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Thursday, October 4,2012

Martha’s Got Nothing on Me

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  
Dinnertime. That joyous time when the family reunites after a long day of work or play to reconnect and share life’s ups and downs. I recall the good old days filled with play dates and camp; when the dinner table was a cacophony of competing voices and laughter. Now, with one in college and the other with one foot out the door, I remember those days fondly. Divine amnesia, no doubt, kind of like childbirth. I visited my friend this summer, who is still deep in the throes of this highly emotional time slot of the day, and all of the stress and anxiety that young kids and dinner time bring loomed large on the other side of the fence, rendering the grass on my side a little greener.


I showed up all giddy, like the fun aunt, with ice cream for dessert in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. The visit started out great. She poured the wine, we shared stories, I cut up the veggies as she did... whatever... with the rest of the meal she had planned for that day. The first time her daughter screamed through the kitchen, soaking wet, chased by her AK-47water ”toy”- wielding older brother, we laughed. The fourth time... well, let’s just say I promptly stopped pining for days gone by. By the fifth time, I found myself at the counter alone, groundings being doled out in the background, staring at an empty glass and a halfprepped dinner.

I did what any good friend would do - poured myself another glass of wine and tried to pick up the meal prep where she left off. There was a lime waiting for zesting, a skirt steak waiting for marinade and a whole bunch of food still in bags. The grill pan was on high, and romaine lettuce hearts were halved and brushed with oil (correction, waiting to be brushed)... was she really going to grill the lettuce? This from the girl who ate nothing but cereal and mac-n-cheese in college? I started mentally preparing for an intervention, but on some level I could relate. Where did this notion originate, that, because we gave birth, we should be able to prepare gourmet meals on a daily basis?

I’m not sure who I blame more, Julia Child or Rachel Ray. Okay, I blame Rachel. At least Julia Child was preparing foods in her kitchen that no normal person would be expected to imitate. Kind of like Martha Stewart. It’s ok to be out of Martha’s league - no one really expects you to make your own cutting board before you chop the veggies, but Rachel Ray’s 30-minute meals are actually designed to demonstrate how easy dinner prep could be. You, too, can be a rock star in the kitchen! Hence the grilled romaine. It’s really simple! Maybe it really is simple for some people. Just like picking out throw pillows is really simple for other people. The problem is that the endless availability of Do-it-Yourself shows on TV have fostered unrealistic expectations in so many of us who now believe that we should be able to be crafty, culinary, fix-it mavins who have a knack for decorating, fashion and rock-hard abs. Add to that the very real possibility that we may not be living our best lives until we house hunt in Tuscany, and the stage is set for some serious self - doubt . Admittedly, the pressure to match up to the standards in TV Land is absolutely selfinflicted. As the great Eleanor Roosevelt taught us, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. (Now, pardon me while I head to the UN to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). So, what to do down here is real world land? I pondered this as I turned off the grill pan, refilled her wine glass and dialed the number for pizza delivery. The same as with absolutely everything: Breathe and let go. Do the best you can. Treat yourself and others with compassion and appreciate what you have, before it becomes what you had. A simple recipe, really.



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