I swear I don’t always talk about kids, it’s just that if you have a kid, trying to think about anything else is like having a gorilla wrapped around your head and saying “what gorilla, I don’t see any gorilla”. If a gorilla is wrapped around your head, you are going to smell gorilla, hear gorilla and worry about gorilla.
Ferdinand turns into a gorilla at 5:45 pm. I decided when he starting eating solid foods that it is important for all of us to sit down and eat dinner together. This means, just as Ferd is collapsing from his day, I am asking him to hold on a little longer without food and entertain himself without coming near me, since I’m next to the fire on the stove, and then sit down and recount, in a nice voice, what he did at school that day for me, while he eats. I love having Ferd eat with us, but the truth of what happens is, he usually does something to get into big fat trouble while I’m not looking, (so that I will look), Jonathan removes him from the situation to work it out, and then calls to me “you go ahead and eat honey; I’ll just eat after you.”
I have a different idea now. Ferdinand eats at five thirty. He is done by six. He plays with his dad while I make dinner. At six thirty he has his shower and at seven, if he’s up for it, he eats a little more with us or we EAT ALONE! I’m all over the idea of group participation like a cheap raincoat, but A. I’m not good at it, and B. it doesn’t always work. Plus it’s so nice to make little salmon cakes and not have to pick out little pieces of onion and parsley for the guy next to me.
These are delicious. Make them as soon as you can, because you’re going to love them. For four to six people, heat up a heavy saute pan, and drizzle in your best olive oil. When the pan is hot, add two salmon steaks that have been well seasoned on both sides with kosher salt. Dont’ touch the fish until the top of the flesh begins to become opaque along the sides. Flip and cook for just a minute more. Remove from the pan. Meanwhile, peel, chop, and crowd together in a pan of cold salted water, five medium potatoes. Cook til fork tender, and drain well. Mash the potatoes, season with a little salt, pepper, a Tablespoon of finely chopped parsely, a little fresh thyme, one finely chopped shallot, a little lemon zest, two egg yolks or one egg, a few Tablespoons of mayonniase, and the fish. (just be sure to remove all of the bones and skin first.) Stir gently so that the fish doesn’t break up completely. Form the mixture into little cakes and set them onto wax paper. Dust the tops with flour. Heat up a large, heavy saute pan, and add olive oil and a little butter. Get them in there flour side down, sprinkle the other sides with a little flour, and saute until they are golden brown on tops and bottoms. Serve with a sauce of one part yogurt, one part mayo, a little chive or green onion, a smashed and minced garlic clove, some salt, and some lemon juice. I like these with fresh asparagus marinated in extra virgin olive oil, some salt, pepper, and a few garlic cloves. They are excellent with beer.
I have to second that emotion, on the old let-the-kids-eat-before-we-do front. It’s so much easier on them – not to mention mommy! I’m sure once our son is older and able to sit still a little bit, that fantasy family dinner will come together. Pronto.
Only when they are old enough to help set the table and clear the plates, eat without dribbling, eat without whining or falling off their chair, be thankful for their food instead of throwing a taste and choices tantrum, and not eat from anyone else’s plate, ONLY THEN CAN THE HAPPY FAMILY MEALS BEGIN. I do remember my neighbors carrying on this separation of meals well into late childhood in a disturbing way: the meals happened simultaneosly but in separate rooms. The kids clandestinely helped themselves to oreos in the kitchen while the parents quietly discussed what turned out to be a protracted divorce over candlelit dinners in the dining room. That’s not healthy. But waiting until at least school-age to attempt the old-fashioned family meal is very very healthy. But work on some basic etiquette at the mini-meal in the meantime.
And believe me, the little kids prefer it this way. Being the littlest by far in a rather large family, I had to sit with my elbows off the table AND finish every healthy thing on my plate AND ask to be excused (and have a valid excuse) from infancy. It was a burden.