Cover image for Food and whine : confessions of an end of the millennium mom
Food and whine : confessions of an end of the millennium mom
Moses, Jennifer.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

Physical Description:
221 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PN6231.H74 M67 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Called the Erma Bombeck of the boomer generation, Moses captures the witty, down-home essence of motherhood today in a true-to-life story that reads like a novel.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

In times of stress we often turn to food for comfort. For mothers of young children, this can be a frequent occurrence. The year Moses gave birth to twins her mother was diagnosed with cancer and her husband decided to change careers. Needless to say, Moses did a lot of cooking that year. Gathering recipes, and advice, from family and friends helped her cope with her chaotic life. If you think this sounds boring or dreary, think again. Moses manages to find the humor in even the worst situation. Interspersed with her stories are the recipes shes gathered, but dont expect them to be traditional. Instead youll find Place chicken in pan, breast side up. Push hair back behind ears. Discover that hair is coated with disgusting white liquid slime. Serve with rice and salad, if you happen to have rice and salad. When husband looks at you funny, burst into tears. As the year gets better, the recipes become more coherent. Reminiscent of Debby Bulls Blue Jelly (Hyperion, 1997), Food and Whine lovingly illustrates the comfort we find in familiar foods and their preparation. A great first book by essayist Moses, who has been touted as the Erma Bombeck of the boomer generation; recommended for all libraries.Kathy Ingels Helmond, IndianapolisMarion Cty. P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter Five Cooking for Your Boyfriend Not long after our return from Philadelphia, I noticed that our car was seriously gross. I've personally always been offended by cars that smell of ancient spilled Yahoo and soiled diapers. So one day I went berserk and made my husband clean it, and after he'd cleaned it, we got into this big "discussion" about what a control freak I am and how, in addition, I'm way too old to still be blaming my parents for the fact that I haven't yet written my first, brilliant novel, the one that will prove, once and for all, blah blah blah blah blah, I'm boring even myself to death, plus which, why was I worrying about my career when my mother had this horrible disease that could kill her and was even now lying on the sofa surrounded by gossip magazines that she couldn't read because she was so sick that she could barely lift her head from the pillow? But then, around Valentine's Day, I managed to squeeze into my old "fat jeans." In my triumph, I began to feel more hopeful. Maybe, I thought, Mom will get through this. And maybe, I thought, I won't be nothing more than an extension of my children's needs...and maybe they won't all require massive doses of psychiatric intervention at some point later in life in order to recover from having had such a bad mother. Indeed, despite efforts to the contrary, I had yet to inflict complete psychic damage on Sam. Nor had I done anything really terrible to my twins, such as drop them on their heads in the bathtub. I was in such a good mood after I squeezed back into my "fat jeans" that when I happened to run into an old boyfriend, I decided to invite him over for dinner. After all, my mother, who loved to entertain, was always doing things like that. As she always put it, "It's no big deal." Except, for me, it was a big deal. First off, this was a boyfriend whom my husband didn't even know I had had, which opened up a whole long inquiry that I'm not going to go into right now, because my husband still didn't know that, when I was single, I was so flirtatious that it's a miracle I didn't end up dead in some incredibly seedy apartment in Staten Island. Second, this boyfriend -- whom I had dated for a few minutes during those heady days when I was starting out my brilliant literary career as an assistant at Mademoiselle, where my duties mainly included typing up articles about orgasms -- had witnessed certain embarrassing moments of mine that no one else, including my various shrinks, knew about and which I'm not going to go into right now. And it turned out that after all these years during which I assumed he was still living in New York because that's what the ex-friend of mine who had originally introduced me to him had told me before he became my ex-friend, he (my boyfriend) was in fact not living in New York, but rather, living just a couple of miles down the road from me in Washington, in the same lawyer-dominated