The Loh Life

Lean Sideways, Part 2: Parboiling Mad

Sandra Tsing Loh's unique take on preparing meals.

Great!  Have you heard?  Now we have to cook everything from scratch!  Or so declared food writer Mark Bittman in the New York Times recently, in his review of food writer Michael Pollan's new book called Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.  Because cooking is so transformative, did you know?  Apparently, according to these two male food writers, mindful home-cooking is now the answer to everything... from curing obesity to loosening the evil clutch of industrial agribusiness.

So, that's another thing to add to the pile.  Seems just last week, Sheryl Sandberg was telling us women to "Lean In" more to our work!  This week, we're supposed to tend organic vegetable gardens for our families, and meditatively toss radicchio with sea salt and balsamic vinegar.  As a working mom of two who can spend as many as four hours a day chauffeuring, to pull it all off, I'm going to have to have both Skype technology and hydroponics farm... in my car!

If I'm over-reacting, maybe it's because my cooking is quite the sore spot.  It's one of my homemaking shortcomings, along with doing laundry— and I can't wait for a male New York Times op-ed columnist to wax on about the transformative Buddhist practice of laundry—  Maybe he can get a grant to research how they did laundry in the 18th century—  Perhaps do an investigative series on PBS—  What I would argue is that there's no connection between these coffee table book approaches and the realities of being a frantically multi-tasking parent.  When my girls were little, their dad went on the road for months at a time.  Lacking a nanny, I wrote full-time on a laptop on my bed and, full disclosure, my children watched as much television as people in the hospital in full body casts.  But they got bored even with that, so I had to invent now-infamous games for them, games like Tear A Roll of Bounty Paper Towels Into Pieces, Let's Wash Mommy's Change, or Put on a Disney Princess Dress and Run on the Treadmill.

In a similar vein, the "meals" I invented included Festival of Toast, Open Your Own Can, and Quesadilla Surprise.  My domestic life was entirely held together with Ketchup and Febreeze.  I remember the time I had a booster seat that had been peed on, quite a lot.  It happens.  That's the age, right?  You know you should take the fabric cover off to wash it, but there are just too many snaps and you haven't slept in five years.  So, you let the pee dry in the sun and just-mindfully— Febreeze it.

Never mind the New York Times op-ed page, sometimes parenting requires industrial chemicals!

Next week: Family Home-Cooking... with Industrial Chemicals.


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