Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cream of sardines mushrooms... & the art of being humbled




There are humbling experiences in life. Seeing the Grand Canyon. Admitting life has gotten the best of us and asking for help. Witnessing true brilliance.

And then, there’s taking a toddler to the snow for the first time.

There’s parenthood, really. 

I apologize for being away from this space for the past week, and hope with all my heart it won’t happen again. Being back here feels a bit like coming home. And it’s good to be here.

After overbooking myself with a huge work project that chained me to my desk from morning to night, I was so excited to leave for 3 days of winter wonderland. Being a southern Californian for the past 15 years, cold weather has become this sort of romantic fantasy of snow angels, warm fires, hot cocoa, snowball fights and giggles on the slopes. And lovely hearty meals, of course.

I have shared before my struggles with expectations and perfect pictures in my head, and the challenges I face when those expectations and perfect pictures get confronted with reality.

So along with the lovely fires and cocoas and snow play and yummy cheesy potato dishes we did gratefully enjoy, there was a fair amount of backbreaking, sliding, snowing, chain-installing, frustrating (anyone has a tutorial on how to put snow gloves on a 21 months old who isn’t sure what his thumb is?) moments...

I’m sure I’m giving a good laugh to people in most of the world who are very familiar with kids in cold weather. Part of me was laughing at me too, as I was actually breaking into a sweat just putting Pablo in his snowsuit. And by the time I actually had him covered from head to toe and he could barely move, he was getting cranky and in no mood to try skiing. You get the idea...

Half-way through the weekend, I remembered the first day at the zoo.

When Pablo was probably about 8 months, I took him to the zoo for the first time. We were meeting a few other moms. I had planned everything just right, and was ready for that perfect photo in front of the elephants, and giggles at the monkeys. Long story short, a few long lines, missed meet-ups, naps and diaper changes later, we ended up seeing a couple of pink flamingos and a couple of parrots. And it was over.

Finding a way to be happy and thankful for that day, was hard. Letting go was hard.

And those couple of days in the mountains were an intense exercise in adapting to what the situation was throwing at me and making the best of it, keeping in mind what was important (i.e. having a nice time together as a family), while quickly mourning whatever expectations I didn’t even know I had. I guess it could be called rolling with the punches.

This is such an essential skill I am in the process of honing and which I have sorely lacked in the past. My 21 months old son is teaching me this. I am humbled by him too, every day.

So yes, parenthood is humbling, in so many ways. What have you found humbling in your life?


Now for a not-so-smooth segue, here’s a recipe for one of those nights you might need to roll with the punches.

We love canned sardines, they are healthy, delicious, easy. I introduced them to Pablo around 8 months. They make a nice finger food. And on those busy hectic nights, simply popping a can open can be a saving grace. I often serve them just plain with a vegetable and rice or quinoa. A few months ago, I had also shared a sardine eggplant brandade recipe which we always enjoy.



When in France last summer, I came across a small recipe book with nothing but recipes using canned sardines. I’m finally sharing this yummy and easy little recipe from it. Its presentation is playful for kids, they can even help spooning the stuffing in the mushroom "hats". And they make an awesome appetizer or lunch for grownups too. I hope you enjoy it.



Mushrooms stuffed with cream of sardines

Adapted from "Sardines en boîte, les 30 recettes cultes" by Garlone Bardel
Age for babies: 8-10 months
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 25 min

4 Portobello mushrooms (or 12 white mushrooms)
1 can of sardines in olive oil, drained and fork-mashed
A handful of chives, chopped
1/2 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup of ricotta
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven at 350°F.
Rinse the mushrooms in running water, dry them, cut the stems off. Set aside.
Chop the mushroom stems finely.
In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan, sardines, chopped mushroom stems, chives, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon the mixture in the mushroom caps.
Place the mushroom caps on parchment paper on a baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes.
Serve warm. We served it with a mâche pea shoots goat cheese salad.
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12 comments:

  1. I loved the story in this post, Helene, and picture you and Pablo experiencing snow (and snowsuiting-up) together. : ) So much of parenthood terrifies me, probably because I know it's going to regularly show me how much I have to learn. I love the way you do it with grace here.

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    1. Thanks so much, Shanna... As terrifying as it is, I have no doubt you will know how to derive great joy and learning and growth from parenthood when you are ready :-) It's not always graceful, but it is incredibly fulfilling.

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  2. I felt so identified with the story in this post , you just put into words what i have been experiencing with Manu too,which might be the biggest learning of all; lower expectations, adapt to what the moment brings with grace and humor , but most importantly never forget to enjoy and be thankful for these wonderful lives we are watching grow, as one day we will miss these times !! huge hug to you and pablo

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    1. You say it very well, Carolina! Hugs to you and Manu as well!

