Photo by Ken Williams for The Concord Monitor
Just about the only similarity between the Fru Gals and mother tigers are the chin hairs.
We have even less in common with the Tiger Mothers detailed in that book that is scandalizing parents across America. Mothers are in a tizzy about the Chinese parenting style that creates math wizards with Ivy League degrees and perfect pitch. We’ve read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and our question is this: How can we write the next book that will make us rich and everyone else miserable?
For some reason—probably the chemicals leaching to our bottled water ( we read that book too) we American mothers love to feel horribly guilty about our choices and are happy to shell out twenty bucks to learn precisely what we are doing wrong. When the Fru Gals were pregnant those What to Expect books shamed us into eating brown rice and laying off the chips and ice cream during the only time in our lives it would have been socially acceptable to have a tummy. There we were interviewing pediatricians and looking up baby swing safety ratings in Consumer Reports as our mothers regaled us with tales of all the cigarettes they smoked and cocktails they tossed back while they were pregnant with us and restricted to gaining 10 pounds by their doctors. Come to think of it, this might explain why we didn’t make it to Harvard.
And now Amy Chua has detailed why another generation of Broadbents and Ellinwoods will only be in the stands of the Harvard/Yale football game if they are selling hotdogs. There have been other books that have irritated women over the past couple decade but we can’t remember one that irked as badly as this tiger mother thing. We will admit that Amy Chua seems to have succeeded in raising two daughters who towed the line and turned out okay but we’d like to see what would have happened if fate had given Amy a busy little boy or two. It’s hard to imagine getting three hours of piano practice out of a child who needs to be strapped into his chair in order to stay seated for a 15 minute family dinner.
In some ways, the things that Tiger Mothers ban actually make their lives easier. No play dates or sleepovers? How simple. What we wouldn’t give to get back the minutes we spent making homemade play dough and the hours we spent scraping it out of the rugs when the preschool set came over for the afternoon. And we probably wouldn’t look nearly as haggard if we had not allowed endless ‘tween slumber parties with giggly midnight fashion shows and 3 am pizza feasts. The simple truth is that if one is going to spend 5 hours a day monitoring piano practice and math worksheets, there is no time for anything else—no outings, no family dinners, no carpools--not even the one to Carnegie Hall. Apparently the key to success is sitting in the living room for hours on end plus yelling. The yelling part we get; it’s the sitting part that must be what smartens the kids right up. If yelling worked we wouldn’t be able to see out of the rear window of our cars, it would be so full of prestigious decals.
The one thing that we have learned over our 45 combined years of parenting is that nearly everything we are doing is wrong. But we don’t need a $25 book to tell us that, our kids are happy to let us know what isn’t working for them on a daily basis. Our mothers too. So far no one has made it to Harvard, but no one is an axe murderer either. We’ve never thrown a homemade birthday card back at anyone either—if looking forward to an “I love you Mom” scrawled in brown crayon on a folded sheet of notebook paper is wrong, then we don’t want to be right.
We might not spend hours drilling our kids on fractions and Bach’s concerto in D, but we do spend loads of time in the kitchen and we love to cook with our kids. And since it looks like jobs in food service might be all they are qualified to do after 20 years of western parenting, it’s probably a good thing that they learn their way around a recipe or two.
This one is easy for the 8-11 year old crowd. And here is one more thing we know: kids usually will eat food they help to prepare, and if the food is cute, so much the better. So make a big pan of these roll ups together, and pile up the parenting books to help them reach the counter.
Pepperoni Roll Ups
2 boxes no-bake lasagna noodles
2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
16 ounces part skim ricotta
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 4 ounce package sliced turkey pepperoni, sliced into thin shreds
4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
Lay the noodles in a deep roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to cover and set aside for 10 minutes to allow noodles to soften.
While noodles are soaking make the sauce and the filling.
Quick tomato sauce:
Stir together the crushed tomatoes, paste and salt in a large bowl. Taste and add more salt if needed. Pour about a half cup sauce into a 11X15 inch baking pan and set aside.
Pepperoni Noodle Filling
Stir together the ricotta, eggs, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, Parmesan, pepperoni and 2 cups of the mozzarella in a large bowl.
To assemble the roll ups:
Lay a clean dishtowel on the counter. Remove one noodle from the water and place it on the towel. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and mound it up at one short end of the noodle. Roll the noodle up and place it, seam side down, into the baking dish. Continue filling and rolling until all the noodles are used up or you run out of filling, or the pan is full. You should wind up with approximately 20 roll ups.