Lessons from Family Guy

It’s been said that children are always learning and learning all the time.  The real question is, “What exactly is it they are learning?”.  Further, the concerned parent might go so far as to ask where are they learning it and from whom? I’m warning you.  Don’t explore this too deeply.  The knowledge you discover might  alarm you if it doesn’t send you to your grave early.

Today, I was attempting to convey the meaning of the word synagogue to a group of fourth graders.  The word for some of them who are still learning English is a bit of a mouthful and I wanted to help attach some meaning to it for them since, it was in our reading selection for the week.  Don’t get all alarmed that I wasn’t respecting the proper division between church and state.  We were reading an Encyclopedia Brown excerpt.

After explaining the meaning of the word synagogue, one of my students blurted out in frustration, “Awwww!  I should have known that!  I learned that off Family Guy!”

Okay, maybe my definition was off…I’ve got to go back and check Websters.

Sigh.

Children are always learning and learning all the time.

Even in homes where television, radio and computer access are strictly controlled and monitored, children learn things that their parents are less than happy about.  Even though a parent might be diligent in monitoring the influences that children are exposed to, it is difficult to monitor the influences their friends are exposed to.

In spite of the very large influence that school, friends and media have on how children are influenced and what they learn, the home (generally) and parents (in particular) are the most influential factor in a child’s learning and development.

It is also often the case that what we intend to teach is not exactly what was learned.

Children are always learning and learning all the time.

What are you teaching?

Is this what they are learning?

How can one be sure?

I ask the questions simply because, if we are to be honest, our children learn far more from who we are than what we tell them.  Are they learning what we want them to learn? Better yet, are they learning what I want them to learn?

What’s Cooking & Other Kitchen Games

emeril1_t290 I’m pitching a reality TV show idea to Hollywood.  This show would feature any number of really excellent cooks (Rachel Ray, Paula Dean, and, ooh la la Emeril (Bam!) to name a few) who would come in to the studio kitchen and attempt to teach me how to cook. I would then attempt (keyword: attempt) to make the dish or the meal, right there on national television.  It’s a bit like Julie & Julia because, of course I would be attempting to imitate a great cook, but it would also combine elements of some other reality TV shows like Survivor.  The audience members getting drawn to sample the finished product (would they be the contestants or the judges?) would be the ones trying to survive, of course.  The name of this new reality TV show?  You guessed it, “How To Screw Up A Really Great Meal”.  I can hear it now.  The studio audience applauding, the cameras swing into action panning the audience, lights go up full, the musical score plays and the announcer’s voice belts out my cue to go onstage, “This is How To Screw Up A Really Great Meal with your host, The Wild Mind!”  The crowd goes wild, because they truly hope that this episode will be the one where I finally pull off an edible attempt.

Sigh.  One can dream.

fantasy cook off Hell’s Kitchen

Truth of the matter is, I’ve never been comfortable in the kitchen until recently.  Growing up in my home, for me, and learning to cook with a dad who was first, an excellent cook himself, and two, anal retentive about leveling off every single cup, tablespoon and teaspoon.  Now, that’s not such a bad thing, but something happened between my father and I in the kitchen every time he tried to teach me a recipe that led to him getting frustrated with me and me in tears about it…or angry.  My memory of the experience is a bit Hell’s Kitchen-esque.  The result?  I gave up trying to cook.  By the time I really needed to cook to feed a family, there was no way on God’s green earth I was going to ever measure up to my, then, husband’s mom’s cooking or my now deceased father’s ability to measure and scoop so succinctly, so again, you guessed it, I gave up and quit trying.  I mean, who really enjoys slaving away for a couple of hours after a long day at work only to be greeted with criticism.  Throw the poor cook a bone and at least affirm the effort. Those of you wonderful family members out there who suffer in silence and still muster the lie, “It was great honey!” and manage to choke it down anyway, are to be commended.  You will soon be dining like kings instead of ordering out take-out. Anyway, enough of my deplorable kitchen issues. 

Cooking isn’t rocket science

One thing my dad did tell me was any fool who can read can learn to cook.  In fact, his attitude was that if you can read you can teach yourself to do anything and by the time I left home for college he’d proven that theory on a number of things in his own life.  It was pretty amazing.  So, while our father-daughter bonding kitchen experiences are less than ideal, my dad set a pretty great example in a bunch of areas. Learning things you have no clue how to do was one of them.

So, with that example, and with the added incentive that my poor children are starving, I’ve decided to, finally in midlife, do something I’ve really always wanted to do, but have never really made a commitment to doing.  I’m finding that cooking is a lot more fun than I expected. 

j0426457Since being single, I’ve found out that there are also many, many men who are not only great handy men, but they are skilled in the kitchen as well.  This leads me to think that gaining some kitchen knowledge might be a lot more fun than I previously thought.  After all, there’s a lot of fun to be had using hot pads, an egg beater and real butter.  Accompanying the meal preparations with a fine bottle of wine is a nice touch.  Later in the evening the adventurous cooking couple can advance to serving each other cocktails such as Sex On The Beach or Screwdrivers.  But for those, who like me, are uncertain of themselves in this new domain, I’d like to suggest these simple steps to enjoying a wonderful culinary experience. This is a combination cooking experience for beginners and a party game.  It is a versatile recipe.  Feel free to experiment with your own combinations and techniques.  As you gain confidence and skill, I’m sure you, too, will be able to develop your own personal culinary style.  If you’re more adept at the culinary arts maybe you could leave a comment and share what variations on this recipe you’ve tried. 

Recipe For Kitchen Success

Ingredients:

2 nicely shaped ripe oranges, one ripe but not over-ripe banana, saucepan, oven with working heat controls, 1 very flavorful Kielbasa, seasonings.

Instructions:

Step One:  Carefully and slowly, peel the oranges

Step Two:  Gently squeeze the oranges

Step Three: Savor the oranges as you simmer over a low heat and season to taste.

Step 4:  Continue savoring and simmering while stirring occasionally.

Step 4:  While simmering the oranges over a gradually increasing heat, peel the banana

Step 5:  When the oranges, banana and oven are fully heated…

Step 6:  Play Hide The Kielbasa

Enjoy!