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Betsy Block


Who's Zooming Who

Whos Zooming Who
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Two Quotes from 5-year-old P

P: "Dese pickles are so good. Are dey helfy?"

(salt, high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, "natural flavors," polysorbate 80, etc.)

Me: "No."

P: (shaking her head in disappointment): "Awwww! Then, sotto voce, Daddy, damn it or darn it?

BD, composed: Darn it.

The four of us are in the minivan this past Saturday when P says, Hey Dad, do you fink we should, you know, give Mom a heads-up on dat fing were surprising her wif for her birfday?" (It's on Thursday.)

We all double over in laughter.

P: "What's so funny?"

Who's Zooming Who
BD came home from dropping the kids off at school one morning to pick up Roxy. (He takes her to work most days.) I was already banging away at the keyboard.

When we got to school, he told me, I had to redo Ps hair.

I didnt actually speak, but my look said it all: And youre telling me this because I had done her hair up in a ponytail, which is always fun because P doesnt believe in standing still when one of her parents is trying to get the hair off her face: she dances, twists, turns, bounces

A bunch of the moms said how amazing I was, BD went on. My brow furrowed in confusion. I wasnt getting it yet. They couldnt believe I was putting her hair in a ponytail.

Ah, now I got it  but not really. Not at all!

You must be kidding! I yelled. Thats absurd! Im taking care of the kids, writing a book, doing pieces for and magazines, keeping up with my website - (admittedly, only sort of)  I mean, oh my God!

And every mother I know could say the same (if you changed the details of the to-do list).

Now dont get me wrong; Im not about to launch into some kind of rant against men, because I happen to love men. But Im not sure whos worse, the husbands who cant put their five-year-old daughters hair in a twisty, or the women who put up with this feigned incompetence.

Or  wait a minute  could it be that these moms actually care how their kids look? Because if thats the story, then I have to admit they might have a case; when my own beloved husband dresses and grooms our daughter, she does not always come off looking like a style icon when she leaves the house.

I guess Im lucky that, when it comes to fashion, my standards are low. We go for (but dont always attain) clean and stain-free clothing; otherwise, I say theres freedom in letting go. (And boy, do I let go.)

BD is a wonderful man, a great husband and father. But if hes looking for props from me, its not gonna be because he put Ps hair up, thats all Im saying. No, itll be because hes a wicked good cook (to use the local vernacular). I wonder what the schoolyard moms would say if they knew who makes dinner most nights in my house  including this awesome African meal we had this past weekend:

Chicken Tagine with Lemons

Adapted from The Africa News Cookbook (Penguin Books, 1985)

serves 8

2 chickens (3-4 pounds each), whole or cut into pieces
1-2 tsp salt
cup olive oil
4 tbsp clarified butter (melt about 5 tbsp butter, then pour off the clear melted butter, leaving the cloudy solids behind)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 onion, whole
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp turmeric
•3/4 cup good olives
peel of 1 lemon, cut into strips

Place chickens in a pot with all the other ingredients except olives and lemon peel. Cover with water and bring to a boil, turning the chickens to make sure theyre well coated with sauce. (We used chicken stock instead of water.) cook over moderate heat, covered, basting the chickens with sauce from time to time. Remove the onion as soon as its cooked.

When chickens are done, add the olives and lemon peel and let simmer slowly a few minutes longer. (If chickens are done but the sauce is still watery, as happened to us, just take the chicken out of the stock, place in a bowl, and boil the liquid down until appropriately saucy.)

Adapted from The Africa News Cookbook (Penguin Books, 1985)

Serves 4-6

cup olive oil
2 tbsp. clarified butter (as above, just pour off the clear melted butter and leave the cloudy solids behind)
1 onion, sliced in rounds
1large ripe tomato
tsp ground black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
tsp salt
1 can chickpeas
couscous (we used the instant kind)

Make the couscous according to package instructions.

Combine oil, butter, onion, tomato, pepper, cinnamon stick and salt in a large, heavy pot. After about 5 minutes add the chickpeas, stir, cook for a few minutes more, then add in the cooked couscous.