Friday afternoon I headed out to make the hour and a half drive south to my daughter’s house. As we’re not going to be together on Thanksgiving, I wanted to spend a few days with her, my son-in-law and my two oldest granddaughters.
During the weekdays their house is taken over by anywhere from nine to twelve little people, also known as preschoolers. Brave souls, in my estimation, she and her employees have been grooming these mini me’s to go forward in their lives for ten years now, and do an amazing job. It takes tremendous patience to deal with the whiner, the screamer, the pouter, the non-stop chatterer, the thumb sucker, the princess, the tough guy and the rest of the characters represented there, but they do it seamlessly.
I arrived towards the end of nap time, and the house was uncharacteristically quiet as all the inmates were in lockup. While the staff was working on a project upstairs scheduled to occupy the rest of the children’s afternoon, I was asked to guard the door against any would-be escapees and notify the staff if anyone needed attention. As I don’t find much time these days to sit and read, one of my favorite pastimes, I poured myself a cup of coffee, took out my novel, removed my shoes and curled up on the couch.
Shortly thereafter, I began to hear stirrings on the baby monitor resting on the table next to me. Minutes later the door to the nap room tentatively opened and a particularly diminutive peanut emerged from behind it, blanket in hand. Seeing me on the couch instead of the usual familiar faces, he stopped in his tracks and surveyed the situation. You could almost hear his little mind assessing whether to scream and run or interact with me. Curiosity getting the better of him, and after eyeing me for a minute or two apparently determining, in his mind at least, that I was harmless, he sidled towards me. I resisted the urge to say, “I mean you no harm”, but instead sat quietly.
Looking down over my reading glasses and still saying nothing, I gently patted the couch pillow next to me. Handing me his obviously much-loved blanket with faded images of Mickey Mouse printed on it, he climbed up and settled in nicely under the crook of one of my arms. Once again my book was abandoned, as peanuts, for those of you that have them at home, require attention when alert and mobilized. After having a little thumb with his blanket, he spoke. I did not recognize his native tongue, so returned a few words in mine and gleaned that he wanted a glass of water, which I retrieved, handing him a blue plastic cup. After several more sentences in this extraordinary language, I got the feeling this was not the cup he was used to but, at least for this time, he would make an exception and drink from it. It was clear, however, from his expression that I would need to step up my game in the future.
Realizing that my book probably was a little over his head, well, most things probably are over his head, I chose a Dr. Seuss book from the extensive library and read to him while he commented animatedly on the pictures on each page. One word he spoke quite clearly was Jack, his name, as well as Nana, which it seemed, was to be mine.
Soon the rest of the scallywags and pillagers poured out of the room and the house was abuzz with activity. I helped fill glasses, the right ones this time, and sat next to them while they worked on turkeys for their parents made by drawing outlines of their hands, and enjoyed just hanging out with them. Children are so open, for the most part. If they don’t like you, they don’t hesitate to let you know and will unabashedly hug you if the urge moves them. I like that. As adults we’re too worried about what other adults think of us. Children don’t seem to spend much time thinking about that. It’s more black and white and much less gray in their world.
After all charges had been picked up for the weekend we relaxed and had some family time. Saturday morning we hit the stores early as the plan was a family party that night and we were cooking. Intuitive in the kitchen, cooking with a pinch of this and a palmful of that, my kid moves quickly like I do when she’s making a dish and cleans up as she goes, also a trait of mine. Guess we do pass on an occasional piece of good information to our children from time to time. Nice to know some of it sticks.
Dinner was delicious. I’m including one of several recipes she shared with me. The following would be excellent on turkey day as an appetizer.
Fried Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Aioli
1 cup mayonnaise
4 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
3 tsp. lemon zest
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. olive oil
Salt to taste if desired
Whisk together all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Fried Artichoke Hearts
1 cup whole milk
2 15 oz. cans marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 1/2 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
3/4 cups Panko breadcrumbs
2 cups cooking oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Drain artichoke hearts on paper towels and quarter.
Heat oil in deep skillet or heavy saucepan to 350 degrees.
Whisk together egg and milk. In large resealable bag mix together seasoned bread crumbs and Panko bread crumbs. Place artichoke hearts in bag in batches and shake to coat evenly.
Deep fry for 2-3 minutes until deep golden brown in color. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve with aioli sauce.