Thursday, December 29, 2011

Food For Thought

"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are,"Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) The Psychology of Taste 1825

"If the divine creator has taken paines to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony." Fernand Point

These quotes sum up the attitude and approach to food in our home. I don't really know how it happened. Maybe it was David's passion for food. Maybe it was my obsession with unprocessed, whole foods. And as with most kids, they're just always hungry. Whatever the reason, food is a big deal in our home, even for those of us (me) who don't particularly enjoy cooking.

During the holidays with so many preferences, likes, and dislikes, creative orchestration best describes our attempt to make beautiful, tasty dishes that appeal to everybody. For David and Patrick there needs to be a strong element of creativity and uniqueness to the dish. For Olivia the menu must contain a dish of 'comfort food' usually in the form of potatoes. For Justyn and Dominic, dessert is a must, often in the form of chocolate. For Andrew, quantity is the key. For me, everything has to be made with fresh ingredients except for the phyllo dough which nobody knows how to make. Besides the stuff in the frozen section of the market looks too safe to pass up.

With all this activity in the kitchen and the slew of dishes that go with it, this year I did the unforgiveable. I used paper plates. We livened it up by using bright red chargers, holly berry glass tumblers, and a very 'happy' Scandinavian table cloth. Then we threw in a little Charlie Brown Christmas Music CD and, ta da, we have a wonderful Christmas dinner. The only thing we were missing were friends and family but we chalked that up to being new to Texas. We hope next year to add that to the symphony for a perfect composition!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy New Year - Moving on...or not

As the world crouches on the doorstep of another new year, I anticipate 2012 with a mix of excitement, apprehension, and uncertainty. Our world has undergone dramatic change since the new millennium but so has our life as a family. Andrew graduated high school in Canada this spring then an unanticipated move six weeks later had him scrambling for college applications, high school transcripts (four different high schools) and a new job.

AJ, I'm proud of you! You're doing great!

A number of years ago I travelled to Hong Kong on a two week pleasure trip. I had always thought I would travel to western Europe first, anticipating English being widely spoken there. When the opportunity came for me to go to Hong Kong and China, I jumped at the chance although I was naive as to the cultural shock I would experience. The intense smells of foreign food cooking on the streets, listening to various dialects of Chinese being spoken everywhere, and the noise and filth of a big city was overwhelming. This was my first international trip and the homesickness I experienced then was similar to what I am experiencing now as I attempt to settle into a new home. Homesickness carries with it a longing for the familiar, for what we consider to be home. For the past five years as we've moved from place to place I've experienced this same longing for which I'm still grappling. When one is more comfortable "en route" than "at home" it's a sure sign that some major adjustments are on the horizon. Combine this with the significant changes we've seen in American culture over the past ten years I often wake up with the disorientation I felt while travelling.

It is my hope that this wandering part of our life has come to an end.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Big Brown Bears Biking Backwards

In my last posting I introduced Hobbes, our recently adopted Black Lab. Every morning this lovable pooch follows me around the house until we have our morning walk. As I am excitedly ushered out the door, it occurrs to me that I am being ‘hounded’. Hounded by a hound, ah ha, I get it! At the risk of being repetitive about the dog, it’s really just an excuse to share with you my love for words.

Logophilia (logos: word and philia: love), a love of words. I discovered my love for words when I began reading to my young children, then in my study of Latin and again when I took Greek at the seminary my husband attended. In the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, the main character’s father said all English words can be traced to Greek. This tongue in cheek statement really hits at the heart of unlocking the English language.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during WWII argued that all Englishmen should be taught English. Was he implying the British were not speaking English? Of course not. His statement cried out for true mastery of the English language. “I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat” is a well known quote by Churchill. The three languages are interchangeable and are keys to mastering our native tongue.

Please take a leap with me from Greek and Latin to Dr. Seuss. Why? It all comes down to logophilia!

In addition to etymology words, like art, can be both poetic and humorous.

In Dr. Seusses "ABC Book" we find:
“Barber, baby, bubbles, and a bumblebee”.

Or Berenstain Bears “B Book” where we find:
“Big Black Bears Biking Backward”

Read this to a toddler and watch their face light up. A few levels up from Dr. Seuss we find:

“Not so long ago, they say,
A mother lived – just like today.
Mrs. Peters was her name;
Her little boy was named the same.
Now Peter was a perfect son
In every way - except for one...”

How could one not love this poetic playful paragraph. Mary Ann Hoberman’s 19 page illustrated children’s book, The Seven Silly Eaters was unintentionally memorized by each of my kids after it became a regular part of our read-aloud ritual. The fluidity of the words simply rolled from their tongues. Recently my eldest daughter, who is now 20, asked me if I enjoyed teaching her and her siblings to read. I told her it was the funnest thing I’ve ever done. Uh oh, funnest isn’t a word! The point is it was fun, fun, fun.

Working as an interior designer and having a passion for color, I have always felt that words, like color, add dimension, depth, and beauty to any creative endeavor. When we think of green, the next questions comes ‘what shade?’ Olive green, meadow green, celadon green, mint green, seafoam green…the choices are endless. A thesaurus is like an artists color palette where we get a glimpse of shades in word meanings

Some words, especially the Greek or Latin rooted kind find their way to my heart quickly. Some words feel like intruders, prying their way into my vocabulary. Am I the only one who is happy to see ‘cool’ beginning to lose favor with our teenagers? Then there are words, like new furniture, that just take time to get used to, words that need to be massaged within my own mind, the ones found on Ph.D. dissertations. If the truth be told I don’t have too many of those bouncing around in my head, much of my joy still comes from Theodor Seuss Geisel. Thanks Dr. Seuss!