EXTRAPOLATE AT YOUR OWN RISK

This week I really enjoyed Brittany Tuttle’s piece at the Christianity Today blog for women, about how blogs, Facebook, et. al, DO NOT equal the whole picture.

Does this sound familiar:

“Countless times I’ve logged onto Facebook, Twitter, or my favorite blogs only to see vintage-filtered vignettes of other people’s seemingly perfect lives. There are my friends, on tropical vacation (again). There are my favorite bloggers, wearing artsy duds, sitting in their homes that look like exact replications of the Anthropologie catalog. And there are their children, perpetually glossy-haired and rosy-cheeked and smiling.

Meanwhile, here I sit in my untidy home in the cold of January, wearing an old college t-shirt. My kids are fighting in the background. Reading these blogs, seeing these profiles, often feels like browsing a fashion magazine. It’s fun to look at, but afterward I feel inferior and inadequate and ugly and fat.”

That? Right there? That captures it so well. I went through a period of real distress before I realized that no, I do not have to have five kids and live on a farm in Maine and grow and preserve all my own food and either knit or sew new slipcovers/cushions/quilts/cozies for everything and raise pigs just because SouleMama does and looks darn cute doing it and it seems like her kids are always peaceful and empathetic and never screaming or creating mayhem (like mine are.)

I think all blogs, maybe even this one, should have bold disclaimers:

THIS IS NEITHER THE WHOLE PICTURE NOR THE WHOLE STORY. EXTRAPOLATE AT YOUR PERIL!

I won’t give away Brittany’s grace-filled conclusion. It’s worth going over to read the whole post for yourself.

Enjoy the weekend! I will see you on Monday!

Really Delicious Cinnamon Rolls

Winter is for cinnamon rolls, I’m just sure of it.

Cinnamon rolls are one of those foods that have been so re-created by the food industry so as to bear but a shadowy resemblance to the real thing. These rolls are treats, to be sure, but they are real food. I love them muchly. I think I shall be making them today.

And here is how you can make some, too:

Dissolve a heaping tablespoon of dry yeast in ¼ cup of warm (not hot) water. Set aside.

Melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, and stir in 1/3 cup sugar (I like to use organic fair-trade evaporated cane juice). Stir in 1 cup of whole milk that’s been warmed up slightly, 1 beaten egg, 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract and 1 and ½ tsp. salt. To this add the yeast-water mixture. Gradually stir in 4 to 5 cups bread flour (up to half whole-wheat), changing the stirring to kneading once necessary. Knead 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic, wipe dough all over with butter, cover, and set aside for one hour.

Meanwhile, mix together 1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar and 2 to 2 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon. Set aside. Soften another stick (1/2 cup) butter and set aside.

When the dough has risen, gently push it down, and begin to stretch and pull it to fit an 11″ × 15″ baking sheet. Take your time and push it down evenly. Using a pastry brush (or your clean fingers), spread softened butter all over the dough, except for the long side that is farthest from you, leaving a 1″×15″ strip CLEAN.

Then carefully spread the cinnamon sugar over the butter. Roll up from bottom edge loosely — not firmly — and use the “clean” edge to seal up the roll. Saw the log very gently with a serrated knife into 1.5 inch pieces; it helps to score the log lightly before you cut. Lay the slices almost touching in a buttered 9″ × 13″ pan.

Cover and allow the rolls to rise for an hour.

While you wait, make the frosting by creaming together 2 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup of butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract.

When the rolls have risen again, bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Tip onto a large plate immediately, and when slightly cooled, spread with frosting. Yum.

Eat them with friends! And coffee! And JOY!

I just want to be at OUR table…

While in the magical disembodied world that is the Internet, I have appeared to be where I always am, in fact, my family and I have been in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for more than a week. We’re getting ready to leave, and while we have had a wonderful time with friends both new and old, we are feeling ready to get back to our home (and our cats.)

(After a stop at the Harrisburg branch of the Appalachian Brewing Company, of course.)

My older son (Aidan, age 6) reminded me of the centrality of the table to what it means to be a family in a home. He’s not much for homesickness, or at least for openly expressing it, but today he asked if we’d be back tonight in time for dinner.

When I said I wasn’t sure, his eyes filled quickly with tears, which he tried to hide, and he bravely said,

“I just really wanted to eat dinner at our table again. I miss our table.

