriate. Pokey got another referral yesterday. It happened at 8:30 am, so this is not the accumulation of a day's worth of exasperation. (We don't know how the day before went, though. Two days earlier we got confirmation that that was a good day, at least.)

Here's the description on the form from the principal's office:

I was commenting to Ms. J on the writing work the children are doing in class. I told her that Pokey is very intelligent but when he rushes, he does not do his best work. We show him the expected sample work to encourage him o do his best. He said it was correct. Then when we asked if he thought his parents would be accepting of his work, he said something like 'I don't care, whatever'. [Next sentence written in different handwriting. - HG] Student interrupted teachers and replied 'So' when they redirected!

Ok, Pokey is a very difficult child. Absolutely. But am I crazy that this sounds like they're creating problems that don't need to be there? Discussing him, and his shortcomings, right in front of him, and then getting mad when he jumps in? WTF?

The principal will call today, so I'll ask her if they're more to this story or if this was the straw that broke the camel's back. That's certainly possible.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:11 AM
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It's much easier to break a camel's back with something really heavy.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:23 AM
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Like a bale of straw.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:24 AM
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260: You said that he was changing teachers, right? Was this the old, problematic teacher, or is this a new one?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:32 AM
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Stupid phone


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:32 AM
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That is, your reaction sounds perfectly reasonable -- if it's the first and it's a teacher he's getting away from in the next week or two, that's annoying but nothing to do but wait her out. If this is someone he's going to be with for a while, that's lousy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:34 AM
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Why is your phone murdering camels?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:34 AM
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It's the new teacher and an extra Spanish language coach who floats throughout the program. According to Pokey, it was the coach who wrote him up. My guess is that his teacher wrote the paragraph and the coach wrote the last line and was the one moved to action.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:36 AM
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Oh: Ms. J, referenced at the beginning, is the Spanish coach.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:38 AM
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Is part of what's going on that they have high expectations for him because he's transparently (verbal interactions and so on) a bright kid, and then when his written work isn't spectacular they're hassling him about it in a way they wouldn't for a kid they thought of as dumber, and that he perceives as unfair? And then his propensity toward being difficult means that being treated unfairly turns into a blowup?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:42 AM
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Basically, yes. He does rush through everything, and they're entirely correct on that point. But caring about his academic work is just so obviously the least important thing at the moment, and they definitely know that. I don't know that he thought it was unfair (although you're right that he's especially sensitive on that point) or if he was just being irritable. He is pretty relentlessly irritable.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:46 AM
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What's a referral, operationally? That is, it's clearly a note home, but does it have in-school consequences for him? And were you talking about getting him into the IEP process (not that I know anything about it)?

That is, my reaction is that yes, they're setting him off unnecessarily, and yes, everyone would be better off if they accepted and rewarded whatever minimal level of compliance he's managing, rather than looking at completed work and giving him a hard time about it being imperfect when they know he's emotionally really fragile. But I don't know how you persuade the teachers of that -- that is, "caring about his academic work is just so obviously the least important thing at the moment, and they definitely know that" seems wrong to me, they don't seem to know that at all, or at least they're not acting as if they did.

What I'd be trying to get across to them is that you know he's difficult, and you appreciate that he makes their lives harder and you're very sorry about that, and that your whole focus at this point is trying to improve his behavior so that he's more teachable. And that part of that involves not making him think of school as a locus of conflict, so you hope that they can interact with him in a way that minimizes avoidable conflict: specifically, in minimizing negative interactions about the academic quality of his work. Academics are important, but he's a bright kid, and if he can get the interpersonal issues straightened out, he'll catch up on anything that he's not doing terrifically well with this year.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 8:55 AM
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Yeah, it's getting sent to the principal's office. He spent the afternoon in In School Suspension. There might be other consequences that I'll get told about on the phone.

He doesn't yet have an IEP, which would get him special services, but he has a DBMC - daily behavioral modification something. This is where you have a mentor who you meet with at the beginning and end of the day and set small behavior goals for the day, and then you carry around a clipboard and your teachers evaluate you on that goal all day, and then at the end the mentor has some tangible trinket if you achieved it. This has only been in place for the last three weeks or so, though.

they don't seem to know that at all, or at least they're not acting as if they did.

This is a fair point.

