Cooking Shows Are Destroying My Family

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It all started late last summer when we discovered that our son was sneaking onto Netflix and watching countless episodes of Cake Boss. I should have been concerned when he wrote us a letter informing us that he knew “everything there is to know about cakes” which meant that he was qualified to design our wedding cake. But his interest seemed harmless – even adorable – and we had no idea that Cake Boss was only the beginning, the gateway show to Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen and The Next Great Baker and even the YouTube channel Nerdy Nummies and somewhere along the line, Zeca joined in this culinary crusade.

This summer, they have said things like, “You don’t understand! We want to really bake!”, “We are not interested in everyday cooking!”, “We want to create something special!” While I encouraged the basics, they requested fondant and angled spatulas and special piping tips for icing. When I suggested they make pesto for dinner, they said they would consider Fettucini Alfredo with pan-seared shrimp because anything simple was beneath them. So, under attack from these culinary crusaders, I acquiesced and told them they could bake whatever they wanted provided they worked together and then washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen afterwards. They joyfully agreed.

And so the troubles began…

Shadows

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My father died when he was 50 and the summer after his death, my mother had a triple bypass. I was only 20 at the time and I remember thinking that my father had lived a full life and my mother’s health problems were part of getting old.

Time, of course, provides perspective and as I face the fact that I will turn 46 this fall, I realize that 50 and 54 aren’t old at all. My dad died young and my mother’s health problems began long before they should have. There are many things to blame – alcohol abuse, cigars (his) and cigarettes (hers), and general revelry-related excesses – and I have always clung to the fact that my life has been much different than theirs.

I drink in moderation. I tried the occasional cigarette but never became hooked. My diet is low in Velveeta and high in the good stuff. I hope these basic differences will guarantee a different outcome for me because I want to live a long life, want to have an active life after my children have grown up and moved on.

I don’t want to be like my parents.

Imperfectly Real

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I flew to Boston at the end of June to get together with a group of friends from college. Five years ago, this same group of women encouraged me to write, to collect my thoughts and stories of life and family and put them into a book. This was before I had the courage to call myself a writer, before I had left everything I knew to sit at my desk and put one word after another with the hope that they would serve as stepping stones to something else. I didn’t make any big changes after that weekend together but I did begin to think that maybe, just maybe, I could write.

In the five years since that weekend, I have been paid for my words and read my work on stage and wrote the manuscript that was nothing more than an idea at that time, nothing more than a dash of movement in the periphery of my vision.

Tiny Bridges

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This morning, I went through a bag of school work that Zeca had brought home at the end of the year. Yes, I realize school ended weeks ago but she had tucked it into her closet and then, when asked to clean her room last week, she dumped it in my room. She waved her hand and said, “Go through this and keep the best for my portfolio…” as she left the room.

There are often treasures in these bundles of papers, words and glimpses of who they are, the bigger picture. Zeca’s report on John Adams was in this bag and I laughed as I read her conclusion, “John died in 1826 but I will always remember him.” There is so much Zeca in that sentence – the familiarity, the dramatic touch – I will tuck that report into the file folder I keep in the top of my closet.

And then I found a tiny bridge made of popsicle sticks and toothpicks.