Eight o’clock last night found me standing over the kitchen sink, scooping baked butternut squash out of its skin and glopping the orange mess into my blender. With no new baby to feed, you might wonder: why I am pureeing squash? The answer is easy: Jessica Seinfeld told me to.
I can’t help it, my three faithfuls. I keep letting not-smart strangers tell me what to do. Jessica Seinfeld isn’t famous for being a nutritionist, cook, or author; she’s famous for jumping out of her brand-new first marriage into a hurried second one with Jerry Seinfeld (total elapsed time between first and second marriage: eighteen months.) I remember feeling contempt for the young (double) bride when the scandal broke out over a decade ago. These people, I thought. And yet here I am–twelve un-rich and un-famous years later–mashing and blending gourdes per Double Bride’s cookbook that I bought during a moment of weakness at Costco. (What can I say? The cover was cute.) In said cookbook, Mrs. Seinfeld suggests that rather than forcing our kids to eat vegetables, we should just puree the vegetables and blend them into foods that kids do like to eat. (Rearranging food so kids like it? Great concept. But I think the people over at DinoNuggets came up with it first.)
I flirted a little with the book’s recipes, and while most are just so-so, my kids love the squash-hiding coffee cake. So like a dog to his slop, I keep turning back to Ms. Seinfeld’s book for guidance in making it. It makes me mad that she has something to tell me, this gold-digging adultress. And it makes me even more mad that I listen. I should be condemning her morals, not looking to her for domestic advice. Funny how so many famous-but-questionable women have babies, clean up their wardrobe, and are suddenly telling the rest of us how to parent. And why do these women get away with it? Because women like me listen. And because the cover of the cookbook was really cute.
As the cashier rang up my purchase that day, I remember feeling a vague impression that if I cooked from this book, my life would take on the simple and stylish sheen shown throughout its chic, homey pages. If I couldn’t have lunch with the Seinfelds, I could at least be eating the same food as they. And if I couldn’t dress like My New Friend Jessica, I could at least cook like her.
I’m thinking that’s why these celebrity cookbooks have gotten so popular. Gwyneth Paltrow, Eva Longoria–even Sheryl Crow (gag) wrote a cookbook, all of them promising a taste of the good life for those of us watching from the sidelines. My favorite quote is from the famously organic Paltrow, who says she’d “rather do cocaine than eat cheese from a can.” (That is certainly an option for you, Emma, since your wallet affords you the choice.) And yet we all want to belong to the group that Doesn’t Eat Cheese From a Can. And now, for the $12.99 it costs to buy their cookbook, we can pretend that we do.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve about had it with these celebrity “chefs.” What do they know? Why can’t they listen to me for a change? I may be poor, plain and inconsequential (name that book-turned-movie), but I could certainly tell them a thing or two about how to feed their kids. Such as:
1. Cut the hot dogs up crosswise, not lengthwise, before placing them in the bowl of macaroni and cheese. (Lengthwise leaves the dogs too long to be easily gulped down with blue Kool-Aid.)
2. A turkey baster works better than a paper towel for absorbing the grease off a Dominoes pizza. In fact, I have personally calculated that using said baster will cut the calories of said pizza in half.
3. If your kids are adventurous like mine, try mixing the ketchup and barbecue sauce together before serving it with the DinoNuggets. It may seem exotic at first, but Trying New Things is an important first step in the world of culinary wonder.
4. Couscous is Fancy.
5. Any decent recipe will call for Cream of Mushroom soup. I have yet to see a celebrity recipe calling for Cream of Mushroom soup. I am surprised, since doing so obviously eliminates the need for fresh mushrooms, milk, salt, and monosodium glutamate. Be smart, ladies; never chop or pour multiple ingredients when you can get the same result by opening a single can.
6. And speaking of cans: canned green beans, day after day, night after night, aptly fill a child’s dietary requirement for green vegetables. And your kids will get extra sodium to boot! (Moms know that more of any nutrient is always better.)
7. Forget scrutinizing your produce. Instead, carefully assess and select the cereal you will be serving for dinner tonight. A high sugar content will always be offset by a cereal that is “fortified.” And look carefully for words like “wholesome” and “natural.” They couldn’t put words like that on the package if they weren’t true! Case in point: chocolate-dipped granola bars (sugar coated with more sugar) is a “wholesome” family snack. Whew! Thought it was junk food for a minute.
8. Kids love tearing into unopened packages, so make sure you have plenty of packaged food in the pantry. Fruit snacks, twinkies, and mini-bags of potato chips provide some great options. Our children need to learn to choose for themselves in a non-threatening environment, so stay well out of their way while they forage through the kitchen after school. (I generally use this time to cue up the Wii for them. Exercise is important, too.)
9. Jell-o is a versatile addition to any meal. It can land in either the dairy or fruit segment of the food pyramid, depending on its color and your mood.
10. If you put a bowl of iceberg lettuce on the table every night and nobody ever eats it, you are still Feeding Your Family Vegetables. Nobody can take that away from you.
Are you listening, Jessica? I’m here if you need more tips. In fact, maybe I’ll write a cookbook of my own. Instead of Deceptively Delicious, it will be titled Overtly Bland but Do-able. I think I’ll bypass Costco, though, and market it at discount through Wal-Mart. I know my audience.