Archive | October, 2012

Sunday supper, the first

22 Oct

As part of my New Year’s resolutions this year (2012! Woot!), I wanted to try hosting ‘Sunday Suppers’, a quarterly event where I would make food, we would have a bunch of people over early-ish on Sunday evening, and we would sup and laugh and kinwork the hell out of the place. It would be a new iteration on our Wednesday Night Movie Nights, which we used to host back in the day.

Of course, I did not manage to do this, over 10 months this year. But this past Sunday, we did indeed host one. I thought I would invite a handful of our friends at a time, hoping that some if not all would come. This time I invited eight friends, with a bunch of their kids – if everyone came, we would have a dozen or more people in our (tiny) apartment. I have in mind to eventually invite everyone we know, but it might take a while.

Naturally, just about everyone bowed out, due to scheduling or unexpected events. We ended up with our old neighbors and their two little ones.

The food went off beautifully. Herbed bibb lettuce salad (Boston bibb lettuce, salted a bit, and tossed with a generous handful of herbs – tarragon, parsley, chives, a bit of thyme – and a shallot vinaigrette). Beef short rib stew (Brown the ribs on three sides in a big lidded pot, with some olive oil, in batches. Remove. Sautee some diced carrots, a couple roughly chopped onions, a tied-up bundle of thyme, chives, parsley, all until a bit brown. Remove. Pour in 1/2 bottle or more of red wine, and reduce by 2/3. Add back in meat, vegetables. Add in chopped tomatoes from a big can, with or without juice, a roghly diced head of garlic, a lot of salt, some pepper. Maybe toss in a big peel of orange. Fill up to the top of the meat with broth of some sort. Stir. Put on the lid, and cook in a 325 degree oven for 2-4 hours, until the meat is soft). Roasted broccoli (salt, pepper, olive oil, cooked on a tray at 375-400 degrees until browned and as soft as you like it).

We also had two kinds of ice cream that I made, salted caramel and chocolate. They were the best things eaten.

All of this is a prelude to what I wanted to talk about, which is about small children and adults eating dinner. Our ideal practice is that baby sits at the table and eats what we eat. Sometimes, if we eat beef stew with bread, he can eat just the bread and that’s fine. Plan B is to do this, but if he doesn’t eat, to give him yogurt or fruit at the end of dinner, which he normally will eat. Plan C is to make something separate for him that is easy (some pasta with just cheese, or tuna fish). In almost all of these plans, he has to sit at the table until we are done, or basically done eating.

In practice, we hover between plan A and plan B, and it is much more often me who is willing to move towards plans B and C. This is surprising for both of us, frankly. We kind of thought I would be the hardass. But alas, I’m a bit of the pushover. Or at least we take turns being the softie.

But our neighbors, they let the kids play in the middle of dinner, if they didn’t want the salad but were waiting for the meat course. I am not judging here, I swear, particularly because they have two kids, one of whom doesn’t eat that well, and if they want to do whatever they want, goddess bless ’em. However, this made it impossible for us to execute our ‘ass in the chair’ policy. And what a difference it made for Brooklyn Babe! Baby had a mini-meltdown, presumably from the stress of having people playing with his toys, and not really having the run of house, combined with the unwillingness of mama and papa to actually play with him during dinner.

All was forgiven when we all came together as a family to gorge ourselves on ice cream. But wow this eating thing is a minefield.

House is now back in order, the bathroom is clean, and there are some leftovers in the freezer. It’s too soon to contemplate another Sunday supper quite yet, but I’m going to call it a qualified success.


The uncertainty of parenting

10 Oct

One of the most difficult and ongoing challenges I feel as a father (and which I know baby mama feels as a mother) is the uncertainty over how to teach and manage baby. This is something of a modern problem and, I would suggest, something of a class-specific problem. Or at least a problem most closely associated with intensive parenting.

In another world, with stronger extended family ties, stronger religious beliefs and instruction, less deliberation over every single thing, you just, well, parent.

Not us. Baby, for instance, likes to put his feet up on the table while eating dinner. There are a wide range of responses to this behavior, from not caring, to punishment, to incentivizing behaviors, verbal scolding. Fwapping his little feet feet with a metal ruler, the way my 5th grade teacher used to do to our fingers when you would stop paying attention in class.

What we want is a rule-book, preferably an evidence-based set of best practices. This was, historically, um, the bible/Torah/Koran, etc. at least for many. Or tacit knowledge passed from generation to generation. Now, we have anecdata from friends, Facebook groups, and expert literatures. But the expert literature overstates its effectiveness while way too often way way understating culture, class, or individual differences (though these are actually very different problems. Baby books and parenting tiger mother French mother whatever mothers nevertheless hit them all).

So we just kind of do stuff, hope it’s reasonable, and move on. The scientist in me wishes we were at least learning inductively from our adventures, but sometimes I’m not even certain of that!

An for what it’s worth, we now pug him back from the table when he puts his feet up, and he complains: closer? Closer? Closer! Yep. Top shelf parenting for you.