Friday, March 19, 2010

Yeah, I'm Saying It!

I have long wanted to address what in my opinion is a burning question just begging to be answered, but have held back for fear of offending my readership. However, a recent episode (well an episode I saw recently anyway) of "The Katie Brown Workshop" brought this question to my mind again, and I decided I'm just going to say it:

Why on God's green earth do we need baking mixes?

Well, it's out, you can all hate on me now, if you want.

I just don't understand them. Is it really that hard to measure out flour, baking powder or soda, and salt? Really? That's all some of these baking mixes are. I'm trying to picture the scenario in which one thinks, "Hmm...I'd like to bake about a coffee cake? Okay here's a recipe! Let's see flour, baking powder, salt, vegetable oil, sugar, milk, eggs...oh dear, no, that's far too much work! Let's try this Bisquick recipe instead. Let's see, it calls for Bisquick, vegetable oil, sugar, milk, and eggs. So much simpler! How did I ever live without Bisquick?"

Really? By using the Bisquick version, this theoretical person has saved, what, 30 seconds by not having to measure out the leavening agents? I will agree that more complex baked goods, like cakes can be a little more tricky, but honestly, if you can follow the directions on the back of the Betty Crocker box, you can follow a basic yellow cake recipe. I swear on my son's security elephant it's not that difficult (some kids have a blankie, my kid has an elephant; told you he was cool).

Okay, back to the Katie Brown episode. For those of you who have never seen it, "The Katie Brown Workshop" is a show on PBS in which Katie Brown, a former caterer, does segments on cooking, decorating, and gardening...or rather flower my opinion, she's sort of like the poor man's Rachael Ray (which shows you what I think of her if you know how I feel about Rachael Ray...), or the very poor man's Martha Stewart. she was demonstrating her special recipe for festive, fancy carrot corn muffins. Her daughter and her little friends love them, she says, they can't get enough! Are you ready for her special, festive fancy carrot corn muffin recipe? Get a pen...okay here it is:

Take one box of Jiffy corn muffin mix. Prepare according to instructions. Add some shredded carrot. Bake.

Make a glaze of maple syrup and powdered sugar. Pour over muffins. Ta-da!

Bet you didn't need a pen for that one, huh? I'm sorry, but I don't think you should be allowed to call a dish your special recipe if all you did was add 2 things to a boxed mix! That's like adding a dash of cayenne pepper to a jar of Ragu and calling it your super special secret spicy sauce (oooh...I think I'm going to patent that name, so alliterative!)Would it really have been that much more difficult for her to measure out some flour, cornmeal, baking soda, and salt and make an actual corn muffin recipe? I guess it would have taken away from her time pulling the heads off of roses and skewering them on willow branches (no kidding, I couldn't make this stuff up, people).

I don't mean to hate on Katie Brown, or anyone else who uses boxed mixes, I just really don't see the point. Now, if you could get an entire cake in a box, well then they'd have something...oh wait you can. In fact, here's a good place to do that: All I'm saying is if you're going to bake, bake, if you want a cake out of a box, buy one from professionals.

Throw that Bisquick away, people! Better yet, donate it to a homeless shelter, write it off as a tax deduction and use the money you saved to buy a bag of flour, a can of baking powder, and a box of baking soda. Call your grandma and ask for her coffee cake recipe, or if your grandma's a Bisquick lover, call me! I have at least four simple and delicious coffee cake recipes including a vegan one.

Rant over. Let the hate mail commence ;).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Be Not Afraid, Gentle Reader!

Alas, I imagine many of you have long feared the Kitchen Pirate hath succumbed to smallpox or consumption. Be not afraid, gentle Reader, the Kitchen Pirate still walks the earth!

This entry won't contain much food talk, but I promise I'll get back to that soon. These last two months have been a crazy blur. In case any of you out there don't know, we got the news (or non-news) in January that our little dude, Ry, is a tad bit unusual. I wish I could be more specific, but that's all the info we have right now! The most likely candidates at the moment are autism or sensory processing disorder or a combination of both.

The last two months have been jam-packed with specialist appointments, therapy consultations, and many, many attempts at socializing the little dude all of which he looks upon as varying degrees of torture (Little Gym seems to be akin to the Iron Maiden, whereas playdates fall somewhere under the category of minor water-boarding).

Dylan and I actually have very calm attitudes towards all this madness. We were both pretty stunned at first, but after much reflection (and a much needed change of perspective thanks to the fabulous Kristina, whom I have never met, but who remains, nevertheless, an inspiration - another blog shot-out for you, super-mom!), we realized that Rylan is still Rylan. He is still the beautiful, funny, quirky little guy we've had the privilege and pleasure of being parents to since October 2008. No label can change that.

There is also no reason to suppose that he can't achieve the dreams that we have for him (which, for the record, are merely to be a happy and productive member of society...and a Nobel-prize winning scientist...and genius novelist...but I digress). It occurred to me when reading Good Housekeeping of all things (a relative buys me a subscription...sometimes it's nice to know how I'm supposed to clean things, though I usually still resort to the whole paper towel + vinegar-water + cursing thing followed closely by the stashing dirty item in the closet + forgetting about it thing), that we were never wishing for an "ordinary" child in any case.

GH had a book excerpt from a football player (former football player? GH gets a skim at best) whose son is autistic and he was talking about his massive denial and his incredible grief that his son wasn't interested in stereotypical "man" activities like sports and fishing. Passing these things down to his son was incredibly important to him and not being able to share these interests with his son was completely breaking his heart.

While I can certainly sympathize with his pain...Dylan and I had often groaned about the possibility that we would end up with the star quarterback or the head cheerleader. We have never wanted a son who would follow the stereotypical "man" path and we are certainly ill-equipped to raise one (Mr. I-wore-sweat-pants-to-school-until-I-was-16 and Miss I-re-read-Louisa-May-Alcott-novels-at-lunch-to-avoid-socializing). If we had a child with a passion for football, we would, of course, have done some research (like figuring out what "scrimmage" means), and supported his interest. However, we were both secretly dreaming of having that nerdy, quirky kid who knows every single fact about dinosaurs or who has read all of Jane Austen's novels by the age of 10, the kid who's a little off, the kid who marches to the beat of his own drummer, the kid who is authentically himself regardless of how cool or uncool that makes him.

While I don't want my son to absorb my plans for his life, but rather to make his own plans, that last one is particularly important to me. I want Rylan to be Rylan, a happy version of Rylan, but not anyone else's version of Rylan, not even mine. Whatever diagnosis we eventually end up with will have no effect on Rylan's ability to be Rylan, and so, we have lost nothing from our dreams for his life. We have put him in various forms of therapy to enable him to connect with his world and explore it and be better able to decide how he wants to shape it, but I have no other hopes regarding his therapies. I never wanted him to be the star quarterback and so I have less to get over than a parent with those expectations would.

Now, if he comes to me at 10 and says, "Mom, this Jane Austen chick is boring. I'd much rather read Hemingway,", well then I'll probably need some therapy sessions of a different kind, but until then I remain optimistic for his future and excited to see where he takes us.

And hey, maybe he'll still be that star quarterback, in which case you will find Dylan and I in the Sports section of Barnes and Noble before every game frantically memorizing football terms we can scream out at him while we eat the vegan nachos I've prepared and snuck into the stadium.

Full circle, people, maybe I'll talk about vegan nachos tomorrow.