Monday, January 7, 2008

Competitive Mommy-ing and Caldo de Pollo*

Competitive mommying drives me nuts. Really nuts. If you’re going to bake cookies, great. Fantastic. The kids love it, I admire it, it’s really nice. But there are those moms who take it to a wholenother level, in which it is clear that they have, somehow, crossed a line from doing something to please their children and they are trying to prove What Amazing Parents They Are and How Involved They Are. Your Janey can read? My Clotilde can read, too! In French! We bake authentic madeleine recipes, while speaking French. And discussing Proust. I exaggerate… a little. But not that much.

I think most parents are at least a little susceptible to competitive parenting, and some people cycle in and out of it. I live in a neighborhood with a surplus of greyhound-thin tennis blondes, and, sometimes I want to tell them to eat one of their bloody home-made cookies and chillax, already. Sadly, many think I’m nuts because I play ice hockey and surf (I don’t know why they think it’s so punk rock. I’m a housewife. I am not punk rock.), so I don’t think they would listen to me.
Anyway… I usually keep pretty mum with other moms about cookie baking, cooking and the chats the kids and I have about nerdy things (since the Gates of Paradise are coming through Seattle, I am currently brainwashing the kids into thinking Ghiberti is cool. Ghiberti? Punk rock. Okay, not really. But... very cool.). Who wants to be in the midst of mulling over whether it was right to let their kid watch the latest crappy Disney movie (three times. In a row, which is pretty much what I let Curly do this weekend with Ratatouille as she worked on recovering from a nasty bout of bronchitis, with the result that she is saying “rat patootie” as often as she can. Which is a lot.) and then hear that someone else is discussing the competition for the Florence baptistery doors with their kids? No-freaking-body. Despite their whippet thin-ness, good highlights and tennis-playing, I like many of the moms at the school my kids go to (and they, in turn, seem to like me despite my fondness for pastries, skunk stripe of grey and hockey-playing). I have no interest in making them feel bad, or getting their mommy-competitive dander up. So, when I do things like make chicken soup from scratch (note: not very hard) I don’t talk about it. When another mom says something about Progresso? I say zip. Cooking is not everyone’s thing, but somehow, for many women, if they become a mother and still are not interested in cooking, they feel guilty. Which is silly, but the fact that it’s silly doesn’t somehow make it not so, and I'm not going to intentionally add to another parent's guilt load.

As usual, I digressed a little more than I intended to with that. Yesterday I made (with some diversion from the directions, because I struggle not to digress from anything) the caldo de pollo from Rick Bayless’s Mexico One Plate at a Time. I knew, already, that I like Rick Bayless’s cookbook, but I hadn’t yet made the caldo de pollo described in it. With three sick people in my house (one case of flu, one of bronchitis and one nasty cold), it was clearly time for a little chicken soup. It was lovely. It's a simple chicken soup, with a bunch of little condiments that can be passed so that everyone can doctor their food to their own satisfaction (which is a way of serving food that I love). I used more garlic than Bayless suggested (it was spending a long time in the broth, so I went ahead and assumed it would be pretty mellow, and it was), I prepared the broth differently (one stage, thank you very much, instead of adding different parts at different points), and I served it differently, since I took the meat off the bones and shredded it, rather than serving with a knife and fork, and the meat on bone, in the broth. I still remember the joys of being scalded (precís: ow); I didn’t want Curly or my boy to get a chance to experience that particular delight while trying to cut up chicken nestled in steaming hot broth (they’re still at the stage of learning to cut things up in which things go flying across the table— or room— unexpectedly and with pretty good velocity). My husband was too sick to eat it last night, but he had it for lunch today. It made for good, revivifying leftovers. It wasn’t astoundingly good; good chicken soup rarely is. But it was, as good chicken soup should be, deeply satisfying.
*Note: A certain un-named blogger may have tried on bathing suits a couple of days ago, in anticipation of a trip to sunnier climes (trip: good idea. bathing suit viewing in full-length mirror: baaaad idea). Thus, there may be, erm, some deeply green-eyed aspects to the bitchery about nice, but skinny, neighbors and fellow parents.

3 comments:

cook eat FRET said...

so like umm, does anyone in your neighborhood read your blog? not that you'd care...

i've been laying heavy on the lentil soup from 101 cookbooks. january is officially soup month. easy and intensely satisfying and i get to put a poached egg on top.

Meg said...

That was pretty bitchy, wasn't it? I went back and edited a little, since much of it was shamefully jealousy-driven (I tried on bathing suits a couple of days ago). I am, as it happens, totally in the blog closet in my neighborhood.

Lentil soup sounds pretty good about now. We're having damp, cold weather, and soup comes to mind. I'll have to try her recipe.

cook eat FRET said...

funny. well, i wasn't thinking bitchy. but i was thinking your house might get TP'd one night...

oh the dreaded bathing suit shopping experience... that'd piss anyone off...