We took the baby and drove to Philadelphia on Thursday, so I could speak at the World Meeting of Families on Friday. Philadelphia, it turns out, is far away, and it takes a long time to drive there. The baby thought this was bullshit, even despite the crackers and rice rusks and wagon wheel puffs we kept throwing at the back seat. We have decided that next time we decide to drive to Philadelphia with a baby, we will change our minds, and not. Anyway, here is what we had this past week, before, during, and after our adventure:
SUNDAY FROZEN PIZZA AND ICE CREAM
MONDAY ZUPPA TOSCANA AND PUMPKIN BREAD
This was one of those days where I kept on finishing up some task and then saying, “Okay, NOW I can get started on supper,” and then the phone would ring and I would have to throw the kids in the car and drive around for another forty minutes. As a result, I rushed and scrambled and screwed both recipes up six different ways, but they both survived, and will both stay on the rotation. The Zuppa Toscana is one of those Olive Garden copycat recipes. I didn’t have any bacon for the soup, and used half and half instead of cream, but it was still mighty tasty. I bought sausage in casings and squeezed the meat out, blushing heavily the whole time. Here’s the pumpkin bread recipe. I foolishly tripled the recipe, which was way too much even for us. It made two loaves, a dozen muffins, and a giant casserole, plus a bunch of batter that I just lapped up like the hungry, batter-eating dog that I am. Here’s a picture of Benny helping me make this recipe a year ago, when I had my shit much more together:
Today we were short a few eggs, so we just mushed up a couple of bananas in their place. Sometimes I put demerara sugar on top, sometimes I add wheat germ, sometimes I add walnuts, almonds, or (to everyone’s chagrin) raisins, but mostly I just make the recipe as is — except I double it, which yields 24 muffins and two loaves. They are lovely and moist, and very good for adding to the kids’ lunches; and while, okay, they are essentially cake, pumpkin is a vegetable! It’s a vegetable.
Wheat germ? Settle down, lady. Isn’t it weird when you read something you wrote not long ago and think, “Who is that?”
TUESDAY SPAGHETTI CARBONARA, GARLIC BREAD, HOT FUDGE SUNDAES
Tuesday was my daughter Clara’s birthday. (She’s having a Hobbit-themed party in a few weeks.) Spaghetti al carbonara is a magnificent dish, so easy to make, so easy to accidentally eat several gallons of. We follow the Fannie Farmer recipe. I fried up the bacon ahead of time, then disguised it in about eleven layers of tin foil and hid it in the back of the fridge with a threatening note attached. Once that was done, the rest is really quick to throw together. Really good company dish. For the sundaes, I couldn’t find hot fudge sauce at Aldi, so I made this quick chocolate sauce recipe: Mix together in a heavy pot 12 oz. of chocolate chips and 12 oz. of evaporated milk. Heat slowly while stirring until it’s all melted and smooth, then add 2 tsp. of vanilla. It turned out a little grainy, probably because I kept wandering away from the pot; but it was still rich and yummy, and the birthday girl pronounced it good.
WEDNESDAY CHICKEN NUGGETS, HOT PRETZELS, ASPARAGUS
Asparagus is the natural choice for a meal like this, because you suddenly remember there is asparagus in the house, and it’s not getting any younger. Whenever my mother would serve asparagus, my father would say, “Look, kids, see how much Ima loves you? She took the time to braid each individual asparagus tip!”
My only other comment is that few culinary events are sadder than overcooked asparagus. It should be really crunchy when it’s done, so it doesn’t lose that nice nutty flavor. I just put a half inch of water in a pan, boil it, throw in the asparagus with a loose cover, and cook it for a few minutes, and then sprinkle some lemon juice over it. I could eat a bushel of it. Then my husband went out and bought a bag of popcorn and a bag of sugar, and then my mother-in-law came over. Then we left town!And then the dress I ordered came in the mail. Humph. We managed to get to New York just before the Pope did on Thursday, then we got to Philadelphia just as the World Meeting of Families was wrapping up (I think my talk was the last one) on Friday, then we left Philadelphia just before the Pope got there on Saturday. Because that’s how we do, stuff, okay? We stopped in New Jersey and bought a solar powered waving pope and some salt water taffy for the kids, because certain three-year-olds had extracted certain promises from me before we left. I wish I could tell you more about World Meeting of Families, but I really only went to my event! No time for anything else. We didn’t even get there in time to see the vendors, and we had to leave before everything shut down completely for the Pope. Everyone I met seemed to be having a splendid time, though. Back to the food!
