Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cooking for Gracie - Spaghetti with Anchovies, Walnuts, Mint and Breadcrumbs

Today’s book: Keith Dixon’s Cooking for Gracie. A surprising choice for me. Why? Allow me to tell you before getting to the book itself.

Since even before Raphaël’s birth, people have been giving us a lot of stuff. A lot. Most of the gifts were predictable, but very welcome: clothes, toys, gift certificates, more clothes. Others were pleasant surprises: a baby food maker, a soothing noise-maker (which doesn’t really put the baby to sleep, but is still really cool). I’m grateful for it all. But there is one type of gift which I specifically asked people not to give me (and fortunately, most of them complied): parenting books.

My dislike of parenting books (and most self-help books, really, but let’s stick to this particular genre today) stems from way before I ever became a parent myself: it started during my teen years. I was a fairly typical teenager, undergoing all the angst, drama, and emotional rollercoaster those years often entail. But around that time, my mother started developing the annoying habit of attributing anything I did that rubbed her the wrong way to my age. “I know teenagers are unkempt / rude to their parents / selfish, but I will not have you wear your hair like that / speak to me that way / behave in this manner.” It was as if I had been labelled practically overnight, and anything I did would inevitably be traced back to that label. Granted, not all her criticisms were undeserved: my hair was indeed a mess most of the time, and I wasn’t always the most thoughtful daughter. But I could have been the best-groomed, most polite, most altruistic teen, and my mother probably would have found something else to blame on teenagehood. Because I was no longer a child, and that, apparently, was the greatest sin of all.

And one day, while browsing through one of our many bookshelves, I found The Book.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pomegranate Soup

Still catching up on writing about the food books I read ages ago. Today, Marsha Mehran’s Pomegranate Soup.

But first, a flashback. In 2011, my friend Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz hosted a Food Film Marathon, an entire day of movies revolving around food. On the playbill was the 2000 Lasse Hallström film Chocolat, with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp (as well as Dame Judi Dench and Alfred Molina). If you’ll recall, it takes place in a small, conservative French village, where Juliettte Binoche’s character, a free, gypsy-like single mother, waltzes in, opens a chocolaterie, and offends everybody’s Catholic sensibilities – until they all succumb to the power of the almighty cocoa bean. Oh, and Johnny Depp plays an actual gypsy, who strums a different guitar in every scene (someone pointed this out during the movie, and it became a running joke. Seriously, where does he keep all those instruments?).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Save the Deli

So, the good news is: I’m officially back in the kitchen. Raphaël apparently enjoys sitting in his bouncy chair on the floor and watching me whisk things and spill stuff (obviously, I don’t put him directly under the counter), so I’ve been able to cook relatively freely. The less good news is: nothing I’ve made so far is especially blog worthy. Baby steps, people, baby steps (pun intended).

So, in the meantime, let’s talk books. I’ve never been happier to be an avid reader than these past few months: it’s one of the few hobbies I could still indulge in when I was spending most of the day nursing the baby. I can only watch so much TV, especially daytime TV. Knitting or crochet was out of the question, as were writing and drawing. Anything that required two relatively mobile arms was off-limits, basically. I could still surf the Web on my iPhone, but typing anything longer than an email just wasn’t worth the trouble (and no, I don’t own a tablet). Eventually, I did figure out how to play video games while nursing, and life got a whole lot better (Oh, don’t look at me like that. Yes, breastfeeding is a beautiful experience and a precious time between mother and baby – but sometimes, you just have to play Assassin’s Creed.).

But for the most part, I read. Nothing too complicated, as the hormones and the lack of sleep were clouding my brain. Still, I have a few food-related books piled up. The first is David Sax’s Save the Deli (which I think I actually read even before I was pregnant, so it’s high time I posted about it).

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Introducing Raphaël! (Also, a rant about breastfeeding)

Hi! Anybody still here? I’m not sure how to begin this post. “It’s been a long time” seems like the understatement of the year so far. But I’m sure you can guess what’s been keeping me away:

Meet Raphaël, born on October 2nd, 2012. Laurent and I feel blessed everyday to have this little guy in our lives. I’m sure every parent says this, but he really is the sweetest little baby in the world! At four months, he’s been sleeping through the night for quite some time now (despite a three-week holiday trip to Europe and the ensuing jet-lag). He never went through his “inconsolable crying phase.” In fact, he hardly ever cries unless there’s an easily identifiable reason – usually that he’s hungry, gassy, or tired. And he just smiles and chatters all the time! We love him to pieces.

I recently had a conversation with a young woman who was saying that she didn’t feel emotionally ready to have kids yet. My answer was that, even though having a baby was a hundred-percent planned in my case, I never felt ready either! I knew I wanted to have children, and I knew I wanted to have them sooner rather than later. But does that mean I was prepared for everything being a mother entailed? Absolutely not. I still have trouble thinking of myself as a mother! But the thing is, I never expected to be completely ready: becoming a parent has always seemed like such a huge, life-altering event, that I figured I would never be entirely ready for it, no matter how much I prepared for it. I read up on the basic health-related topics, but for the most part, I knew I was probably going to have to ad-lib my way through it.

And that’s the way it’s been. There’s a moment I think every new parent goes through: it’s when you get home from the hospital, with your baby in your arms, and you look at each other and think “Ok, what do we do now?”. Obviously, nothing will ever be the same. But how exactly do you navigate that? So you put the baby down and you watch him sleep for a while, and then you start wondering if you’re allowed to go do something as mundane as have a cup of tea, or read the paper. Of course, this state of uncertainty doesn’t last long: the baby soon wakes up crying, and you’re off trying to figure out what’s the matter and what to do about it. And just like that, you’re a parent. You eventually figure out that you can still have a cup of tea while perusing the paper (in fact, moments like that eventually become essential to your sanity), but now a huge part of your life is dedicated to caring for this tiny, completely dependent being. The challenge is balancing everything.

I didn’t do a great job at balancing things in the beginning. I’m very lucky that Laurent was able and willing to take over pretty much everything in the early days: shopping, cooking, cleaning, he did it all, while I devoted myself to Raphaël. So, even if I’d had time to blog, I wouldn’t have had much to blog about: I didn’t touch a skillet or mixing bowl for months.

All newborns are very demanding in the beginning, but in our case there was one aspect that complicated our first weeks together, and took up nearly all of my time: breastfeeding. I know this is technically a cooking blog, but mother’s milk is, after all, our first source of nourishment, in most cases. And the breastfeeding experience has taken both me and Raphaël for quite the ride. I thought I would share it today, to stall for time while I get my butt back in the kitchen. Those of you who don’t feel like reading about it can just scroll through the chronological photos of the baby. :-)