Yes, my son–that longing for the table–our table–is built into you from the beginning. It is a picture of the longing we all have for belonging at a great table with all our beloveds, where we are ourselves are beloved, and where grace and plenty abound.

Aidan and his Grandpa at 'our table.' "Prost!"

That’s why, as the French say, “the table comes first” (when purchasing furniture as newlyweds.)

That’s why, as Robert Farrar Capon says, the table–or board–is one of marriage’s two essential pieces of real estate.

(The other being bed, of course.)

And so we’re headed back to our table.

{Wishing you grace, peace, and love around your table, friends!}

What Chefs Feed Their Kids

One of my favorite things about blogging is the free books. I’m not much of a book-buyer–being that my library system is well-stocked, efficient, and user-friendly–but sometimes it is nice to have one’s Very Own Copy of a book. And last week I received two lovely books for my perusal (and possible review) in the mail, one of which was this:

Fanae Aaron is an art director, not a chef, but when it came time to feed her son, she wanted more for him than rice cereal, that staple North American “first food” for babies–the “blandest and least exciting food ever created.”

She writes:

“I wondered if there was a way to feed kids that both nourishes and stimulates them. Our brains are wired to burst to life with new sensations. They light up and chemicals are released in our brains as we experience the pleasure and delight of something new and interesting.”

I love how her artistic sensibilities shaped her motivation for this project: she wanted food to be what it truly is–a creative sensory experience and an experience of love, care, and nourishment–not merely ‘healthy fuel.’ And so Fanae interviewed twenty or so very different chefs–from Ana Sortun to Zack Gross–to illustrate their strategies and attitudes in feeding their children.

Though it’s got gorgeous illustrations and fabulous recipes, this is more than another cookbook–there’s a lot of child development in there–examining why adventurous eaters suddenly become picky, for example, and explaining why certain foods and combinations simply don’t appeal to kids. Plus, the recipes are recipes that can be made for the whole family–not simply for the baby–with simple modifications for the young ones.

Son #1, with sweet potato

And there’s plenty of advice on how to get kids interested in trying new things–from cooking with them (with the aid of things like the learning tower) to reading books involving food and cooking.

(Our favorite children’s book involving cooking is Eddie’s Kitchen by Sarah Garland.)

Whether you’re a seasoned foodie with kids or a newbie foodie with kids or simply a parent who wants to start your kid on something tastier than rice cereal (we started with avocado!), I think this book will appeal to all your senses. It’s lovely.

Son #2, with avocado

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the other.”

~M.F.K. Fisher

Amen.

Many thanks to Jessica at Globe Pequot for the review copy of this book! You can buy yours here or here.

Carnivory and Children

Recently I’ve discovered Amber Dusick’s funny blog called Parenting. Illustrated in Crappy Pictures. I love the way she succinctly captures such essential aspects of contemporary North American parenting in primitive, funny drawings. Her Thanksgiving post illustrates (quite literally) the fact that children are often more accepting of certain facts of life than we are.

Like eating animals.

I’ve known people who really didn’t want their kids to know that meat comes from animals. Well, since we’re being honest here, at one point I didn’t really want my kids to know that meat comes from animals, but I certainly didn’t need to worry that they’d be horrified or something.

I’ve heard of sweet little children who burst into tears at the thought of eating animals.

That’s not my kids.

Don’t know if it’s the Pioneer Stock they got from their daddy’s side or what, but they enjoy hearing about (and then re-enacting) all the parts about Pa hunting in the Big Woods and, you know, cutting the animal up and roasting it and letting the girls play with the pig-bladder and whatnot.

And they love meat.

And so I love this part of Amber’s Thanksgiving post, where she’s all anxious that there’s going to be a meltdown when the kids realize that a Thanksgiving turkey is, well, a turkey–

They start talking to it. Saying hi and stuff. Just small talk. 

I don’t want their conversation to get personal. I know where this could lead. I start to suggest we move on to see the other animals.     

But then, he simply says:

{Italics are Amber’s words.}

Now, of course, most Thanksgiving turkeys aren’t lucky enough to be raised in nice places with room to run around and be greeted by cute carnivorous children. Most turkeys are raised in places like this:

I wouldn’t really want my kids to see how those turkeys are raised.

Because that would be a truly Crappy Picture.

Compassionate carnivory is costly, sure. But it sure paints a better picture for our children.

How does your family deal with the dynamics of (not) eating animals?