Cookbook Love

Settle in my friends because it’s time for me to do a deep dive into one of my favorite topics – how technology is robbing people of living a full life. To illustrate this point, I need to look no further than recipes. Yes, recipes. Confused? Stay with me because it will all soon become very clear.

Today, if you want to find out the best way to make, let’s say, a killer, mac and cheese you just type that into your phone and literally hundreds of thousands of recipes will be at your fingertips. And the first one you see will always be from the site All Recipes. (Pro tip – skip it. Who cares if it has four stars and 1,539 reviews and counting. It doesn’t explain how to make a roux which means there’s a 90 percent chance your mac and cheese will taste like the gunk you use when your kid has to construct a paper maché globe for a fourth-grade history project.)

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with using a digital device to find a recipe. I get it. It’s fast. It’s easy. You can download ingredients right to your shopping list app. Yet, you’re missing out because you’re depriving yourself of the sensory experience of not only finding that perfect recipe, but making it part of your family lore.

Full disclosure – I’m a cookbook freak. I collect and read cookbooks like other people read novels. So, I’m going to admit there’s some inherent bias in my thought process. That said, I still know I’m right because when you find an amazing recipe in a cookbook it can be an emotional experience.

There’s the joy of discovery, the years of tweaking a recipe where you write in the cookbook how you added a little of this and that. Then there’s that momentous occasion when a recipe becomes a beloved part of your family. It’s the day when you open a cookbook and behold the wonder of a page stained with greasy goodness or spilled vanilla or molasses.

A well-worn cookbook is like a best friend. As soon as you hold it in your hands you immediately feel at ease. It has the power to transport you to another time or event in your life. I even have my “go to” cookbooks (Junior League of HoustonSouthern Living 1983 Annual Recipes, and the 1982 Better Homes and Gardens) where if I want to feel like my mother is still with me I just open them up and inhale.

Right before Thanksgiving my dining room table was piled with cookbooks. I have a ritual of going through my favorites while I write down my grocery shopping list. As I was blissful perusing them certain family members mocked me for my old-school ways. “Why wasn’t I using a cookbook app?” “Did I know I didn’t have to handwrite a list?” And my personal favorite, “The 80’s called and my mom answered.”

That last one got to me. So much so, I went a little cookbook cray. I called my daughter into the dining room, sat her down and made her sniff cookbooks.

As she plunged her nose into each one I asked her if she could smell her grandmother? I picked up the Christmas With Southern Living from 2000 and told her to inhale and experience the memories of her first Christmas. Never mind that in December of that year she was still an infant and not on solid foods yet this cookbook still held the scents of that season.

Did she think I was losing it? Probably. But, I know my techie child just might be coming around to my way of thinking. I recently caught her sniffing the cookbook that has her favorite gingerbread recipe. I couldn’t have been more proud.

Dear Snarky – I Lied So I Could Skip Thanksgiving With My Family

Dear Snarky,

 I’m in big trouble with my mom. I’m 25 and an E.R. nurse. This Thanksgiving I was exhausted and really over my entire family. I had worked some long shifts at the hospital and the last thing I wanted to do was go to my mom’s house and cook and clean while the men in my family sat on their asses.

So, I lied and told my mom I couldn’t come for Thanksgiving because I had been called in to work at the last-minute. As I’m laying in my bed binge watching Stranger Things and having a great time, my mom, unbeknownst to me, is on social media gushing about how thankful she is to have a daughter who works so hard at the hospital even on a holiday.

 Well, thanks to one of my bitchy co-workers who left a comment on that post that my mom was mistaken because I wasn’t at work, or “at least not working at my regular hospital” I get busted.

 Now my mom is furious and being a real drama queen saying she’s “heartbroken that I lied to her.” How do I make this right? The family theatrics are more than I can handle.

 Signed, Sorry, But Not That Sorry

 Dear Sorry,

Okay, girl you know you have to apologize to your mom for lying, but right after that you’re going to have to give her the hard truth.

Bluntly share that going to her house and having the women do all the work while the men in the family do next to nothing is just not your jam anymore. Explain that you have a demanding job and you’re not into being a maid and cook during the holidays. That said, you don’t expect to be treated like a princess, but you do need your down time and as a grown woman you have the right to skip a family holiday.

Hopefully, your mother will understand. If not, that’s her problem not yours, and maybe, just maybe, she’s also might be tired of waiting on everybody and this will be her motivation to free herself from some of the holiday drudgery.

