I always used to think of my family of four as kind of the difficult eaters among my broader family of thirteen. We’re the vegetarians, and my kids have been picky. But as we all– my three siblings, two siblings-in-law, niece and nephew– prepared to gather at my parents’ home this Christmas, I realized there were more dietary issues to take into account than in the past. Meal planning everywhere these days involves an increasing number of allergies, food sensitivities, and food preferences, and my family is no different. Among the thirteen of us, we currently have two on low-salt diets, four managing chronic illnesses with dietary adjustments, one vegan, five vegetarians, one on an elimination diet and one more still in the midst of figuring out what foods are causing new sensitivities.
Lisa’s post recently about
calzone pizza tacos got me thinking about tacos, of course, but also about how even though our kids are growing older and somewhat less picky, the slightest change can sometimes mean the difference between a happy meal and a table fraught with conflict.
Her kids ate the calzones, though not without a lot of discussion. I had a different experience recently when I laid out a dinner with crispy taco shells instead of our regular tortillas. I didn’t think much of it, really. Same ingredients, same shape, different texture. If I had stopped to think about it, I probably would have braced myself because most of the time around here change is Not Good.
But I got lucky. My kids were thrilled. They were in raptures. I was the Best. Mom. Ever. (Even though Tony did the cooking; sorry, Tony). And Eli ate four of them, stuffed with brown rice, pinto beans, guacamole and shredded jack cheese — the same ingredients with which he fills his quesadillas — suddenly transformed by their crispy new jacket. For one night, change was good, and I relished the feeling.
Easy, kid-friendly, keeps-well, delicious, no-bake Christmas treat that my 7 year-old can make with only the slightest supervision? Sign me up.
On a dark weekend like this, it was impossible to tell whether my persistent stomach ache was physical or emotional. It doesn’t matter. We hunkered down at home, needing to be within arms’ reach of each other. And when I could finally eat, I ate brown rice and an egg poached in Tony’s hot and sour soup.
It doesn’t make everything better, but it’s a tiny step in the right direction.
I had just finished reading An Everlasting Meal, Tamar Adler’s wonderful, 21st century take on MFK Fisher’s lovely book about hunger and food, How To Cook A Wolf. Appropriately, I was hungry, and even more appropriately, there was not much in the refrigerator. To keep the wolf from the door, I had only some leftover cooked grains, a shallot, some turnip greens and eggs. In the past, turnip greens have become compost here; Adler convinced me to save them (as I already do beet and kohlrabi greens). But after the turnips, glazed with miso, had accompanied a stir fry earlier in the week, the turnip greens continued to linger in the crisper, becoming less crisp.
Adler’s book opens with an entire chapter on boiling water so that’s where I started — by just putting a pot of water on to boil — while I looked at my skimpy provisions and considered how to turn them into lunch. In Chapter Two, How To Teach An Egg To Fly, Adler remarks, “poached eggs…are especially good at turning what looks like two-thirds of a meal into a whole one,” and so I began to set my course.
By the time the water had boiled, I’d trimmed and washed the greens, and I tossed them into the water. Adler has me boiling more than steaming, and when you’re hungry, that’s a plus — it’s quicker. While they simmered, I chopped (should have sliced; it’s prettier and more pleasing to bite) the shallot into a dish and poured a splash of vinegar over it. Once the greens were tender, I scooped them out onto my plate with a slotted spoon and tossed in the cooked grains to warm in the rolling, now pale green water. Maybe the grains would pick up some color, or vitamins; maybe not. Still, it pleased me to keep the pot going. After a minute or two, I scooped the grains out onto my plate next to the greens, sprinkled the shallot over them both, and poured the shallot-y vinegar into the boiling water; then I lowered the heat and cracked an egg into the pot to poach. One, two, three minutes and the egg was set, ready to sit on its bed of grains and greens.
A drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and the meal was ready. Lunch, out of scraps and one pot of boiling water, in ten minutes flat. Thanks, Tamar.