In a handful of months I will become a first time mom. When my husband Alex and I think about what we’ll cook for our son or daughter, he has pot loads of ideas, and with good reason. My mother-in-law is Italian, raised in Milan, and my father-in-law is Japanese, raised in Tokyo. Alex’s childhood food memories are like an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. They are just, quite literally, that rich and that good.
Me on the other hand, that’s a different story. For one, my mind is already cluttered with vial upon vial of internet poison and botched visits to the parenting section at Barnes and Noble. I’ll be lucky if I can get through our first family dinner without having heart palpitations. Can he have nuts? What about eggs? Did we ask the doctor about wheat? Is that yogurt organic, but no like, actually organic? WHERE IS THAT EPIPEN?
So on this Mother’s Day, I’ve decided to think back to when I was a kid and my mom made our plain old American dinner table the most fun table in the world with a hands on meal that my brother and I loved: fondue and artichokes.
It wasn’t just that the meal reminded me of something Rhoda Morgernstern, my favorite lead from any Nick at Nite sitcom at that time, might make me in a camper in the Berkshires. It also wasn’t the fact that the discussion of fondue pots inevitably led to my parents’ reminiscing about some portion of the 60’s or 70’s, which I couldn’t have cared less about in my very exciting third grade life.
It was how weird that artichoke looked and the thrill I got out of pulling off leaf after leaf until, alas, I found my prize – the delectable heart. Not to mention the adrenaline rush I felt when my mom would plead with us ‘not to eat the fuzzies’ because death by choking would be inevitable (I have yet to read about a person who perished from said phenomenon, just a thought).
There were the delicious dips – butter with garlic and mayo with chives, the latter my personal preference – and the crackling sounds the peanut oil would make as our ¾ by ¾ inch chunks of beef tenderloin cooked to perfection.
Mine always came out overdone but I couldn’t bring myself to pull my fondue fork away from the pot. It was too much like playing a real life game of olden days on a school night.
When my busy mom had the time, which she somehow made sure was quite often, she made food fun for me. Not a burden. Not a requirement. Not a reflection on her political views or a standpoint on social issues. Just fun. In this day and age when I feel like I’m supposed to look at parenting as a massive crisis, it’s good to remember that part of having one of the coolest jobs in the world is that it’s a blast, not only for your taste buds, but for both mother and daughter…or son. Stay tuned.