Now moving on that pot stirring witch of a co-worker. Say nothing. She wants a response. She wants to know she “got you.” Don’t give her the satisfaction. If she brings up your mom’s Facebook post just smile and say, “It was sweet of you to let me mom know I wasn’t at this hospital” and leave it at that. Let her wonder where you were and what you were doing. It will drive her crazy.

*If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With an Attitude 😉 – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com or PM on my Snarky FB page.

Tablescapes Confuse Me

I’m a little dismayed about what I’ve been seeing on social media in regards to Thanksgiving. A good two weeks ago I started gazing at oodles of Thanksgiving posts and not a one was about food. (Mercifully there were zero gratitude posts. Although, I do miss mocking the humble brag disguised as a gratitude post. As in “I’m thankful for my second home in Hawaii and our private jet time share.”)

Now to be sure there were a lot of glamour shots of dining room tables, but they were empty of anything yummy or even edible. All the pictures featured tables that were already set for Thanksgiving with captions like “I’m ready!” or “I can’t wait.”

These tables were la-ti-da fancy because when I say “set for Thanksgiving” set should be in all caps because these were not dining room tables with some silverware, plates, Pilgrim napkin ring holders and turkey salt and pepper shakers. Umm no, what I was gazing at were “tablescapes.”

Tablescapes are described as “works of art that express the creator’s interpretation of the season.” Turkey and pecan pie step aside because apparently Thanksgiving is now interpreted as a celebration of gourd-topia. There were glitter gourds, bejeweled gourds, fabric gourds, flocked gourds, plush gourds, decoupage gourds and even gourds covered in buttons. (Yeah, I know weird.)

The gourds ran the length of the table and usually had a fat ribbon or some sort of organza looking material intertwined amongst them and assortment of silk leaves and what appeared to be pheasant feathers. Then there was the illumination. About every couple of inches there were candles casting off a twinkle onto the gourd city. It was all very beautiful (except for the button gourds) and I thought it looked like decorations at debutante ball for gourds. You know if gourds did that sort of thing.

Regardless of the beauty of the tablescapes I have to tell you not only I’m a not a fan. I just don’t get it. First, because setting your table two weeks early is a public health concern. Unless your dining room is ensconced in a plastic bubble how can you set your table that early? Won’t your china, crystal, and silverware collect two weeks of dust, cat hair and dog dander. I mean it’s all just sitting out there in the wide-open space that is a dining room like a Swiffer collecting 14 days of pre-Thanksgiving fur castoffs and the refuse of the random family member sneezing fit. Ewww.

No onto the bigger problem with tablescapes in general. They take up too much room! As in they consume valuable food real estate. Where are you going to put the turkey, the dressing, the mashed potatoes, and the sainted sweet potato casserole? Not on the table, that’s for sure, because the freaking gourds are taking up all the space. Answer me this what’s better on a table a gourd with a shimmer overlay or the gravy boat within arms reach?

On Thanksgiving the food is the star. The turkey is the A-lister, the green bean casserole and the pumpkin pie the supporting cast. It’s time to start a free the table movement! We need to take back the Thanksgiving table to ensure the next generation knows that it’s not about the inedible frou-frou. It’s about celebrating foods that are besties with butter. It’s all about the stuffing (yourself and the cornbread variety.)

Now will someone please move the sparkle gourds and pass the squash casserole.

Dear Snarky – My Thanksgiving Is Turning Out to Be a Dumpster Fire

Dear Snarky,

I think Thanksgiving is already ruined. My brother, who is a bit of a character, has recently become a minister. He doesn’t have a theology degree or a job at a church or anything like that. He just decided he loves preaching and got a license on the Internet so he can perform weddings.

Well, my brother informed my mother yesterday that he’d be doing a religious service before we eat and that everyone should “be prepared.”

When I told my husband this he laughed and said that he refuses to have his Thanksgiving held hostage by my “jack ass of a brother” and then said he’s not going to my mom’s and will just stay home and watch the Cowboys game.

Do I make my husband go? Do I go alone? Or do I stay home with my husband? I know whatever choice I make will cause drama and I just want a calm Thanksgiving. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

 Signed, Save My Thanksgiving

Dear Save,

I’ve got to tell you I’m on Team Husband. I’m guessing when you described your brother as a character what you really meant was jerk. If your bro wants to preach at Thanksgiving than good for him, but he has no right to commander your family’s holiday with a “service” that sounds less about the bible and more about his ego.