neighborhood that my brother lived in. And, and this is where it gets really gross, in this small-world, inside-the-Beltway way, my boyfriend, it turned out, had for five years been working shoulder to shoulder with my father. Which meant that my boyfriend knew all about me, except that he couldn't, really, because my father, for whom he had been doing all kinds of dreary shit work, rarely talks, except on occasion to say: "But if I marry you, sweetie, we'll have to throw Mommy out." Creepier still was the fact that if he did in fact know all about me, and was still friends with my ex-friend who had originally introduced me to my boyfriend, then my ex-friend knew all about me too. And this is the kind of ex-friend who definitely shouldn't be on the receiving end of any such gossipy tidbits about you as: "Did you hear about Jennifer? Not that there's any news, because, after all, she 'retired' from her so-called career doing whatever it was she was doing, and is now staying home with the kids, whining." No, you do not want your ex-friend to know this about you. Especially if your ex-friend happens to be the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company and is in the midst of decorating a beach house. Yes. Well. Whew. I'm glad I got that off my chest. Because now I'm ready to describe the meal I made. After consulting my two former college roommates, my across-the-street neighbor who hangs out with my shrink, my shrink, my son Sam's best friend, Nicholas, Nicholas's mom, Karen, my next-door neighbor Janet, Janet's nanny, and my husband, I decided to call my boyfriend and invite him to dinner after all. Because it turned out that my boyfriend was himself married and the father of a little boy, plus which his wife had a second bun in her oven, chances were that he wasn't going to say anything embarrassing at the dinner table about me, the kind of thing it makes me cringe just to think about. So it was in a spirit of yuppie one-upmanship that I finally issued an invitation to dinner at my house. Let me explain. Life is a competition. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. I learned this at the parental knee. Have I mentioned that my family was somewhat competitive? Indeed, I come from the type of family where we children knew what was expected of us. And what was expected of us was that we all go to either Harvard or Yale, like our smart cousins in Boston. Fortunately, my parents were realists, and they recognized early on that I was blessed with strengths other than academic ones, such as, in my case, having good hair. And yes! I might not have gone to Harvard, or even to a lesser branch of Harvard, but to this day I not only have good hair, the kind of hair that hairdressers coo over, but also, I have the BEST hair in my ENTIRE family! So put that in your pipe and smoke it, why don't you? My boyfriend, however, had gone to both an Ivy League college and an Ivy League law school, not to mention that he was now working for the same major league law firm that had put me and my three siblings through college, making him, arguably, a more "successful" person than I was. His wife, too, had hoity-toity credentials. I was panicked. I still had one card left, though. I mean, besides the fact that despite the fact that I had collected zillions of rejection slips from literary magazines all over America, I had decided not to jump off a bridge. To wit: I still had Mom. She may have been sick, but she wasn't dead. On my next visit, I asked her what I should make for dinner. Between trips to the toilet, she gave me her recipes for: Chicken with Artichokes and Onions Baked in Clay and: Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage. And this is why my mother is really cool. Even though she was so nauseated that she could barely stomach ginger ale, she went into great detail over the recipes and finally insisted that I take her entire recipe box, because, in her own words, "When, if ever, am I going to need it again? And God knows your father can't cook worth a damn." As I drove back home with my mother's precious recipe box beside me, I decided to round out the menu with noodles, green salad in a simple mustard vinaigrette, and wine. For dessert, I'd do something sinfully simple. Something luscious yet easy. Something, in other words, that you can buy. Strawberry sorbet smothered in fresh strawberries. "I'm looking forward to your coming," I said to my boyfriend on the phone. But after I hung up, I wondered: Did I make an inadvertent but terrible pun of sexual innuendo? What had he and I talked about, so many years ago? In addition to my mother's fabulous recipes, I had one other winning credential. I had produced TWO -- count them, TWO -- children in one pregnancy. In my neighborhood, where