A few days ago, my son came into my home office (aka a guest room with an actual computer station – remember those?) with an announcement that I had almost given up hope of ever hearing. My son is thirteen and in that stage of his life where he is growing so fast that he is running out of clothes that fit him before I can order new ones. The other day, he opted to wear a pair of shorts in 48 degree weather since his few pairs of pants that fit were tangled in a pile of dirty apparel on his carpet, yearning for the four walls of the hamper. So it shouldn’t have surprised me when he announced that he had been thinking (such a good pastime) and because he wants to grow to his full potential (after all, his grandfather had been 6’1″) that he wanted to start eating “poultry” again. I could barely contain my glee but managed a suppressed smile while I discussed the implications of this decision with him. Since he specifically said poultry, red meat or other ‘white meats’ like pork were excluded but poultry would also encompass ‘turkey’ which means the turkey leg would be his once more on the most wonderful of holidays that was fast approaching,Thanksgiving. I, of course, told him that I thought he was making a wise decision and gave him a hug of support while the ‘Alleluia’ chorus played in my head. After he left the office, I began to list in my mind all of the ways I could prepare ‘poultry’ like Bubba’s litany of shrimp dishes in Forrest Gump: there’s roast chicken, breadcrumb coated chicken, chicken parmigiana, fried chicken and biscuits, chicken salad, and other poultry like roast capon, roast Long Island duckling, Peking duck, duck a l’orange, Cornish game hens, quail, pheasant, and of course roast turkey. This morning, I prepped the turkey, I can even say I ‘dressed’ the turkey (not in literal fashion like Amelia Bedelia which ironically my pescatarian daughter portrayed at a local library waving around of all things a rubber chicken) by massaging it with butter and olive oil, seasoning in inside and out with fresh spices and herbs still on their stems, filling its cavities with homemade cornbread, chestnut, cranberry, celery and onion stuffing then placing it on a bed of diced root vegetables. This would be the first turkey my son would be tasting in two years and I had to make sure it was so darn delectable that he would never ever revert to pescatarianism. After grace today, my husband asked for the platter on which the turkey legs lay, took one then offered the platter to my son as a dozen of us watched in breathless anticipation. My son grabbed the leg, held it up with a grin, and was met with a table full of nodding smiling faces, even the lone Pescatarian approved. Oh how I wish I had my camera ready! I felt victorious as if I had weathered a battle and won. A Happy, Blessed, and Joyous Thanksgiving to all the Moms (or others) who put together the Thanksgiving feasts and to the families who partake. Mmm, now what to make for Christmas?
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, when you have to pack lunches for Pescatarians, a trip to the deli counter no longer solves the ‘what do I give them for lunch?” dilemma. You would think that a simple solution would be to pack them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Well, it used to be so for the post-boomers and before then which I fondly recall as the ‘good ol’ days’. I remember being happy to open my lunchbox and see a yummy peanut butter and jelly sandwich within and also being able to sit among my friends. Alas, those days are gone. Strangely enough, it seems that children self-reporting peanut allergies doubled around the turn of the Millenium (thanks again, Wikipedia) . Our local school district, reacting to the surprising rising number of self-reported peanut allergies, instituted a new lunchroom policy, something that could only occur in this bizarre era we live in: children bringing peanut butter (jelly is guilty by association) sandwiches must sit in a peanut designated section to keep the remaining tables in the cafeteria peanut free. Obviously, having the allergic students sit in a clean, peanut free area was discriminatory. And so my children, when I offered to make them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to take to school, would look at me as if I was about to banish them to Siberia. Bringing PB&J would mean leaving their friends behind to sit with other children of unenlightened Moms, subjecting them to the scorn of the peanut-free lunch eaters who would view them as uncaring and insensitive. Oh the horror! Might as well rename the ‘Peanut Gallery’ , the ‘Peanut Gulag’. And so peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches are no longer a school lunch option for the Pescatarians. Ironically, a tuna fish sandwich is an acceptable alternative, allowing them to eat lunch among the general cafeteria population. The laugh is on us all because seafood allergies are more prevalent and dangerous than peanut allergies (according to Wikipedia). Shh, don’t tell the school district powers that be otherwise there will be children unhappy enough to have a stinky tuna sandwich for lunch who will then have to suffer the further humiliation of being separated from their peers. Now that’s just fishy!
