Overly Astute Four-Year-Old Expresses Skepticism Over Mother’s Explanation of Chlorophyll


So we were driving along, chatting about poop or, more specifically, what can make poop green. (Don’t you love a story that starts that way?)

Alarmed earlier in the day, I had consulted the internet and among the short list of perpetrators are excess bile, food coloring, and green veggies. I decided it was the food coloring in the sprinkles on the cut-out cookies Mbot had helped make after breakfast.  Mbot decided he had eaten too much broccoli, which he likes to eat but tends to whine about while it’s cooking because of the odor. He decided that food coloring makes broccoli green.

No, I explained. Something called chlorophyll makes broccoli and other plants green. “Chlorophyll can turn sunshine into nutrients,” I said brightly. “It’s kind of like magic. So when we eat broccoli, we’re really eating sunshine!”

Mbot paused, then asked in a voice that betrayed his suspicion: “You mean when I smelled broccoli, I really smelled sun?”

“Kind of!” I chirped.

At least he didn’t make the next connection, which would be: if broccoli smells like sun, and broccoli turns into green poop, then does sun smell like poop?

It’s a question for another day.

No-Fail, Kid-Pleaser Spinach: Popeye’s Pancakes

The secret ingredient: baby spinach

Readers know that I’m not generally one to hand out recipes. There’s always someone out there who knows more or figured it out more scientifically.

But I find that I’m becoming, quite to my surprise, a pancake expert. I add things to pancakes: Bananas. Applesauce. Carrots. Zucchini. Yams. Wheatgerm. Flaxseed. Ground oats. Ground almonds. I think only one experiment was an unredeemable disaster but I can’t remember which one. Although, in an uncharacteristic turn of discipline and documentation, I usually write down the recipes while the bots are making them disappear, and I usually write them down accurately.

This morning, faced with half a sixteen-ounce container of spinach from last week’s Costco run (do you KNOW how much a pound of spinach is? It’s roughly a billion servings. More when I’m the only one eating it. Eating it alone was not the plan), I decided that I would no longer eat my spinach alone.

So I got out my trusty Joy of Cooking, the one with fifteen different variations scribbled on the “pancakes” page. If I had been in charge of naming this book,  it would be called The Necessity of Cooking: Striving for Gratification. As I’ve mentioned (see Muffins McBot, Or, You’re Stepping On My Habit), I enjoy baking much more; it’s zennish, except when it’s punctuated with battle cries and calls for Dora bandaids.

Pancakes fall somewhere between cooking and baking. They’re cakes, but they’re cooked in a pan. What makes them a good target for slipping in nutritious, vitamin-filled ingredients the bots have shunned in other contexts is simple: sugar. I add honey–preferably local honey, because it’s supposed to help with allergies. Makes sense to me. Then I dab them with Vermont maple syrup. Which isn’t supposed to help with any allergies but really, who cares?

Even A.A. Milne wrote a poem about eating peas with honey. If he’d thought of it, I’m sure there would be a follow-up  verse about spinach with chocolate.

Popeye’s Pancakes

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • About 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach (or 1/3 cup frozen), cooked & pureed (as my nut grinder has coffee beans in it and my food processor is too big, I just used a pizza cutter to slice-‘n’-dice the hell out of it).
  • 2-3 T honey (or brown sugar)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (these proportions can be varied)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • a few dashes cinnamon
  • a handful of chocolate chips

Stir together the liquid ingredients, stir in the dry ingredients. Heat griddle on medium-low with a tiny bit of butter on it. Ladle the batter on, then drop 4 or 5 chocolate chips onto each pancake. When bubbly, flip and cook for another minute.

These don’t even need any syrup. Gbot’s review: “I yuv dese pan-cakes.”

After breakfast, I pile the leftovers into stacks of four and freeze. They reheat fabulously in the microwave. And leftovers are my new favorite food. Look ma, no cooking!

Muffins McBot (Or, You’re Stepping on My Habit)

I’ve been baking with the weeBots since Mbot was old enough to hold a spoon. I set both Bots in chairs in the middle of the kitchen, hand them plastic bowls and spoons, and let them take part in the real deal at every opportunity. They cracked eggs, they stirred, they cut out cookies (kind of) and sprinkled sprinkles. I didn’t solicit their participation because I’m Mommy Martha Stewart. I theorized that, while they were helping me, they couldn’t get into trouble. It was a sound theory, like trickle-down economics seemed to be, back before everyone realized the gap between the upper and lower classes was growing exponentially.