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  3. Looks yummy! So glad you could enjoy the snow. I grew up in a snowy climate, but it didn't take long at all for me to decide that I didn't miss it in CA! I was made for warmer weather.

    I've been wanting to ask you...In our eating process, I'm never sure if I'm proceeding correctly when my toddler decides he won't eat something or that he is done after only a little bit. Do I offer the next course (and particularly dessert) if he tasted the new food but wouldn't eat it, or if he just doesn't eat very much of the meal? I don't want to starve him, but I don't want him to learn that it's okay to eat one bite of this and two bites of that and call it good. Does that makes sense?

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    1. Hi Jodi! My way of dealing with this has been based on knowing (and reminding myself) that generally, babies and toddlers do not starve themselves. If they're hungry, they will eat. Pablo being at a healthy weight, if he doesn't eat that much at one meal, I know he'll make up for it at the next meal. I offer the first course (usually a couple of things, say a few cherry tomatoes and grated carrots), let him eat what he wants of it. If I introduce a new food, I let him take the lead, if he just wants a taste and no more, fine, I let it go and will offer again soon. Same idea with the main course, I offer a reasonable quantity of say a meat or fish, veggie and grain, and let him eat what he wants of it. Since we never emphasized dessert all that much, and dessert anyway is a piece of fruit or yogurt (plain at night), he's often way more excited about meat or ham or salami or radish or cheese than dessert... But if he tries to cut dinner short, I try to avoid the power struggle, confirm with him that yes, he's done eating. Then say ok and take him off the high chair. And we go on with our meal. He'll often come back to try to get a piece of cheese. Sometimes, we give in... but most often, I say, if you're still hungry, you can come back on the high chair and eat whatever's left of his dinner or cheese or yogurt/fruit, and he usually does. If he acts as if he's done after only a little bit, I try to "pitch" to him the next course, how good it's going to be, tell him what it is, how we cooked it, just to get him engaged and excited. It usually works and he gives the main course a try. By cheese and dessert time, up to him to decide if he's still hungry or not. I do gently insist on him at least trying a dish, making him laugh, telling him it might "tickle his tastebuds", so he usually humours me and gives it a taste. But I don't jump courses. So if he tells me he's done eating mid-first course, I offer the main course, but I don't jump to cheese or dessert at that point. If he says he's done eating, I say ok, we're done eating then. If he cries asking for cheese at that point, I would say, "No, it's not cheese time yet. If you are still hungry, you can have your choice of XX and XX (what's left of his first course, or main course).
      Sorry for the long answer, I hope it answers some of your question! Let me know how it goes!

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  4. Thanks! I will try to remember your suggestions next time around:)

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    1. Hi Jodi, one more thing came to mind, which is that I quantify the first course so that Pablo is still hungry for the 2nd course. In a 4 course meal, the portions are such that you still have room for the next course. The portions you offer, is something you figure out with trial and error. Just thought I'd throw that aspect into the mix too :-)

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  5. though I'm not a mum, I feel the same when it comes to things just not going the right way, sometimes i really struggle to find the best in a situation that's glaringly miserable, but I'm learning how to just deal with it. also, love the use of sardines, that cookbook sounds like a brilliant one! I use canned sardinesquite a lot when I'm on a tight budget o r haven;t got time to defrost things in the freezer, absolute lifesaver and so delicious! x

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    1. Hey Shu Han, good for you for learning this lesson now, I certainly wish I had. Hindsight always kills me. Anyway, as long as canned sardines make the world a better place... ;-)

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  6. Helene! I'm so excited to try this recipe when we get home! We've made a commitment to incorporating small fish into our diet, and this looks like a great place to start! My most humbling experience (so far) has been travelling to Peru with my 7 month old to introduce her to my husband's side of the family. We had just started getting her into a routine and the first three days in Lima were total chaos, I especially struggled with the expectation (of myself, of course) that as her mother, I be able to get her to sleep for her usual naps and bedtime. This, with relatives arriving at all hours, a sleeping area for her that was not too isolated from the main living areas of the house, and construction on the floor above. By the end, though, she was sleeping through concrete drills and marble cutters, jackhammers and noisy Latin American relatives in a Pack and Play or a stroller. I am incredibly grateful to my mother in law for putting her down for her naps. Although it was hard at first to let someone else put her down when I felt I should be able to, I was able to relax so much more knowing that other people were invested in her sleep and could provide relief.

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    1. Hi there, thanks so much for sharing your experience. Traveling with young children and babies is most certainly a very humbling experience, I can relate to that! Sounds like you made the best of it :-) Safe travels, and let me know how you like the recipe if you make it.

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