SUMMER 2011. TOMATILLOS. 09.09.11
Do as I say, not as I do. There is a very good reason some smarty pants came up with this phrase. It’s a lot harder to do what we know we should. Exercise. Plan ahead. Put down that second cookie. But it’s so easy to tell someone else what to do.
The rule at our house is that everyone eats the same meal. It’s written on the about page and even before there was an about page, this was the long-standing house rule. When it’s obvious my family is growing tired of my culinary experiments, I take requests for dinner. The answers are predictable, to put it mildly. “Nothing with quinoa, farro or kale” followed by a stream of ideas that inevitably include the words “Ragu” or “Ortega.” The message is clear – we want something processed and it better have all the added preservatives and gratuitous sugars!
“How many tacos do you want?” my husband asked while simultaneously stirring in the seasoning packet and plunking the baking sheet lined with hard corn shells into the warm oven. This is his specialty and he was pleased to have been granted the opportunity to make it. “Zero. I’ll just have a salad.” He looked at me dumbfounded. “This is what’s for dinner. If you don’t like it, there’s always breakfast.” Ouch. My own words used against me.
The tables had turned and I hated to admit he had a point. I don’t allow bowls of Cheerios or plates of eggs when the children’s noses are turned up at whatever creation-du-jour I’ve thrust in front of them. But this was different, wasn’t it? I couldn’t be expected to join in on what was arguably a treat for everyone else (yeah! our favorite – maltodextrin and modified corn starch!) but a yuppified, farmers market-going urban girl’s worst dinner nightmare. Right? Perhaps I had gone too far. Perhaps I was taking myself and my cooking just a bit too seriously. But it came down to this: I just don’t like autolyzed yeast extract. At this house, everyone is required to taste. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. I already knew I didn’t like it! So rather than take one for the team and uphold the house rules, I quietly ate my salad and watched all three of my boys gleefully lick the citric acid and sulfites off their fingers like they’d never tasted anything so fine. But I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, unattributable to the meal itself.
It’s human instinct to want what we can’t have or that which is not easily obtained. It’s the guiding principle behind why I’ve always pined for stick-straight hair and a spot on the Olympic gymnastics team. Having given up sugar a week ago, I should by now be a sugar-obsessed freak waiting for the cravings to relent. But much to my surprise, the extra empty calories haven’t been missed. Yet, anyway. There is something empowering about walking the walk with your head held high. Maybe next time I’m faced with a teachable moment and a choice, I will remember this feeling and take the road less traveled.