We are of the opinion, our household that is, that the tooth fairy is an unreliable, flighty little thing. That she is prone to wild mood swings and is picky. Picky, picky, picky. Our dear children, having just survived another round of the molting process, bless their hearts, will wrap their precious little gift, carefully, ever so carefully, in a tissue. I then instruct them to place the tiny object into an envelope, carefully, which they will then seal and place under their pillows to await the arrival of the tooth fairy. More often than not, come morning, their little eyes will be filled with tears instead of joy. The tooth fairy did not come.
Just as disappointed as they are, I shrug and say, “Maybe she doesn’t do envelopes anymore. That’s what I did when I was your age but maybe now, she prefers the box.” “Which box?” “You know. The special little box that holds teeth?” So, into the box the wee bit of ivory goes. And, believe it or not, come morning, there are times when she even snubs the box. To my children’s questioning gaze, I sigh, strike the thinker pose and pause, before exclaiming, “Ah ha! Maybe you just have to leave it out in plain view. Otherwise she can’t…she can’t sniff it out. Her sniffer doesn’t seem to be working.” At which point, they become suspicious.
Say what you will about the tooth fairy, there is; however, one area in which she can be consistently relied on. If her prize is a molar, the payment to the child is always, a Susan B. Anthony dollar. Now, as the child races down the stairs to show me her reward, I brace myself in anxiety-fraught anticipation. You see, to steal a quote from a dear friend, “I should have been born Catholic I have so much guilt.” And, as the child opens her sweaty palm to show me the warm coin, I have to force myself not to recoil. Not to recoil away from that face. The face with the look of disappointment on it. The stern, Susan B. Anthony face that seems to say to me, “What are you doing to further my cause? My life’s work? What? What I ask you?!” I quickly fold up the child’s hand, pat her on the head and say, “Good job, now why don’t you go put that somewhere safe.”
I have often pondered what it is I’m doing. What I’m actually doing to further the cause of women put in motion over a hundred years ago. My mood swings between the elation of being alive, at this point in history, where women enjoy freedoms not even conceivable hundreds of years ago and the despondency I feel when I hear the latest report of tragedies incurred by women around the world. And, just when I feel that bit of panic rise up my throat, that feeling of “What can I, one person, possibly do?” I turn on Pink Martini’s Una Notte a Napoli, pour myself a glass of my favorite “cab of the moment,” and start chopping. Something. Anything. Today it’s the herbs gone wild in my garden’s last push of the season that I’m using to liven up an Herbes de Provence goat cheese spread that is irresistible.
My chopping tool of choice today is a beautiful, perfectly sharpened, Wüsthof chef’s knife. The prized possession of my 10-year old son. Perhaps the sole reason, he skipped out the door without a single complaint the entire week of his summer cooking camp. He knew that for a week’s worth of work, he would come home with the King of Cooking Tools. The tool to trump all others. The tool for which, using his Birthday money, he purchased a locking case and into which he carefully and ever so deliberately placed his prize and had to really think about whether it would be okay for me to borrow it from time to time.
On the other hand, another possible explanation for why he didn’t complain is he’s always known that when he turned the correct age, he too would begin to go to cooking camp each summer, just like his sister before him and his baby brother behind him. Because, perhaps, furthering the cause of women is less about how I raise my daughter and more about how I raise my sons. Perhaps. Perhaps, not.
Do you think, dear friend, that if I can teach my sons to nourish themselves, to have an appreciation for the preparation of a meal, to gaze out at their yard and recognize it as the support-system from which they too can harvest herbs, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, then, maybe, just maybe, they will treat their yard, the earth, the soil a little more tenderly? Maybe they will be a little more deliberate when deciding what to put in their mouths? Maybe, just maybe, they will know the feeling of satisfaction that comes from making and sharing a meal? Of nourishing themselves and their families?
I must admit that not much cooking has gone on since the completion of his camp but occasionally, like today, he will pass through the kitchen when he sees me chopping and say, “Hey, Mom. Do you want me to do that? I really like to chop.” And, once I pass the knife over, he’ll instruct me by saying, “Now, Mom, you’re really supposed to hold the knife like this. See? With this finger like this.” I’ll try not to smile and simply be grateful that a tiny, little seed has been planted. I can’t know if it will grow but I’m just glad it’s there. And, maybe the next time I see Susan B. Anthony’s face, I’ll realize that it’s not a look of disappointment but the very real fact, that nobody but nobody smiled in pictures back then. That’s it. Plain and simple.
Herbes de Provence Goat Cheese Spread
(Adapted from Herbed Goat-Cheese Toasts, Epicurious)
6 oz. mild goat cheese, room temp
¼ c chopped, mixed herbs – oregano, basil, rosemary & thyme – heavier on the first two, lighter on the second two
1 1/2 tbls minced chives OR minced shallot
½ tsp black pepper OR to taste
a pinch of salt
1/3 c well-chilled heavy cream OR for a tangier version, ¼ c plain, yogurt
Stir together first 5 ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the cream with a whisk until it just holds soft peaks, then fold into cheese mixture. If using yogurt, add it once the first 5 ingredients have been mixed-together. Enjoy immediately or let the flavors mingle for a day. Delicious.
“What do I do with this?” you ask, my friend. I keep mine in a little glass container in the fridge that I can serve it from whenever the moment arises. At times, I’ll set it out with our favorite seeded flatbread crackers and sliced pears as an after-school snack. Or, the other night, I set it out with sliced bread as an accompaniment to pre-made spinach & cheese raviolis topped with Dave’s Gourmet Red Heirloom Pasta Sauce, which is currently at Costco and I can’t say enough good things about it. Or, use it as a spread on my aforementioned, Heirloom Tomato Sandwich.
Whatever you do, though, take it out of the fridge at least, 20-30 minutes before you serve it. The other day I plopped it down for some friends straight from the fridge and then had to painfully watch as they politely tried to stab at it and awkwardly tried to “spread” it on their crackers without breaking them. I heeded Julia Child’s advice and did not apologize for the mistake but I had to avert my eyes from the rather uncomfortable situation.
PS: My favorite “cab” of the moment is a cheapie. Black Mountain Vineyard (Fat Cat) Cabernet Sauvignon which you can find at Trader Joe’s for $6.99 a bottle. Definitely let it breathe before drinking. And, if you happen to stash one in the back of your attic, improperly stored for say, 9 years, can I tell you that upon finding it and drinking it you will be treated to a most exquisite glass of cabernet sauvignon. Try it and let me know if you agree.
All original text and photos copyright: Carrie Minns 2009