Monday, June 14, 2010

Mascoutah: The Midwest's Magical Kingdom

Shabbat #21

Guests: Kati, Adam and their three sons.

Menu: Sliced Parmesan and Rosemary Bread with Date Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary Olive Oil for Dipping, Penne with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Pomodoro Siciliano, Watermelon Salad with Mint and Feta ... never got around to the Strawberries with Limoncello

What I Learned:

Theoretically, cooking for a vegetarian should be easy. Boil some water for pasta, toss a salad and call it dinner. But for some reason it makes me anxious. A mix of wanting to satisfy the carnivores and feeling like boiling and tossing is just not enough "work" for me. That somehow it has to be complicated and time consuming to be good.

But on Friday I kept it simple.

I boiled and I tossed. I skipped the flower arranging, opting for a potted lavender that I planted out front the next day. I didn't even make my blue cheese crackers. Just a plate of bread and cheese with my new favorite date vinegar and oil.

But as the clock ticked towards six o'clock I started to get a little nervous. I'd barely dirtied a pot in the preparation. Flour didn't dust the floor. No grease on the stove top. My food processor was the only appliance that got any action and I didn't even wash it by hand.

Had I done enough? It was company after all.

Looking back on the recipes of the past six months, I can assure you that there were several that required a fair amount of time. Like shopping for the meal made with all Missouri products. The crack pie with it's two-plus pages of directions requiring each pie to be baked individually. (A directive that I ignored.) The baklavas made with phyllo -- a dough that didn't take well to my meditative cooking approach. And all of the potato peeling.

And, yes, all of those complicated meals and the conversations that ensued around the table were fantastic.

But so was Friday. And all I did was boil and toss.

Turns out there is absolutely no correlation between time in preparation to enjoyment around the table. We all talked until our kids begged to be put to bed. Ben found (another) new best friend. All of the indoor toys migrated out. And the candles had nearly burned completely down by the time the last dish dropped into the dishwasher.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this -- the notion that more is not always, well, more. That sometimes the best things in life are really actually pretty simple.

My children teach me this all the time.

Last year smack dab in the middle of the storm that was our life we decided to take the kids to Disneyland. (Proof that I had indeed lost my mind.) Having heard of friends talk about planning trips to Disney parks -- character breakfasts, fast passes, tram rides, meal plans, crowds, heat -- I knew it was not for the faint of heart. Or wallet. But I bought into it ... the idea of Sarah's eyes turning into saucers at the sight of the Princesses. Ben grinning ear to ear next to Mickey. We loaded up the suitcases, flew across the country and bought four very expensive keys to the magical kingdom ... plus one large stuffed Mouse, two sets of ears, a spinning Buzz Light Year and a princess costume. And at the end of the day there were some "magical" moments.

Was it worth it? I suppose.

Would I do it again? Doubtful.

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure my kids even ever asked to go to Disneyland. Or recognized half the Disney characters when they got there. I think the whole thing had more to do with me believing that if I could plan the most perfect, over the top trip that somehow we would all magically be ... happy.

On Saturday we took the kids to the 18th Annual Optimist Rodeo in Mascoutah, Il. No high-priced tickets, fast passes or flashing lights. Just a makeshift ring constructed in an open field. And, still, Sarah was saucer-eyed and Ben grinned ear to ear. Riveted by the roping and bull-riding with their 10-gallon hats perched upon their 2-gallon heads. Chasing dogs and fireflies. Climbing fences. Eating roasted corn. Watching the kids have the time of their lives, sun setting behind them, I couldn't help thinking that it was nothing short of, well, magical. For all of us.

Proof to me that parenting is a little bit like cooking. Sometimes there's no correlation between preparation and enjoyment.

And that every once in a while simple is good and less is more.

No comments:

Post a Comment