I’m betting your brother has spent his whole life demanding to be the center of attention and this is just another way for him to do that. I suggest volunteering on Thanksgiving and giving this turkey dinner a hard pass. By doing good in the community you’re helping others and your family, most especially your newly Internet ordained brother, can’t have a problem with that. 

Good luck and brace yourself for Christmas because I’m sure it’s going to be a doozy.

 

The College Application Process Then and Now

I’m longing for the good old days. The days when applying to college wasn’t a three-ring circus of hoops to jump through, academic acrobatics and so many common app essays that you could fill a clown car.

Let’s all hop aboard my way back train as I recount the strenuous endeavor of applying to college back in the day. I, dressed in my bathrobe and drinking a Tab, filled out my applications in between painting my nails and watching All My Children. I’m guessing it took a good ten minutes per college because after I finished my second application my nails were dry and ready for a topcoat.

When that was done I found my dad and he wrote a $10 check to each school to pay the application fee. The whole process was finished before All My Children ended.

Now, granted I wasn’t applying to an Ivy League, but two of the colleges were considered in today’s lexicon as “competitive” and one is now classified as “highly competitive.”

Oh, all right, true confession time. I didn’t get into the highly competitive college. And umm yeah, my dad may have made a phone call to get me into Baylor. But let’s focus back on the point that applying to college wasn’t the saga that it is today.

I’m currently in hard-core recovery mode from just watching my daughter apply to college. Good lord, the essays alone were mind-boggling and then there’s the short answers section where you’re asked, “What music are you listening to while doing your college application?” Or “what would you want to ask an omnipresent being?”

I told my daughter maybe she should reply that her question to the omnipresent being would be “Why is the college application process so goofy?”

Now, the colleges assure you that the questions are just meant to get to know you better and” aren’t part of the official decision process.” Really? Then why make a prospective student answer 30 of them? And it’s human nature to ponder why are they asking this question and what’s the best answer to nudge my application to the top of the pile? Just google the topic, it’s a veritable tsunami about how to answer the “Who are you?” questions.

To really stir the cauldron of indecision is when some colleges give you permission to be funny when answering. That’s a great, big minefield. Humor is very subjective and let’s face it not everyone has been gifted with a sense of humor or even the same sense of humor. For example, I usually don’t find Saturday Night Live hilarious. Am I alone in thinking this? Probably.

Then there’s what’s called the “supplemental” part of the submission process. It varies depending on the school, but they all have something in common – being a huge time suck. My daughter had to shoot a video describing her best traits. Sure, the actual video part didn’t take long to do (and no it wasn’t because as her brother taunted that there “wouldn’t be much to talk about”). What made it hours in the making was over analyzing what traits the college was looking for. (P.S. Telling your child to “just be herself” is seen as “being not helpful at all!”)

I know more seniors in high school are applying to college than every before and I get that colleges are looking for that certain spark in a prospective student, but I think some of the admission process has gotten a little wacky.

It makes a mother long for the days of yesteryear when you could multitask by sipping a now defunct brand of diet soda, painting your nails “baby soft” pink and filling out an application in your best cursive all while watching Erica Kane. Yes, indeed those were the days.

 

Dear Snarky – My Mom Is Dressing Like a Teenager

Dear Snarky,

 I feel like my sister and I need to do an intervention about how our mother dresses. She is almost 60 and wears clothes that our way too young for her. It’s like she’s trying to be us. Skinny jeans, half boots, blouses that are off the shoulders – she’s wearing it. My sister and I joke that our mom dresses younger than we do.

 How do you think we should approach this topic with our mom? Should we offer to go shopping with her and help guide her choices or just sit her down and tell her the truth?

 Signed, My Mom Needs Help

 Dear Needs Help,

 Here’s my advice – shut up.

 Your mother is allowed to dress anyway she wants and if you don’t like it too bad. So, she’s strutting her stuff and looking fashionable. What would you like her to do wear loose-fitting garments and orthopedic shoes? Just because she doesn’t want to go into that dark hole of Chico’s roomy black separates with elastic waist bands (not that there’s anything wrong with that) is no reason for you to become the Fashion Police.

 And have you been into a store lately – it’s all skinny jeans and those goofy “cold shoulder” tops. If you want to get all up someone’s clothing choices than send a mass email to the designers.