everything was up for grabs in terms of yuppie oneupsman- or -women-ship, this counts. To be sure, the pregnancy had been a completely wretched experience, marked by nausea, stretch marks, back pain, hemorrhoids, and all the rest of it. True, for a while my husband had referred to me affectionately as "my little gas main." But that was then, and this was now, and I was back in my "fat jeans," and no one, least of all my boyfriend, could stop me. "They're coming, I mean arriving, around seven-thirty," I told my husband. "They're bringing their kid. Be home on time, or I'll kill you." I had to have a game plan (all the cooking magazines tell you so) because you don't want to have to do everything at the last minute and discover, a few minutes before your little dinner party is supposed to start, that you forgot to go grocery shopping. Check this out: A full day before the event, I went to my neighborhood Safeway, and I even managed to take a list of ingredients with me, so as not to forget, for example, the chicken. Then, on the morning of our fête, while Sam was at school, I made my mother's wonderful sweet-and-sour red cabbage. My Mother's Wonderful Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage (aka: Glutinous Cabbage) Ingredients: margarine or butter, red cabbage, white vinegar, brown sugar, apples, flour. In a large skillet, melt some margarine or butter. Chop up a bunch of red cabbage, and, while you're at it, chop up some apples. Add cabbage and apples to skillet. Then add some water. Cover and simmer on low until cabbage is wilted. Trip over daughter, as she attempts to "combat crawl" across your incredibly filthy floor. Watch with horror as she gasps for breath. Wonder whether you should call your pediatrician, and if so, what do you tell her? "I kicked my daughter in the face?" Decide that pediatrician is sick of hearing from you, and that if your daughter actually begins to convulse, you'll do something. In the meantime, isn't it odd that you're so set on having your ex-boyfriend over for dinner? Are you going to turn out to be one of those awful old women who live continuously in the past, recounting, like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, the glory days of your youth? Or was that some other character, some other play? Great. You can't even keep your major literary events straight any more. A sign of early Alzheimer's? And why is it that for the past decade or so you've been dreaming about doing the do with an elementary school classmate of yours who was so superior that he wouldn't even talk to you? Maybe you really don't love your husband. Maybe you rushed into things, after all. Maybe when your husband gets home you'll tell him about your bizarre recurring dream and share your concerns with him. Then the two of you can go into couples therapy, and get a divorce. Answer phone. It's your husband, calling to "talk something over with you." Uh-oh. Have you been talking in your sleep? But he isn't calling to confront you about your odd little fantasy life, but rather, to tell you that, with your permission, he's sending his resumê to every decent law school in the country, including to places that you can't even locate on a map, like Alabama. Sigh. While he talks, take a little trip down memory lane, and while you're at it, ask yourself the following question: Why on earth didn't you see it coming when, during his law school days, he confided to you that his real dream was not to make a pile of dough as a partner at some prestigious law firm but, rather, to get a teaching job? And how would you respond? You'd nod and smile. All that love, obviously, had made you stupid. He'd meant it when he'd said he didn't really care about money, moron! He's never really wanted to spend his life inside an expensive gray suit. And now he's gone ahead and done up his resumé. He's even writing complicated legal articles with lots of footnotes and references, in a language that is and yet is not standard English. Shit. How much do law professors make? Not to worry, not with all the cash you're pulling in as a writer of short stories that never get published. Say: Uh-huh, uh-huh. When he's done, tell him that you understand that he doesn't want to be a lawyer anymore, but all in all, you'd prefer it if his next job was in Washington. Why? Because it took you almost five years to make friends here, you're only now beginning to feel as if you're no longer in quarantine, and you'll be damned if you're going to start all over again. Say: At my age. Say: I know, I know. Say: But there are zillions of law schools right here. Say: I'll go anywhere except the South. When cabbage is sufficiently wilted, add a little vinegar, then a little brown sugar, then a little vinegar, and so on, until it tastes right. Add