A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
This is not a special needs parenting blog per se. It doesn’t fit in my tech blog either, but given the two it feels like it fits better here. I’ve read a ton of books and for authors that I like, I usually try to read their entire work. I’ve read a lot, but not all, of Robert Heinlein. There is some of his work that I truly like, but he’s hit-or-miss. This quote is one of my favorites, though. When I was taught technology in Hatfield, I put this quote up on my walls going around my room with one item on a single piece of paper. At present count, I’ve done 15 of these personally, just shy of 80%, which I take as a matter of pride.
Another thing that I take as a matter of pride is cooking for my family. Part of it comes from a Yankee stinginess wherein I know that I can feed my family is a way that is frugal and healthy. Part of that is a product of my upbringing. My mom, quite honestly, was not a terrific cook, although there were some things that she cooked quite well. What I mean by this is not what my mom cooked, but rather the things to which we had access. When I was young, there were two chefs that I saw on TV: Graham Kerr and Julia Child. I remember a time when Julia child did a recipe for Chicken Kiev. My brother Pat spotted it and mapped out every time when it was being broadcast. He watched it at every available time and took notes and then made it with help from my mom.
When I was in college, I watched Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet) and once in a while, Martin Yan. From these, I tried new things, some which worked and some which didn’t. Both the successes and the failures were learning experiences and encouragement to try more. When I was moved to Silicon Valley, I discovered farmer’s markets, which were a fantastic source for fantastic produce. Inevitably, I would buy too much. So what do you do? Throw it away? Of course not – I took up canning. In one year, I remember that I canned something on the order of 10 gallons of jams, jellies, and chutneys that I gave out as gifts as well as enjoyed at home. I was inspired by a co-worker, Treve Bonser, who made fantastic pastries and sweets and brought them in to work. I asked him why he did this. He said that once in a while he wanted a cookie, but you can’t make one cookie so he brought in the rest.
All of these things were formative experiences.
So here’s what I’ve got tonight. I roasted a chicken for dinner – no big deal. After we were done I put the carcass into the slow cooker along with wilty vegetables from the fridge and some herbs, topped it up with water and set it go. When it’s done I’ll have close to a gallon of chicken broth which is way, way better than anything that you can get in a can. More often than not, I end up with something close to chicken gelatin when it cools. Then comes homemade soup. Why? It tastes good, it uses leftovers and has way less salt than anything you get in a can, and quite honestly, making soup doesn’t take that long. Or I’ll use it to make rice. Or as a basis for a sauce. Chicken broth is like a 2×4, just waiting to be used for any number of things.
And then there are the sales at the store. Our local grocery store often does “buy one, get two free” sales. I keep my eyes open for those and do my best to take advantage. For example, last week they mushrooms for sale. So what do you do? Can them.
Mushrooms, garlic, onion, peppercorns, salt, vinegar, water turn into a jar full of umame.
And all of this I take with pride. I do my very best to provide my family with healthy food cooked from good quality ingredients that are, if possible, grown locally (and many times from our back yard).
Why yes, my house is a mess. Why yes, I’m routinely behind on home maintenance. Why yes, there are three loads of laundry that need to be folded.
You pick your battles and you set your priorities as you see fit. This is how I’ve set mine.