Maybe, just maybe, your jealous because your mom is working a fierce style? I suggest you look in the mirror and ask yourself what’s lacking in your life that you’re so obsessed with your mother’s clothing choices. 

 

Generation Slob

Are we raising a generation of slobs? I’m asking this question after I had a somewhat depressing discussion with my teenage daughter. Her high school had to suspend “North Time” which is an hour in their daily class schedule where students can eat lunch, get help with school work, and have club meetings.

The reason the beloved North Time was suspended is because some of the kids were being gross. Apparently, trash was being haphazardly strewn throughout the school. You know it’s bad when the principal has to send an email to all the parents informing them that a part of their child’s school schedule is being adjusted because there’s an outbreak of lazy with side of disgusting.

I was so repulsed by the thought of almost adults being such slackers that they couldn’t even throw away their lunch trash that I called the principal. He made me feel better and then worse by informing me that this rampage of slobdom is not confined to just my child’s school. It’s happening everywhere.

Selfishly, I was glad that my daughter’s school wasn’t ground zero for the epidemic and that the principal was mounting a defense, but that moment of relief was replaced by a surge of mom anger that our kids are acting like feral hogs wallowing in their own filth.

The more I thought about it the more I became uncomfortable because I began pondering the very real possibility that I’ve failed my children. This hit me when I asked my daughter if she was picking up trash around the school. (I’m assuming she is throwing away her own lunch trash because quite frankly I can’t function in a world where my 17-year-old is that big of an idiot.) She responded by wrinkling up her nose, shuddering and then saying, “Eww no.”

“What do you mean eww no? Why wouldn’t you pitch in?”

“Duh, because it’s disgusting and it’s not my trash.”

I totally went off and began listing all the things I pick up, clean off, launder, wipe down, put away, scrub, and mop that aren’t “mine.”

She was unimpressed and although she was smart enough not to say it I knew she was thinking, “Well, you’re a mom and that’s what moms do.”

And she’s, of course, right, and here is where I’ve failed because at some point I should have handed off more of these responsibilities that my children apparently feel are “mom tasks.”

To compound the problem, I’ve also fallen into what I call the “busy child trap”. This is where you tell yourself that your kid with a heavy academic load and a demanding extracurricular activity is too busy to even clean their own room. Yep, not always, but more times than I care to fess up to I’ve cleaned my daughter’s room.

I’m outing myself and welcome the public shaming. I deserve it. It’s probably a good thing that my mother (the Goddess of Clean, who taught me to polish silver at age five and at age eight the joys of ironing pillowcases while watching the soap Another World with the esteemed Susan Sullivan as the lovely and complex Lenore Curtin.) isn’t around to witness my failure in passing the chore baton onto my children.

Because you see the issue is greater than raising kids that don’t help around the house. We’re creating soon to be adults who don’t value cleanliness and that’s a bigger problem.

Cleanliness is a sign of order, discipline and respect. Three things you need to be a success in life and three things that must be taught at home. If our kids are slobs we can’t blame the schools instead we need to look in a mirror.

Dear Snarky – I’m Dating My Sister’s Former Fiance

Dear Snarky,

 I need your advice on the best way to introduce my new boyfriend to my family. We have been dating secretly for a couple of months and it’s gotten serious pretty quickly. The issue with our relationship is that my boyfriend “Rick” and my sister used to be engaged. She broke it off four months ago. I reached out to Rick to make sure he was okay and it just kind of took off from there.

 I don’t want to tell my family because I know it’s going to get ugly, but Rick says we need to quit hiding.

 What do you think Snarky?

 Signed, In Love

Dear In Love,

You’re an idiot. Two things are going on here. One, Rick is using you to get back at your sister for dumping him which is why he is so eager for you too to come out of hiding with your relationship. The next stop on the dumb-dumb express is that you are either extremely needy and gullible and/or you want to hurt your family because no sister should begin a relationship her with sister’s ex-fiancé especially not days after the engagement was broken off.

 Here’s your to do list:  Dump your sister’s former fiancé pronto and then think hard about what drove you to reach out to this guy and start a relationship. I have a feeling you’re not going to like the answer. There are more than 53 million single men between the ages of 18 and 50 in the United States go date one of those dudes and quit stalking your sister’s leftovers.

*If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With an Attitude 😉 – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com or PM on my Snarky FB page.