I haven't yet had a teacher-parent conference with the new teacher - I should probably reach out to her and do so.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 9:03 AM
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272: He got "In School Suspension" for.... what did he do? Talk back to the teacher rudely?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 9:19 AM
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The other thing I'm wondering -- things you've said have made Pokey sound kind of self-aware, alongside the anger/volatility. Is there any shot of getting him to fake his way through interactions like that? Telling him explicitly that you think the teachers are managing things badly, and that he shouldn't be taking their criticism as anything meaningful, but should just grit his teeth through "Yes ma'am no ma'am sure thing ma'am"?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 9:19 AM
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(I mean, no is plausible, he's a kid, and a kid with emotional regulation issues, and the adults in the situation aren't handling it well either. But if he could channel his anger into knowing that it's all right for him to think they're being ridiculous and counterproductive while he does a POW name-rank-and-serial number thing, that might get him through the days.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 9:42 AM
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That's how I get through days.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 10:11 AM
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My prior, difficult boss? I'd come out of meetings with fingernail marks in one arm where I was gripping it to avoid braining her with her phone. And I got along with her better than anybody.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 10:13 AM
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I've never had that kind of issue.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 10:20 AM
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She was an unusual person. And I do have a temper. Accidentally broke a pencil I was holding while I was talking to her once, the same kind of issue.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 10:34 AM
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Let me take just a moment here to point out the Popula Kickstarter which ends tonight (this is the publisher of the OP link):

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/popula/popula-the-alt-global-magazine-of-news-and-culture

Pretty good literary results for a weird blockchain experiment.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 10:34 AM
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280: I'm reading some of it, but the prefix "alt-" turns me off even more than the use of Ethereum.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 10:46 AM
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Yeah, I don't get that either, but that sort of glibness is by and large not reflected in the content. Maybe "non-hegemonic-global" seemed like too much of a mouthful even for ex-academics?


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 11:07 AM
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ALT-BLOCKCHAIN


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 11:09 AM
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Do you remember when "alt-" was good? And then it became sort of meaningless. And then it went over to the dark side...


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 11:14 AM
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The other thing I'm wondering -- things you've said have made Pokey sound kind of self-aware, alongside the anger/volatility. Is there any shot of getting him to fake his way through interactions like that? Telling him explicitly that you think the teachers are managing things badly, and that he shouldn't be taking their criticism as anything meaningful, but should just grit his teeth through "Yes ma'am no ma'am sure thing ma'am"?

We do have unusually forthright discussions along these lines. We talk about how other kids get reprimanded for small stuff, but it doesn't explode, whereas with Pokey he ends up in a lot of trouble. The framing we usually go for is Pokemoves In Battle, and our main moves are:
1. Freezing/being a statue, to buy yourself some time
2. Thinking terrible insults about the person in your head
3. Acting like a submissive puppy dog.

He's pretty open about how awful and intolerable he finds it to perform submissiveness, even though he sees how well it works for his friend who always gets out of trouble.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 11:23 AM
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A different aspect of it that I find frustrating is that Pokey really is growing and maturing - he's come so far since kindergarten - but the expectations of each grade ratchet up faster than he can keep up with. It's very discouraging. (It's not something that I ever thought about, for kids who are on track with their emotional development, until I had a kid who was not on track.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 11:26 AM
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(Also, my heart goes out to other kids with Pokey's temperament who aren't white. I think he is getting cut significantly more slack and patience than other kids get cut.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 11:27 AM
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Oh, man, poor kid. Having that kind of ingrained sincerity about negative emotions makes life so hard. Much less explosively, but in kind of an analogous way, my big sister and I were both kind of terrible students in high school, and I managed to pull significantly better grades than she did out of the same amount of actual work, mostly by being willing to perform compliance when I was in the room with anyone in authority.

Anyway, this too shall pass. If you're working with him at that level of self-awareness, you'll get to a point where he can manage his way past unreasonable authority figures soon, even if it's not this year.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 11:29 AM
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and 287 absolutely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 11:30 AM
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Anyway, this too shall pass.

That's what the doctor said when my brother swallowed a thumb tack.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-31-19 11:42 AM
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re: 288

Yeah, I was naturally quite well behaved and studious anyway, but I definitely had authority issues -- I just didn't respect a lot of my teachers, because, to be frank, they were dicks, and I was very conscious that I was a lot smarter than many of them. But, I was self aware enough to basically fake it. I would sometimes resist, or be pretty defiant. I remember point blank saying "No" a few times when ordered to do something. But I had enough credit in the bank (from being academic), and enough self-awareness that I pretty much got away with shit, that not everyone would have.*

I had friends who had less impulse control, who'd never have gotten away with some of the stuff I did, because they either couldn't fake the right attitude, or because they were not stereotyped as "good". I told our Deputy Headmaster to fuck off one time, for example. But, it was outside normal school hours, and he was massively out of order, so ... nothing happened.

* not a racial element, because, when I was at school, there were about 10 non-white kids in a school of 1800, and most of them were high-achievers.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 1-19 3:53 AM
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