One of the perks of spending an afternoon at Costco (besides sampling all of the yummy offerings at the end of the aisles) was knowing that dinner would be easy to accomplish since I always, without fail, would bring home one of their delicious rotisserie chickens. The price was right too hence their name, Cost-co, I guess. In those carefree B.P. (Before Pescatarianism) days, I would load my car and sit the rotisserie chicken in its black-bottomed carry case, on newspaper (in case of spills which thankfully never happened) on the floor of the front passenger seat. As I blissfully drive home, the delicious smell of the golden perfectly browned chicken would waft up to where I had my eyes trained on the road home, thinking of the simple sides to complete a satisfying meal. Always, there is a green salad for dinner which I could pull together with the giant cello rectangle of spring mix, cherry tomatoes and sliced almonds, all procured on my shopping run. I could then add stuffing mix or cous cous, each of which only takes five to ten minutes to prepare, and a side of cranberry or applesauce, both of which I keep on hand. I have fond memories of pulling into my garage and letting out my dog who would smell the chicken as soon as I opened the trunk to begin unloading. His jumping, stumpy tail wagging, and sniffing was a happy dance that was a joy to behold. Then once I brought the chicken inside and transferred it to roasting pan to keep it warm in my oven (I do not own a microwave which is a story in itself), there were always little pieces of meat and that golden brown skin stuck in the black tray which I would give my cockapoo in his food bowl as an appetizer in anticipation of the meal to come. I’d even talk to my dog, saying things like, “guess what I have? (as if he would answer) chicken!” Or “who’s going to have chicken for dinner? You are!” My dog definitely understands the word ‘chicken’ (which I now have to spell when I’m in his presence so not to get him unduly excited.) Once dinner time came, my kids in those carefree B.P. days, would ask for the legs and thighs, and maybe some breast meat for seconds (yes, they would have seconds!) all of us smiling, dipping the meat in barbecue sauce, and generally enjoying our meal together while giving our dog pieces of skin and meat while his tag wagged off his fluffy butt. Alas, we are now in A.P. times, the years of pescatarianism (aka Anno Pescataria), a dreary era during which I make runs to Costco and return alone in the front seat of the car, without the scent of rotisseried goodness to make my mouth water, coming home to a dog who watches me unload the car staring at me in bewilderment, probably thinking doggy thoughts like, “Did she forget to bring a piece of heaven home?” or “Did I do something bad and she’s punishing me?”. I do have a confession to make. One day this past summer when the kids were all occupied and not coming home for dinner, I went to Costco to do my shopping and as I was headed to the checkout area, I did a 180 u-turn in sort of a half run to the rotisserie counter where the chickens were being unloaded out of the roaster to a throng of waiting, salivating customers. I grabbed a warm, container emanating the golden brown goodness within, and jogged back to the checkout area. Once I got home, I was greeted by an ecstatic cockapoo, practically peeing himself with excitement, and we spent the next few days, me and the cockapoo, enjoying chicken lunches and dinners, looking at each other and smiling, which dogs can do, seeming to say, we’ll always have ‘chicken’.
In the years B.P. (no, not BritishPetroleum and you know why I didn’t abbreviate Pre-Pescatarianism) I would go to the local supermarket deli counter, and have conversations with the deli workers while they sliced up turkey and chicken breast, ham and roast beef, and yes, cheddar cheese to go on top. Sometimes they would give me a slice to taste because I looked hungry or perhaps I looked fetching – more likely the former. Now that we are living in the A.P. era (no, not Advanced Placement but Anno Pescataria because I have the same abbreviation dilemma with Post-Pescatarianism) I bypass the deli counter. The workers would watch me walk by their station and I used to wave, once saying, “my kids became vegetarians” (not entirely accurate but easier to explain) but now there is an icy chill that’s not just from the refrigeration case and I avert my eyes downward longing for an occasional slice of roast beef as I walk on by. Good cheddar cheese is available prepackaged from Applegate Farms or at Trader Joe’s so I don’t bother going to the counter because it is usually crowded and not worth waiting for one item. Actually, my pescatarian kids, by effectively severing my relationship with the deli counter workers may actually have saved me hours of deli counter wait time! I should be thanking them for causing me to live in the A.P. – a modern and more productive era in which I peck out this blog!