There is no mention of adding it to muffins. (www.futuremediadevelopment.com)

One morning last week, we were all mixing together banana oat bran muffins. Half way through, I reached into the fridge for the yogurt.

Twenty seconds later, I turned around. Mbot was standing at the counter, squeezing an upturned bottle of Hershey’s syrup that had only moments before been in the door of the fridge (at Bot level, my mistake) into the bowl. He was not tall enough to see if anything was coming out. (It was. Fast.)

We ate chocolate banana oat bran muffins with our scrambled eggs.

I would include the recipe here, but Mbot was the only one who thought they were any good. Even Gbot left his for dead.

In spite of episodes like this, I have persisted in baking with the Bots. In my life PB (Pre-Bot), baking had always relaxed me, especially baking in the morning. Something about the rhythm of removing fresh ingredients from the refrigerator, measuring flour, melting butter, pouring milk. It can’t be rushed.

In the past six months, since breakfast has become less like Mommy Zumba because the Bots eat (or play with) the same thing, I have been baking more and more: oat bran muffins, popovers, honey wheat pancakes.

But I found that I’d inevitably end up shouting at some point when small fingers ventured too close to the stove top, or wiping away tears because there were only two eggs to break, or burning something because I was employed either as referee or bathroom attendant or janitor or nurse or all of the above.

Then yesterday, while preparing to make waffles (which, in my book, counts as baking, because they involve flour, sugar, liquid, and heat), I narrowly rescued half a dozen eggs from meeting the same fate as the carpet cleaner (see The Tortillas of August), and then had to pull Gbot from the flour bin so we wouldn’t be late for library story time.

That’s when it hit me: I did not have to bake anything for breakfast. I could pour cereal into two bowls. I could cut a banana on top and add milk. I could slice an orange. I could dole out yogurt. Then I could assemble our picnic lunch for after story time while that was being either consumed or played with or thrown on the floor piece by piece.

What was keeping me from doing this? Did I think that if I didn’t slave over a hot stove before 9 a.m., I was a failure as a mother? No. Did I like knowing exactly what the weeBots were eating? Yes. But there was something more.

I wanted to bake.

I realized I was still acting under the deeply ingrained belief that producing something warm and moist and delicious would would zen me out, even though just reading a recipe means turning my eyes away from four industrious hands–that’s twenty industrious fingers–removing a diaper or conducting a discoverment with the dog’s water dish (see Discoverments One Through Three) or turning a Magnadoodle into a weapon.

Reluctantly, I put the eggs away and pulled out Barbara’s Organic Cornflakes.

We made it to story time.

Do you have a habit that you cling to, in vain?

Easy Answers for Today

It feels like at this point, almost three weeks in, I should be posting a recipe or a YouTube video of me making Quick and Tasty Fajitas or rugelach. Everyone’s a chef these days. But my only recent original food prep event involved frozen Costco cherries impaled on bendy straws, so unless instant mini popsicles are on your menu, don’t  tune in here for your next dinner party idea. Especially since Cherries On A Straw is labor-intensive, as you have to replace each cherry the moment it disappears into a smile. Gratifying, but not relaxing. And after, you might have to swab the bare bellies of your guests with warm wet cloths. Which could be a good thing. It’s none of my business.

I’m losing my battle again with sleep. Gbot didn’t nap today while Mbot was at preschool. I hadn’t realized how much I’ve come to depend on that ninety minutes of silence, when I can relax my vigilence, when I don’t have to give any orders or answer any questions.

Overheard from the backseat:

Gbot: “Itsy bitsy pidah wen up da wah-uh spout. Down come wain, wassed pidah ow…”

Mbot: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed up the water spout…”


Mbot: “Why, Mama? Why did he climb up the water spout?”

Me: “Because that’s just how the world works, Mbot. Spiders like to climb up water spouts.”

I liked my work as a magazine writer because I was always learning something, about rock climbing or glass blowing or fancy bathrooms or yurts. I find it all fascinating. Even the bathrooms (Did you know it’s not such a big project to install radiant heat in yours?). I like questions. I like answers. But today I didn’t have any better answers.

My work with the Midgets forces me to confront my ignorance. Daily, I am asked a vast quantity of questions, but they are unanswerable. Fifty koans a day. Maybe that’s another reason I started this blog. To make me feel like I know something.

Why did the Itsy Bitsy Spider climb up the water spout?

* cake pic at http://www.familyfun.go.com