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Chandra's Blog

 

Entries in cooking (2)

Friday
Mar302012

Favorites on Friday -- comedy

Early in our marriage, the story goes that in the middle of the night I rolled over to my husband and whispered earnestly, "You know what I love?"

And slightly startled, he said, "Um, no. What?" Maybe he was thinking I would say, You. Or something about the little baby, our firstborn son, nestled between us in his boppy pillow while the apnea and pulse ox monitor lights blinked their reassuring signals--all is well. 

"Comedy," I replied, deadpan, and I went back to sleep. This was relayed to me the following morning.

This might seem obvious, or at the very least, out of nowhere. Who doesn't love to laugh? It's true that I don't remember saying it, but I do remember where the sentiment came from. I had suffered a bad dream, following our pre-bedtime viewing of the latest episode of The Sopranos--I'm pretty sure it was the one where they beat the stripper to death. And I had decided, as I was falling asleep that night, that I was done watching things that made me sick to my stomach, and I would take care to avoid shows and movies that included man's inhumanity to man, (or woman, or child.) I also decided I wanted the TV out of our bedroom. 

I wanted more things in my life that made me laugh. This was coming on the heels of September 11th and nearly losing our son soon after his birth, when it felt like we had done a lot of crying. I have stood by this proclamation in the years since. I have put accalimed books like The Kite Runner  down because though I have read the summary and reviews and am sure it is a powerful and important story, I saw where it was taking me, and knew I didn't want that imagery in my head. It means most movies I see are pre-screened by loved ones who know my threshold. I stopped watching ER  after they vividly depicted the genocide atrocities in Africa. 

It doesn't mean I don't stay abreast or ignore current events--it doesn't mean I'm an ostrich when it comes to suffering or the horrific things happening in the world. I subscribe to change.org and follow the cases and speak out against unjust or inhumane situations. (I only wish my continued daily hoodie wearing could be recognized as my ongoing protest for Trayvon, but it's also how I always dress, so it probably isn't noticed.) It is not that I don't care about wrongdoing or evil. But in my entertainment life, in those brief moments when I am not working or mothering or writing or running or digging around outside growing things, I want to be entertained, and I want to laugh.

 

So I was delighted when someone forwarded me this hysterical YouTube, the sixth episode of the Kid History series.  I watched and laughed, and dashed to the bathroom before I peed my pants, and watched it again. Since last weekend, I have probably watched it fifty times, and shared it with everyone I can think of who will love it as much as I do. The other morning, I woke up a little down, and watched it on my phone before I got out of bed, just so I could start out the day laughing. Though I have already noted it on my Chandra Hoffman, Author page on Facebook and tweeted about it, I thought I'd write a quick post in its honor in case there are a few blog followers who haven't seen it yet. Watch it. Wait, if you're a woman of a certain age, who has maybe had a few kids, go to the bathroom, pee first, and then watch it. 

 

Why are these so funny? I've watched them all by now (and I'll confess that I've even googled 'the Roberts family' and okay, yes, also 'is Richard Sharrah single?') for the story behind the story, but Episode Six is definitely the most hilarious and benefits from the best editing and comedic timing. Maybe it's extra funny to me because I've tried to pull off 'perfectly normal pancakes'. The other night, based on some recipes in the Jessica Seinfeld Deceptively Delicious Cookbook, I made a much-anticipated, colorful dinner--green eggs! pink pancakes! blue milk! I puréed the spinach and beets to color the breakfast food while the kids were at playdates, and then left the food coloring out on the counter after I dyed their milk, so they could all see I had just, you know, been going crazy with the food dye. That there was no reason why anything should taste even remotely 'dross'.  I went a little overboard with the beets in the pancakes and even J and I agreed you could really taste the earth in them. The green eggs went over okay with some parmesan on top. But our adult giggles gave us away and as soon as we let the kids in on our deception, everything ended up in poor Sampson's bowl. 

 

I've heard people sing the praises of these Kid History videos because they are 'clean'. The Roberts' family is Mormon and Episode One took an LDS film festival by a landslide. But that's not exactly why I love them. Sure, it's great to be able to share these with my kids instead of just snickering and closing the laptop and muttering, "Nothing," to their "What's so funny?!" But the clean nature of them isn't their appeal. I find plenty of humor in things that can't be shared with the kids. What is so funny here is the juxtaposition of big burly men and little tiny voices, the perfect capturing of the dynamics of family life and the priceless, authentic phrases of those cherubic little monkeys.

 

These have given me endless belly laughs this week, and heightened my appreciation for just closing my eyes and listening to the cuteness of my kids and my nieces and their pals, even when they say things like, "UGH! I'm going to come over there and-and punch you, like I always keep doing!" 

 

Enjoy. 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jan262011

Writers on Wednesday--Melissa Senate

My first introduction to Melissa was last September when our novels were head to head in a contest for SheKnows "Book Club Pick of the Year", though I realized after reading that I should have found her long ago. Her novel The Love Goddess' Cooking School is clever, insightful and inspirational, much like Melissa herself. Read below as she shares a look into the story behind the story....

 

Inspiration by Melissa Senate

When my novel The Love Goddess’ Cooking School (about five very different people in an unusual Italian cooking class) was published, the two questions I was most often asked were: where did you come up with idea to add wishes and memories as ingredients in the recipes? And: How did you learn to cook Italian—and authentically write the cooking scenes/recipes—when you are neither Italian nor a cook (before writing the book, anyway)?

 I wrote many a guest blog post about how my son’s 6th birthday wish, into a bowl of raw eggs, inspired much of the novel. And how my divorce forced me to learn how to cook (my ex-husband, who remains one of my best friends, was the family chef). But I never talked much about something that happened on a very cold winter day, almost exactly three years ago, that made my big country kitchen in my tiny Maine home the center of my life, where I started to cook, where my precious son and I got through a scary time, and where The Love Goddess’ Cooking School was conceived.