Last year, before my two youngest children declared themselves, pescatarians, I had hardly heard of this grain let alone that it was a grain and that it was pronounced ‘keen – wa’ and not ‘kwin-noah’ (leading some to believe that it was what sustained the Ark passengers). Ironically, 2013 was the International Year of Quinoa (thank you, Wikapedia), so it seems fitting that I’ve continuously had one or two bags of the stuff in my pantry beginning with that banner year for a grain. What is it this year – let me guess – lentils? Anyhow, I’ve noticed that ‘thousands’ appropriately play into associations with what nutritionists call a ‘super food’ (conjuring up the image in my mind of a broad-kernaled caped being striding into my kitchen declaring, ‘have no fear, Mom of the Millenium, quinoa is here to replace your neat-centered comfort foods with healthy main dishes that look like sand-covered mixed vegetables” but I digress). Quinoa is grown 12,000 feet above sea level in the Andes (thank you ‘truRoots’). Wow! That’s higher than Denver, CO where I distinctly remember my pescatarian daughter developing altitude sickness yet she can inhale bowls of this stuff without an ill effect. Ironically, she thrives on a grain that she couldn’t cultivate herself without vomiting! Speaking of cultivation, quinoa was first cultivated 3,000 – 4,000 years ago in the Andes (which happens to be my daughter’s favorite mint – coincidence?) yet it’s consumption did not increase dramatically until this Millenium. Seems to me, it’s my destiny to spend thousands making thousands of pounds of quinoa-centric dinners containing thousands upon thousands of particles of this smaller-than-rice staple.
It’s Veterans Day which got me thinking, “do military cooks of today have to plan for dietary preferences such as pescatarianism or vegetarianism?” My guess is ‘no’ because unlike my kitchen, on a large scale accommodating different diets would go against the interests of the military in efficiency, simplicity, and maintaining the sanity of their cooks. Of course, my guess could be incorrect and military cooks would therefore be deserving of my utmost sympathy. Although, my son’s Boy Scout summer camp, which feeds a large group of khaki clad mini-soldier-like troops, does honor dietary preferences. My son, however, did ask me to write that he was a ‘vegetarian’ instead of a ‘pescatarian’ because the food at the camp the prior year was ‘sketchy’ and I was even glad that he’d be ingesting mac’n’cheese and pizza instead of those prepackaged hamburgers that are often the subject of E. coli recalls. My Dad, a veteran of WW II, must’ve been a military cook’s dream, who’s favorite meal he told me was ‘chipped beef on toast’. Somehow I don’t think mess halls of today feature chipped soy crumbles on toast🍞Veterans, I salute you no matter your dietary choices 🇺🇸
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that my children have chosen to be pescatarians instead of just vegetarians. It’s just that variety is the spice of life and eating fish every night would be boring even if I used Cajun spices🔥 So I thank God (yes I consider this a blessing) that the offspring actually like lentils. I have discovered (in a ‘eureka’ moment) that a pound of lentils mixed with a can of tomato paste can substitute for ground beef in many recipes (it helps if you shun meat and use your imagination). For example, sauté chopped pepper and onion and stir in the lentil/paste mixture, seasoning with salt & different powdered pepper (black, cayenne and chili) and spoon into a warm tortilla and set a ‘fixin’s bar’ on the table with olives, sour cream, guacamole, salsa and chips. If you have sombreros, pass them out, and watch your pescatarians (or vegetarians if you happen to BE that lucky) party like its Cinco de Mayo! Well, to be honest, I was partying like it was Cinco de Mayo with a margarita 🍹over my ‘eureka’ lentil moment. Sometimes we party like it’s Columbus Day because with a cup of 4C breadcrumbs, an egg and 1/4 cup milk you can make the lentil/tomato paste mixture into meatless balls that can sit on top of spaghetti all covered with cheese. Just no sneezing, please! Ahh, lentils, the other ground beef🍝
So if you’ve been following along, (if not, please do – there are not many posts to catch up on) I was blogging about my clandestine visits to the Golden Arches so I could get ‘Happy’ in a non-Farrel Williams sort of way (btw – enjoying him on The Voice although I am for Team Adam). Midday meat-madness only happens midweek when the Pescatarians are at school. The weekends are a whole different story. I’ve been filling up our social calendar with dinner dates Friday and Saturday evenings, and opting for steak houses whenever I’ve been asked to ‘pick a place’
