Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 8, 2009

Foodie With Family: Children are literal


Following hot on the heels of birthday season for us (October-January) is my annual hair-shirt penitent moment. It is the same thing year after year and you would think I'd learn my lesson. Every single year, I schedule all the kids' appointments to happen at the same time in the name of multitasking. I tell myself that it's a good use of time and energy to get them all out of the way at once. I pat myself on the back for using less gas by only making the 1&1/2-hour round trip trek once.

And every single year, I regret my decision moments after hauling into the pediatrician's office and trying to keep the baby from licking the door handle in what is always the middle of flu season. I bemoan my stubborn optimism while explaining to Ty that the lobby is not the appropriate place to sumo wrestle an unwilling brother. I kick myself while helping Leif redress himself for the fourth time as we're waiting to be called back into an exam room and telling him, "Honey. When they said 'get comfortable' they didn't mean you needed to be naked out here." I ask Liam and Aidan, through my firmly clenched teeth, to "please save their discussions about whether intestinal gas or our dog smells worse for home. Where no one can hear them." I remember the year that I ended up on my knees in the doctor's public restroom trying to mop up a puddle around a cup on the floor. And I invariably make a mental note to spread the appointments out over a couple days next year. Then I promptly forget my resolution in the chaos that follows.

Up first this year was Ty. You may recall Ty's last go-round when he tried to "give a sample" by aiming for a cup set on the floor in the general vicinity of the toilet. Ty, having turned 7, got to do his first ever old-fashioned eye exam. He stood at the end of a hall covering his eye with a large, black spoon-type paddle. The nurse pointed to the second row from the bottom on the eye chart.

"Ty, can you read this line to me?" she asked. Ty's uncovered eye got very big, he shook his head and said, "Um, no. I can't at all." She asked, "Can you see anything on the chart?" Ty nodded. "Oh sure!" The nurse looked at me, then back at Ty and repeated, "Can you read something off the chart to me?" Ty again shook his head and said, "No way!" Inside, I panicked. Was it possible my baby couldn't see?

I kneeled down and said, "Ty sweetie. Can you at least give it a try?" He nodded seriously, turned back toward the chart, narrowed the uncovered eye and concentrated hard. After a couple seconds, Ty haltingly said, "Fizzeruhtadoy". F-Z-E-R-U-T-A-D-O-E. The poor child thought he had to read the chart. As the nurse turned purple while trying not to laugh out loud, I considered how impressed I was that he had not only seen all the letters, but had given reading that nonsense a good try. When the nurse recovered her composure, she told him his vision was 20/25 and moved on to his weight.

After making it through the rest of the appointment without too much incident we did what all good country folk do when they go to town. We made a few more stops before turning around for home. At our third stop, a crowded grocery store, the kids were starting to wear a bit thin. Tempers and appetites were flaring when Aidan started yanking on my sleeve and badgering me in his bionic whisper, "Mama, I need a drink. Mama I'm so thirsty. Mama. Mama! I'm not joking. I really need a drink. My throatal flap is itchy!" That was more than Liam's tired sensibilities could take. He wheeled on his heel and drew the attention of anyone who wasn't already tittering about throatal flaps by yelling, "UVULA, Aidan! It's called a UVULA!" I had no words. We eventually made it through the checkout and back to the van. I have never in my life been so happy to see seatbelts. Hallelujah, they were strapped into something and I could take a breath.

My children are very literal creatures. Abstract is not their thing. And the more tired they get the more literal they become. Somehow, though, they give me a pass on the name of the first recipe. I guess they just like it enough.

Eggs in Baskets

Scale this recipe up as needed. Around these parts, that means I prepare nearly 20 eggs per meal. My chickens work hard.

Ingredients per person:

2 eggs

2 slices fresh bread


Shredded cheese (You can use Cheddar, Swiss, Muenster, smoked Gouda, whatever flicks your Bic.)

Chopped ham or crispy bacon, optional

Thinly sliced green onions, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Butter each slice of bread and squeeze into the ramekin or muffin tin, buttered side down. Press bread against sides of dish to push crust above the rim and make enough room for the egg.

Sprinkle about 1 T. of shredded cheese into each bread-lined dish. Top with 1-2 T. chopped ham or bacon, if using.

Break one egg into each ramekin and sprinkle evenly with about 1 additional T. shredded cheese.

Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper and any other desired seasonings. Bake 15 to 25 minutes, till cheese is browned and eggs are cooked to desired consistency. If you prefer runny yolks, pull the eggs from the oven closer to 15 minutes. If you prefer medium yolks remove at about 20 minutes. If you like yolks that are firm the entire way through, cook closer to the 25-minute mark.

Remove toast cups from the dishes and serve. (These can also be served in the ramekins if they were cooked in them, but can pose a burning hazard for small hands. Use your discretion.) Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

And just in case your throatal flap needs wetting, try this on for size. Hot Lemon Shrub is a Napoleonic era hot toddy. If you don't drink alcohol, you can still give this a whirl by substituting equal amounts of water for the rum and adding 2 t. rum extract.

Hot Lemon Shrub

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice

3/4 c. sugar

2 c. rum

Combine all ingredients, stir well, bottle and set aside in a cool place. It will be ready to drink after about a week.

To serve, mix 2-3 parts boiling water to 1 part Shrub.

-- From "Lobscouse & Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels"

I've heard it said that Hot Lemon Shrub is quite refreshing served chilled and diluted with cold seltzer water instead of boiling water.

For pictures and step-by-step photo tutorials for these and other recipes, visit