Skip to main content

Betsy Block

Make Mama Look Good

The Pizza and Coke Debacle

The Pizza and Coke Debacle
Four-year-old P was playing with two friends at her school playground and I was talking with their sitter, the loquacious D. After an hour and a half, I was wondering if it would be possible to fall asleep while sitting up when a group of older kids came onto the playground. One of the girls took a seat near us and started sassing the adults who had arrived with her. Suddenly I felt much more awake.

I heard one of them say something to her about "how to behave when we're out in the community," which led me to believe that normally these kids are not "out in the community." When the girl said that something "sucked" for the fifth time within earshot of our three preschoolers, D and I decided it was probably as good as time as any to call it a day.

Next: Time to pick up E. I thought I was just picking up one preteen boy, but suddenly, and the 'why' or 'how' doesn't even matter, I had three. So that was me: three boys jammed in back of the ol' minivan, four-year-old P in the middle row, and me in the front, straining to eavesdrop on the boys' conversation over the obnoxiously noisy open windows. Off we went to the park for a wholesome afternoon of fresh air.

Next, disaster: P was innocently, happily playing on a climbing structure when a preschool punk reached down and, out of the blue, pulled her hair. Hard. His mother was frantic with apologies; I got to play it cool, both because I've been there before (E wasn't always a mature 10-year-old) and because, thankfully, the little brat isn't mine.

It was time to go. When we went over to get the boys, they asked why P was crying; when they found out, I had to physically restrain one of E's friends who wanted a piece of the offender. Fortunately, P cheered up pretty quickly with three big boys in her corner. Then, sensing my weakness, they triple-teamed me: "Can we get pizza?" I resisted, argued, asked them what their mothers would think, but they had answers for all of it. Eventually, I gave in.

One of the boys' mothers, whom I'd never met, came to pick up E's two friends just as we were pulling up with the - you know, pizza and Coke an hour before dinner. "What time do you eat dinner?" she asked unhappily. It was just so ironic - I'm the strictest mom I know, and yet here I was, cleanly busted. And with no way to hide the evidence.

I didn't sleep much that night, thinking about how hard motherhood is. The next morning, still reeling from the day before, I knew I would want something good for dinner instead of stinky old leftovers as we'd planned. I headed to the store to round up ingredients for Michael Moore's duck salad when someone suddenly appeared right behind me in the produce section saying, "I've got a bone to pick with you!" It turned out to be my friend M. She was kidding around, but for a minute there I was ready to tell her: Get in line, lady. Get in line.

Michael Moore of Michael Moore Restaurant in London writes:
"The first recipe [I'm sending you] is for a roasted monkfish, which is absolutely delicious, easy to make and looks fantastic as well. My wife uses it and, same as you, she's a mum of two." (I'm a 'mum'! Love that!) "This recipe will definitely Make Mama Look Good."

I really wanted to make the monkfish, but it calls for green lentils (which I'd already bought); the only tiny issue was that they needed to have been soaked for 24 hours.  The chef's roasted monkfish with glazed apricots is most definitely in my near future - just not on this harried day. So I opened up Moore's file again and found another contender:

"This recipe is my all-time favourite" (that charming British spelling again), "duck salad. It never comes off my menu, although I change every other dish every 10 to 12 weeks. I dress it differently on every menu and it remains the bestseller on the starter menu. It will Make Mama Look Even Better."

Actually, it Made Mama Feel Better is what it did. Thanks to Michael Moore for just what I needed. Though come to think of it, I hope he doesn't join the ranks of the Angry Ones when he reads how I had to bastardize his perfectly wonderful:

Crispy Duck Salad
by Michael Moore

OK, I have to confess to a few things, although none of them involve Coke and pizza, thankfully. First, I looked pretty hard for mango sauce but couldn't find it, so I used fresh mango instead. Second, the whole grams thing was just too much to deal with on four hours of sleep, so I estimated. And last, when I got to the store, I found that not only did they have duck confit, but also that it was cheaper than the duck breast. Let's see, raw duck that's more expensive, or cheaper duck that's already been cooked until crisp in fat and salt?

I heated the confit up in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes until it was warm. The salty, crispy confit with the sweet mango and tart oranges, not to mention the slightly spicy, sesame-hoisin sauce - wow, was it good. P, as always the one to dish out the best lines, said, "Mm, this is good chicken!"


40 grams mixed salad leaves (I used - who knows)

20 grams orange segments (I used two oranges)

2 tablespoons salad dressing

50 grams sliced duck breast (or two confit legs - enough for two hungry adults)

30 grams mango sauce (or a fresh mango, diced)

20 grams Hoisin sauce (I used about a quarter cup and I have no freaking idea if this was right, but it sure was good) mixed with

1 tablespoon sesame oil

How to Make It

Take salad leaves, orange segments and dressing and mix together in a bowl.

Place duck in a preheated frying pan with a bit of oil; pan fry until crispy brown, add hoisin/sesame sauce and mix well. (Or else heat the confit in the oven until warm; flake off pieces from the leg and toss with the hoisin/sesame oil mixture.)

Place salad on a plate, place duck on top of salad, drizzle mango sauce over top and serve warm.