When I got divorced in 2007, I was suddenly the three-squares a day and snack preparer for my son. I had to learn to cook. Somehow. I tried to make his favorites from scratch—baked chicken tenders, but they were either tasteless or rubbery. I tried to make his beloved spaghetti—and who could mess that up—but overcooked it, every time along with, “Mommy, is the sauce supposed to be cold?”  I tried, but then I pretty much gave up and relied on the perfection of the hot bars at Whole Foods. And pizza.

But going to Whole Foods and the pizzeria became impossible (or very difficult anyway). On that very cold winter day in February of 2008, I’d taken my then five-year-old, Max, to a pediatric orthopedist to find out why he’d been limping lately, why his leg kept hurting so bad that he’d scream out in pain and clutch his knee (after visits to his pediatrician and the ER revealed nothing). Why he walked lop-sided, as though one leg was shorter than the other. The diagnosis: Perthes Disease. There are much worse illnesses to befall a child. But I will tell you: Perthes Disease SUCKS. By the time he was diagnosed, his right hip—the top of the femur (the femoral head) where it fits into the hip socket—had crumbled and died—yes, died—and was being slowly reabsorbed by his body. Regeneration would take 2-3 years. Perthes Disease is a rare condition. No one knows the why. Or the how. But it mainly affects little boys—and small dogs.

The prescription: My active little dynamo, five year old kindergartener, confined to a wheelchair for five months. No weight bearing permitted on the right leg at all. At home traction 20 hours a day, for 3 weeks. A petri cast, which means both legs are casted from top of thigh to toes, with a two-foot metal bar between the ankles and one-foot bar between the knees, for three months. If after the five months, if the non-weight-bearing and casts did their job of keeping what was left of his hip in the socket, we wouldn’t have to talk surgery and pins.  There would be learning to walk again. And a cumbersome hip brace for a year. No running for a year. Or jumping for two years (not easy for a 6-7 year old). Or contact sports , indefinitely. Between the ages of 5 ½ and 6 ½ , Max sat on a mat every day at recess at school, first in that crazy double-leg cast and then in the hip brace, and played with matchbox cars and Legos, not allowed to be on the playground at all in case he got knocked over.  He couldn’t even play in the sandbox because the sand could erode the joints of the brace.

So, this was what was. When your child is confined to a wheelchair for a period of time and he CAN get up (just isn’t allowed to), you’re simply grateful that he can. It’s the gift of perspective. And so we made the best of this time—especially that very cold, snowy winter of 2008, by renting lots of movies. Saying yes to that Nintendo DS. Playing a lot of board games, card games, made up games. Talking. And cooking.

Thanks to that big country kitchen (which made it wheelchair-friendly) in my tiny house, we learned to cook together, Max and I. We’d flip through cookbooks, and anything that sounded good, we tried. He liked dishes that had the word alla in them. And so chicken alla Milanese, which I found in Marcella Hazan’s gem of a classic Italian cookbook, became a favorite since it was so easy to make, so kid-friendly. We perfected the timing of spaghetti, him wheeling around in his tiny wheelchair, his casted legs propped up, a big mixing bowl of sauce on his lap. We perfected that tomato sauce. And I perfected my Bolognese, which he discovered he loved. We cooked and cooked and cooked and tasted and ate and laughed and hugged. We ate by candle-light, as though we were at a fancy restaurant. We ate on trays in the living room while watching Monsters Inc and Over The Hedge, favorites of his.

Max and I were already very close, but we grew closer in that kitchen. He told me his secrets, about kindergarten, about how hard it was to learn to read, but that books about a comical fly (thank you, Tedd Arnold) made him want to. And never ONCE, not once, did he complain about the cast (which made sleeping, let alone turning over, so difficult) or the wheelchair or even that cumbersome brace—because children are magical creatures. (Every cliché about children being resilient? True, true and more true.) And then as we neared his 6th birthday, he made a wish into a bowl of eggs he was scrambling on his lap, his eyes closed, his little hands in prayer formation: “Please let Mommy say yes to getting me a pet mouse, rat, hamster or rabbit for my birthday.”  I had no idea that his wish would end up being the basis of a novel about cooking (me, write a novel about cooking?), about Italian food, about people coming together in the kitchen, wishing, sharing, hoping, fearing, finding answers. But inspiration and books are magical like that. And yes, he did get two fancy pet rats, which he named Timmy and Jeffrey, for his birthday.

(In a happy P.S.: Max is now 8 years old and you’d never know by watching him race around that he has Perthes Disease. His legs and hip ache often, but it passes quickly with rest. He can run and jump and climb trees and go sledding and even take Aikido, which he loves. He’s restricted from organized/contact sports till he’s 12 or 13, but he’s a budding filmmaker and it turns out he loves to read. And cook. I was relieved to know that the winner of one of the Survivor seasons had Perthes as a kid, and he won a million bucks by running around an island. And actor Cameron Matthison also had Perthes and kicked up his heels on Dancing With The Stars and in a fun coincidence, was in the TV movie version of my first novel. Inspiring . . . like my son.

Bio: Melissa Senate is the author of 10 novels, including her latest The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, published this past October by Simon & Schuster. Melissa’s debut novel, See Jane Date, was made into a TV movie, and she’s also written two YAs and has published essays and stories in several anthologies. She lives on the coast of Maine with her son. Want to know more?

Follow Melissa on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MelissaSenate 

Friend her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MelissaSenate

Visit her website: http://www.melissasenate.com/ 

Check out The Love Goddess’ Cooking School on Amazon!