a tad of flour, to thicken. Notice white slime on floor: Clean it. Notice white slime in hair: Begin to cry. Why do you still cry so much? Perhaps it's time to go back into psychoanalysis. Simmer, on low, for hours and hours, making sure that cabbage doesn't congeal into little clumps of purple glue. Add salt and pepper. Serve warm. So like I said, I made the cabbage, and it was yummy-good. My boyfriend ended up having two helpings. When he and his wife and kid came, I mean arrived, at our house, around seven-thirty, Sam was practicing his Power Ranger karate moves in the living room, and our twins were bathed and newly diapered and wearing their "bunny suits" (zip-up pj's with feet). My boyfriend's pregnant wife came bearing gifts -- board books for the twins and a puzzle for Sam. My boyfriend's two-year-old son smiled and said: "Pleased to meet you." Then we all sat around making nervous small talk, mainly about how hard it is to make partner, even though my husband had come to recognize that he would probably never make partner, but only because he'd decided that, all things considered, he wanted to see what his children looked like awake. But at least dinner was well under way. Because in addition to the red cabbage, which was simmering aromatically on the stove top, the chicken and the other stuff was underway. As was the table, which I'd set with the "good" china that had been a wedding gift from some clients of my father. It was just like my mother's old dinner parties -- grown-up dinner parties: The table was pretty, the kids were clean, there was food and wine, and the only thing people were talking about had to do with practicing law. Except of course at my mother's dinner parties, the entrée was cooked. In a minute I will get to the recipe for the chicken with artichokes and mushrooms baked in clay that I've since made a thousand times, and, trust me, it is seriously delish. But for right now, a word or two on cooking in clay. For some reason that I can't fathom, the prospect of cooking in a clay cooker intimidates a lot of otherwise excellent and adventurous cooks. And it shouldn't, because it's easy. The trick with a clay cooker is that you immerse the whole thing in cold water for fifteen or twenty minutes before you stick your ingredients in it. That way the clay itself soaks up the water, and then, during cooking, slowly releases its moisture into whatever is inside. Thus, you practically ensure that your chicken or lamb chops or brisket or whatever is moist and juicy. After you've arranged all your ingredients inside your presoaked cooker, you place the cooker in a cold oven, and then set the temperature, usually to around 425 degrees. If you don't start with a cold oven, the clay can freak out, withholding its moisture and voting Republican in the local elections. My mistake, then, was not that I forgot this small but vital step, nor was it that I forgot to turn the oven on, nor was it that I blew up the oven, as I almost had in December. My mistake was that I forgot that a week or so earlier, the Sears repair man was making his bimonthly visit to my kitchen, this time to "fix" the "lock" on my oven door that had become permanently locked. He kept fiddling with the on-off and lock-unlock mechanism until, at last, he was able to charge me ninety-three dollars and forty-two cents for the following advice: "I suggest that you be more careful in the future." He had, however, unlocked the lock, and while he was at it, he'd mistakenly taken the nobby-thing off the oven's control panel. He did, however, put it back. How was I to know that he put it back upside down? So that when I went to set the oven on 425 degrees, I was really setting it on Clean? What an incredibly dumb chick, you're saying. No wonder she didn't get into Harvaard. She probably can't even spell Harvaard. Why didn't she check to make sure that her chicken was cooking properly? Well, you see, what happened was that, after I composed my chicken and put it in my cooker and placed the cooker in the cold oven, which I then set on Clean, Sam went outside to see if it was snowing yet and, within seconds, disappeared. Okay, I thought. Let's be sensible. He's either (a) lost, (b) lying in the middle of the road, a victim of a hit-and-run accident, or (c) kidnapped by those two men who drove up a few minutes ago in what seemed to be a plumber's truck but is actually a specially designed kidnapping-mobile. By the time I'd found him (he was next door at Janet's, shnorring cookies) and made sure that he understood that if he ever disappeared again without telling me where he was going I would have to send him back to the orphanage, it was time to feed all three of them, give them their baths, and put them in their bunny suits. In the meantime, the glutinous