 

Dear Snarky – It’s My Birthday Cake and I’ll Whine If I Want To

Dear Snarky,

 Everyone at my office now hates me. I’m the executive assistant to the president of a very small company and one of my jobs is being the party planner for special events like the holiday party. I also used to do the  cakes when an employee had a birthday.

I say used to beacause a couple of weeks I sent out a memo saying that we would no longer be doing birthday cakes because all the different dietary requirements in the office was making it a challenge.

 I’m not kidding about this. We’ve got Atkins and Paleo people. Then there’s the gluten and lactose free group and on and on. It was a huge time suck getting cakes that worked with everyone’s diet so I just decided, and my boss agreed, that the whole cake on your birthday thing was over.

 Oh my God, the backlash has been intense. How do I make it stop? It’s really hurting my feelings.

 Signed, I’m Not a Party Pooper

Dear Not a Party Pooper,

 Okay, I’m a little confused here. Do you work in a pre-school or an office with adults? Good Lord, who gets that upset about cakes? I happen to be in a long term relationship with cakes (and cobblers) and not even I would care if I didn’t get a cake on my birthday at my place of work. 

 I’m thinking there’s more going on here than a lack of buttercream frosting in the break room. Perhaps, the cakes gave everyone a chance to step away from their desk and blow off work for a good 30 minutes. So maybe you can still have a cake free “hey it’s your b’day” get together with something that hits all the office dietary restrictions. (I’m guessing that would be water and a veggie tray.)

I also want to add that if the one thing that gets people ticked off at your company is no birthday cakes than everyone needs to count their blessings because in terms of office gripes that’s going to come in pretty low on the list. 

Falling In Love

It finally happened. The day I had been lusting for since mid-July arrived. Last week, the temperature mercifully dropped to 49 degrees. My joy was boundless, my enthusiasm unrestrained. I celebrated in the traditional fashion of my Nordic ancestors by running naked in my backyard screaming “Jeg elsker ikke sveder!” (I love not sweating.)

Okay, I didn’t run naked (I was wearing my p.j.’s) because besides violating some city codes I’m sure it’s against a HOA covenant. I can see right it there next to fence height and width of pickets – “no person(s) shall run a lap around their back yard while donning nothing but their birthday suit.”

You see I have had a life time love affair with chilly weather. It completes me. All you summer lovers can take your clinical strength deodorant, your moisture enriched body parts, flimsy flip-flops, and your triple degree temperatures and go sit beside a dozen Costco space heaters because it’s the fall dang it and we should glory in it.

No, you know what that’s not even good enough. We should respect not just fall but the seasonal change in temperatures. This is a major beef of mine because we live in the Midwest. We’re not Gulf of Mexico or plain old Mexico adjacent so why do we grouse when the temperature finally reflects the wonders of autumn?

As I was driving to work on that chilly October morn with the windows slightly down so I could be blasted with nippy air thus making my car’s seat heater even more delicious I was in my element – cold and cozy. If fall was a food it would be Kettle Corn because it delivers a ying and yang of temperate experiences.

My euphoria was doused when some fools, yes fools, on “news” radio began complaining about the “freezing weather” and wondering when would summer be back.

That was it for me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I pulled my car into the nearest parking lot, found the stations number and gave them a ring-a-ding- ding. I felt duty bound, in the name of seasonal equity, to let these goofs have it.

As I waited for my call to go through I couldn’t decide which way to approach the topic of “hey idiots.” Should I be very motherly and explain in no more than two-syllable words what fall is? Surely they should have learned that in school.

Hmm, maybe I needed to go scientific and discuss with them that 49 degrees is not technically freezing and that perhaps they should put on a sweater and get over themselves.

Or would a public shaming be more appropriate? The duo on the radio were long-time residents of Kansas City. They were supposed to be hearty Midwesterners that can swagger walk through epic snow storms and endure the ravages of ice without so much as a pair of mittens. Not, cry babies who were upset that had to wear long sleeves and perhaps closed toe shoes (gasp!) for a couple of days in October.

Since I couldn’t figure out the best way to make my case for fall I was going to go full cornucopia and just blast them with all three. First, a quick primer on what fall is, followed by a basic science lesson on what constitutes freezing and then a no hold barred scolding (I consider that my specialty).

Finally, my call was answered and I was ready to go. Ugh. It was a recording. I had to resort to text which is not nearly as satisfying, but as autumn’s unofficial champion I was not going to be deterred. Fall repaid me for my effort by soaring into the 80’s three days later.

Sigh.