Anyone who has ever volunteered at school will appreciate the scene in my kitchen all day yesterday: Dozens of 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes and cannellini beans, enough chopped onions to kill a small animal, large, misshapen bags of frozen homemade chicken stock thawing in the sink, two 6-quart Dutch Ovens on the stovetop, and one lobster pot on the floor, ready to be filled with gallon after gallon of Smoky Tomato-White Bean Soup with Shrimp. (Recipe in Dinner: A Love Story btw.) I was cooking for a PTA fundraising event happening tonight, which, of course, will raise lots of money for my children’s school, help fatten up their brains, and generate enough feel-good energy to erase all memories of running back and forth to Stop & Shop, apron-under-jacket, three separate times in the course of four hours. (Large-scale cooking: Not my greatest talent!)
In spite of my whining, I derive a real comfort from afternoons like this — winter is still hanging on here in New York, so a marathon session of soup-making seemed just about right. As did a marathon session of podcasting. As I rendered my bacon, stirred my mirepoix, and emptied that last can of beans (back to the store again!) I had the opportunity to binge-listen to WYNC’s “Being 12” multimedia series, all about the year in kids’ lives when their brains and bodies are shifting, when their friendships become confusing, when they’re plugging into the digital world, when, in short, “everything changes.” Naturally, with one daughter who just finished her 12th year, and another about to turn 12, I found the series to be a treasure trove of resources, but even those of you not yet in the sweet spot will find it fascinating. Did you know that tweens account for 200 billion dollars of spending each year? Your spending, that is? (For easiest access, I recommend downloading the WNYC app, which is free.)
First up on your queue should be this: The interview with Jon Scieszka, founder of Guys Read and bestselling children’s book author (I just ordered his latest series for my nephew), who talks about getting adolescents — particularly boys — excited about reading. Incidentally, one of the things he recommends is taking advantage of the massive talents in the graphic novel world right now. If those are the kinds of books that your kid is drawn to, he says, don’t fight it. Anyone who has downloaded our 121 Books guide knows we’re big fans of the genre, and I’m always amazed when I hear readers, parents — and even once, my daughter’s teacher — dismiss graphic novels as junk or “not real books.” Our position on the matter has always been: If something has the power to excite a kid, to take him or her into another (unplugged) imaginary world for a little while, or introduce them to a topic, like Greek Mythology or the Islamic Revolution in Iran, that would otherwise seem dutiful or intimidating…Well, how can that be a bad thing? It’s nice to hear an author back us up on this.
Anyway, that’s my Friday spiel. Got a few pounds of shrimp to chop, so talk to you later.
Photo above taken from the Being 12 Tumblr page. Please read and listen to these kids talk about being 12. (Or just look at their adorable faces.) Here’s one of my favorite quotes: “We have this thing in our school called ‘fake friends.’ This is one way to tell between fake friends and real friends: Fake friends ask and knock on the door and be polite to your parents; real friends just barge in and say ‘give me food’ and call your parents mom and dad.” Kids are just the best.
P.S. Today is the deadline for the Saveur Blog Awards. Head over there to vote for your faves!