cabbage was giving off such a pungent and yummy odor that who could tell that the chicken was being zapped by cancer-inducing, oven-cleaning rays? Here's the chicken-and-artichoke recipe: Soak clay cooker. Place minced garlic, chopped-up onions, mushrooms, and whatever else might taste good (like carrots or apples) in the bottom of the cooker. Coat pieces of chicken with a flour-and-paprika mixture. Place chicken and canned artichoke hearts in cooker. Pour in some chicken broth and some sherry or wine. Place in cold oven. Then set oven at 425 degrees. Cook until done, about, in my case, never. "Fuck," I said when I discovered my mistake. Then, seeing as I may have caused a slight ripple of embarrassment to my guests, I said: "I don't mean that literally." This, of course, made things worse, and I went around the rest of the evening wondering if I had said, "I don't mean that literally," or "I don't mean that clitorally." What had my boyfriend and I talked about so many years ago? I did my best to clear up the confusion by explaining, calmly, that the chicken wasn't cooked. I had, however, managed to make the glutinous cabbage, the noodles, and the salad. (The trick to a good salad, besides fresh greens, is in the dressing. Here's a really yummy recipe that my friend Jane gave me: vegetable oil, regular old white vinegar, salt, pepper, Dijon-style mustard, and crumbled blue cheese. Fiddle with it until you get the proportions right.) My husband, God bless him, had brought good, fresh, crusty bread, from the upscale bread store down the street -- the kind of store that also sells twenty-dollar jars of mushed-up imported black stuff in olive oil. "Come on into the dining room," I said. Then I said: "I mean: It's time for dinner. Why don't you enter the dining room?" Then I said: "Sorry." My husband, who usually has an office tan, was growing pink, and my boyfriend's wife was looking at me as if I had invited her over for dinner, only to forget to cook the chicken and then say a lot of stupid and incomprehensible things. And the whole time I was thinking about whether it would be ethical to ask my father if he could threaten to hold up partnership if my boyfriend should so much as breathe a word about me to my ex-friend? We had plenty of wine, thank God. And in an effort to soothe over any discomfort, I decided to talk nonstop about anything that crossed my mind. Of course, my boyfriend's wife, who was about to have her second child, wasn't drinking, which was a shame, because she didn't seem to realize how completely hilarious all my little stories were, especially the one about how, years earlier, when my boyfriend called me this one time, I, in my nervousness, answered that I'd been waiting "breastlessly." Come to think of it, I mean, now that I'm thinking of it, my boyfriend didn't seem to think this story was very funny either. My husband was the color of the cabernet sauvignon. Total silence reigned. Then we heard a loud thump followed by a piercing shriek from upstairs, where we had sent the two boys (my boyfriend's two-year-old in the care of Sam) to watch the Sesame Street Hanukkah video. We all ran up the stairs, where my boyfriend's son was lying on the floor with a bloody nose, and Sam was sitting on the sofa, with a little smirk on his face. "I had to teach him a lesson," he explained. Then he turned to my boyfriend's wife and asked: "Do you have a vagina?" But the evening was not over yet, and I must report that my boyfriend and my boyfriend's wife remained calm and pleasant. We quieted the boys, checked on the twins, and went back to the dining room for dessert. Ah, yes. Strawberry sorbet with fresh strawberries. And these were really good, really fresh, really plump and juicy strawberries that I'd paid several thousand dollars for, at a new upscale gourmet natural food store near my house. "Bottoms up," I said, lifting my glass and indicating the bowls of sorbet and strawberries before us. Then I realized that once again, I may have made an unintended sexual pun, and said: "Sweet and juicy, just the way I like it." At the time, it seemed like hours elapsed before my boyfriend and his family were gone. And while I can't deny that my husband and I got into a little tiff, and then stopped talking altogether, in retrospect, I'd say that the evening went fairly well. By the time my husband and I had cleaned up the dishes and gone upstairs, Sam had passed out on the sofa, and all we had to do was carry him, in his Aladdin pajamas, to bed. Rose and Jonathan were sleeping soundly. By the next afternoon, my husband and I were talking again, and I knew that no old boyfriend of mine could ever come between us. Copyright © 1999 Jennifer Moses. All rights reserved.

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