THURSDAY HOT DOGS, CHIPS, RAW PEPPERS and HUMMUS if you’re a kid stuck at home
I think this is what they ate. We had some kind of overpriced pizza with tons of things on it for dinner. First pizza with anchovies on it. Tasty.
FRIDAY RAVIOLI if you’re a kid stuck at home
Buck-a-shuck raw oysters, and then cheesesteaks, if you’re in Philly
We’d never had raw oysters before, and we weren’t super hungry yet, so we got a bunch of buck-a-shucks at some place called The Olde Somethinge. Verdict: they taste fine. They are pretty good with horseradish. No regrets, but no particular reason to ever order raw oysters again, either. (The chicken and fries were for Corrie, after the waiter tipped us off that it would be cheaper to buy her a whole kid’s meal than just fries.) Then we walked around the city for a while
until we got hungry enough to look for cheese steaks, which turned out to be yummy, being as they were made out of cheese and steak. Good one, Philadelphia!
SATURDAY I dunno. Pretty sure people ate things.
So, Philadelphia! We briefly met some wonderful people, caught glimpses of some gorgeous neighborhoods, and had the impression that it’s an awesome place. I heard someone speaking Spanish with an Australian accent, and watched some Franciscan friars in patched robes patiently, kindly engage a sweaty man with a giant “NEW ‘CHURCHES’ ARE CORRUPT” protest banner. After driving seven hours with a screaming baby who somehow didn’t need to sleep at all that night, and arguing with a front desk clerk who insisted that our room wasn’t paid for, and getting on the wrong train repeatedly, and going to the wrong door repeatedly, and then ending up in the wrong building, and calling people who said they could be called for help, and hearing that their voice mailbox was full, we found ourselves dashing around the Convention Center, which is the size of Rhode Island, trying to figure out where, if anywhere, my credentials were. Seeing our plight, a woman came up and said, “I’m from Philadelphia. Want some help?” She then walked us alllll over the place until she delivered us to the right spot, pointed out the best-stocked bathroom, and disappeared. If I get to Heaven and my guardian angel has her face, I won’t be surprised. Here’s a few pictures my husband took during my speech while he held the baby (him holding the baby was kind of a theme that weekend): That is Bishop Gainer of Harrisburg, much-beloved of his flock. Here is where the audience’s attention started to wander, so I just started singing show tunes: And here I am on the street afterward, suddenly realizing that I’d rather get Pennsylvania Hookworm than spend another second in those heels: Oh, one more: Here is us finally meeting Tom McDonald, who was covering the event for the Register. Corrie could not take her eyes off his hair: Whew! What a week. Then we came home and went shopping so we could eat this week, too, and then watched one of the Pope’s speeches*, and picked the grapes before they withered on the vine, and even caught the lunar eclipse. All Hail my mother-in-law, Helen Mary, who kept everyone happy, healthy, and whole while we were gone; and all hail to my husband, for making the crazy drive and dealing with that crazy baby and crazy me, and carrying a million bags all over creation. He even took a picture of my eyeliner so I would believe him when he said it wasn’t smudged. I think I’ll skip the link-up this week. Let’s do this again on Friday! *** *Me: We’re going to listen to the Pope’s speech now.
Irene: What if I don’t understand all the words he uses?
Me: Just keep listening. Anyway, he’s not one to use really big, fancy, complicated words, like . . . like . .
Irene: Like “metamorphosis”?
Me: Yeah. Wait. Irene, you know what metamorphosis means.
Irene: Oh, yeah.