I never heard of a person being called a ‘meataholic’ before or a group called ‘Meataholics Anonymous’ but the situation I have been placed into by my pescatarian offspring has turned me into one. I just may become the founding mother of a previously nonexistent organization. There must be other parents out there who have found their food choices rejected, scorned or otherwise ignored by their children. I now confess to an addiction to meat borne of deprivation I have inflicted upon myself! And why do I say my addiction is self-inflicted? Because during the week I am too busy running my kids to activities and juggling all of the worthy causes that I cannot say ‘no’ to that I opt for one meal on the table each evening to make my life in one small way, ‘simpler’. That one meal, as a Mom of this millennium who has pescatarian offspring, must be sans meat otherwise I must make an additional main course to satisfy my cravings. So what happens when I am not eating with my children? That’s where the addiction comes into play, and play I do, especially when I’m driving back to the house after a shopping run, not having had time to eat lunch, and I spy the Golden Arches (and since I do not live in the San Francisco Bay Area I am no talking about the Golden Gate Bridge!) When I see the shiny red plastic sign with raised yellow ‘Drive Thru’ beckon to me I make a sharp right and follow the yellow lines to my ‘connection’, the speaker into which I request, ‘one Hamburger Happy Meal please, an orange drink and a toy for a boy’ and then proceed to the next window, my ‘dealer’ whom I pay and then proceed to the next window where the ‘drop’ is made and extra ketchup is requested. I then park at the far end of the lot to apply the ketchup and virtually inhale the hamburger which might as well be truffles on artisan toast points judging from how ‘Happy’ this aptly named ‘Meal’ makes me. You may ask, ‘why only a regular hamburger, why not a Big Mac or a Whopper from Burger King?” My reply is, “I confess that sometimes I do succumb to either of those decadences but 9 times out of 10 it’s a Happy Meal because it’s something I can conceal. The calories are less than a sandwich and I can stay the same size without arrousing suspicion.” As for the toys for a boy, I leave them in the backseat of my car for my son to find on our way to the bus stop where he pockets them and carries them away to middle school, where they are probably shared, defaced, and ultimately destroyed, never to be seen again. And this is just what happens at lunch!
I’m sure that when my children decided they would become pescatarians, the impact that would have on their Mom did not enter their thought processes. Somehow their memories of me watching ‘Diners, Driveins & Dives’ or ‘Food Nation’ and salivating over all of the yummy burgers, ribs and steak sandwiches did not translate into the thought, ‘How is Mom going to handle this?’ Of course not! It’s a new millennium and as a Mom in this millennium, I am expected to be supportive, affirming and magically able to create pescatarian menus for every meal from the fateful decision announcement day forward. Well, I’m trying: swapping lentils for chop meat in chilis and burritos, diced tofu for chicken in stirfries, and parsnips for bacon (see prior Sans Corned Beef post). The result is an overwhelming sense of meat deprivation that over these past several months has forced me to steal from my dog. I confess here knowing that my cockapoo can’t read but let me explain. The night before I decided that a nutritious and vegetarian tofu and vegetable stir fry would be that evenings entree, my husband was at a men’s pub night where they were serving him and his colleagues (who must have been a bunch of cowboys) 24 ounce porterhouse steaks (yes, two dozen ounces of rare, perfectly grilled, juicy, salted, over an inch high, slices of delectable-ness). He returned from that meat-feast with leftovers wrapped up by the kitchen in aluminum foil. The next evening after I fed my pescatarians the delicious and nutritious vegetable and tofu stirfry (with ‘Emperor’s purple rice – thank you Costco) and as I was pushing it around on my plate, I remembered the doggie bag on the shelf in the refrigerator. I leaped up, throwing the shiny aluminum lump on the counter, and unwrapped it like a child opening their most anticipated present for Christmas. Inside the crumpled aluminum were a few t-bones and on top of them rectangular slices of steak. I claimed the slices for myself and told the cockapoo, ‘Sorry but the stuff on the bones is yours – Mama gets the sliced pieces because I need them more than you!’ I took them to the sink, rinsed them off, placed them in a frying pan for a few minutes just long enough to kill germs but not enough to turn them medium rare then placed them on my plate all while my cockapoo watched and waited dumbfounded. Although I knew I had sunk to a new low, I was as happy and content as Guy Fieri (or Adam Richman for that matter) biting into a masterfully created meat masterpiece. We might have to call those restaurant souvenirs ‘Mommy Bags’ from now on.