What’s for supper? Vol. 204: Get yer carnal desires here

Here please insert a joke about carnitas, carnal desires during Lent, incarnation, whatever. 

SATURDAY
Waffles, scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, OJ

Nice and easy. 

SUNDAY
Carnitas, pico de gallo, guacamole and chips, honey sriracha pineapple

This is a recipe from John Herreid, who posted it as an extra on his Facebook art account, J.R.’s Art Place, which you should definitely be following. He shares a very wide range of fine art, things you’ve never seen before, often with illuminating or amusing little tidbits of information. You should follow it!

The carnitas recipe was very easy. You just chunk up some pork, sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and oregano, and cook it in a pot with a cup of oil and Mexican Coke or some other soda containing cane syrup; and orange wedges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves, and simmer for several hours. Take out everything but the meat and cook it a bit longer, until it gets a dark, glazey crust. Then shred it and you’re set. John’s recipe said to drain it, but the meat I made had absorbed just about all the liquid by the time it was done. 

Oh my land, the smell. 

It just got better and better, and the flavor was intense and wonderful. 

I couldn’t find Mexican Coke and ended up using root beer, so it had a sort of anise-y tinge to it. Most definitely making this recipe again. 

I made up a big batch of simple pico de gallo

 

Jump to Recipe

 

and also a big batch of guacamole.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

Fantastic meal. I had resorted to cooking bland pork and seasoning it after shredding, because I just couldn’t seem to get much flavor into the meat itself. Those days are gone, my friends. 

I served one pineapple raw and just grilled (actually broiled) a few pieces, because Lena and I are the only ones who really like it, and I suspect Lena’s just being polite. I made a little sauce of olive oil, honey, and sriracha, and rolled the pineapple spears around in it, then put them under the broiler, turning once, for a few minutes. 

You get a little caramelization on the charred ends, and it’s just nice. 

 

Jump to Recipe

 

MONDAY
Hot dogs, potato salad, string beans

A few of my kids are pretty passionate about potato salad. So I made some, partly to assuage my guilt for serving hot dogs. Then I ruined everything by accidentally drowning it in pepper. 

It wasn’t actually ruined, but it kind of separated the men from the boys.

I don’t really have a potato salad recipe. I throw a few whole eggs in with the potatoes to boil. I made a dressing out of mayo, apple cider vinegar, salt, and of course pepper. I like it with diced red onion and celery or even some diced pickles, and fresh dill, but no one else likes any of those things, the monsters. At least I managed to make a sane amount this time around, so it was gone by day 2, rather than lingering around getting icy in the back of the fridge and then getting thrown out by a wrathful child who is the onnnnnnnly one who ever throws things away around here. 

TUESDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, fresh bread

I sort of got tricked into making bread.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

Lena is home from college this week, and she and Corrie made some plans over the weekend to make bread. I said Tuesday would be a good day, since we’re having spaghetti. But when it came down to it, Corrie didn’t really want to stop watching Scooby Doo, so it was left to Lena, who doesn’t actually know how to make bread. So I showed her, but I had to keep leaving the house and shouting vague instructions as I went out the door. The upshot was that the rising loaves got moved around from pan to pan a lot, which is not something that rising loaves enjoy. So we ended up with some rather dense, earthy bread. 

You know what, fresh, hot bread is fresh, hot bread! No ragrets. 

Oh, the meatballs:

Jump to Recipe

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday’s meal was really a ruse to make leftover meatball pizza on Wednesday. Meatball pizza is unreasonably delicious. 

THURSDAY
Chicken tortilla soup

I really like this recipe, which I have adapted from Two Sleevers.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

You make a puree in the blender or food processor

(uh, it might be smarter to do this in batches)

then cook the puree up in oil for a bit, add the water and chicken, and pressure cook it. (Of course you can easily adapt this for the stove top; just simmer, rather than pressing buttons.) Fish out the chicken, shred it,

and throw it back in, and there it is. I wish I had cooked the puree a little longer to develop the flavor, but it was still pleasantly spicy and warming.

Tortilla soup is, um, supposed to have tortillas in it. You’re supposed to use corn tortillas, which thicken the soup up. But I just don’t like corn tortillas. They taste bad and sour and gritty to me. So instead, I made spicy, crunchy flour tortilla strips and put them on as a topping, along with sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions, and cilantro. I really wanted avocados, which I used up making guacamole earlier in the week, but I had this overwhelming, passionate need not to stop at Aldi on a Thursday afternoon. 

Oh no, you’re onto me, I’m not a real Mexican! 

I made the tortilla strips by cutting them into slices, drizzling them with olive oil and sprinkling them generously with Tajín chili lime seasoning, which is just chili powder, sea salt, and dehydrated lime juice, so if you can’t find it in stores because of COVID-19, you can easily make your own by running some limes through your dehydrator three days previously and then pulverizing it with your butt. Write this down, it’s important. Then you spread them on a pan and bake them slowly in a medium oven, stirring occasionally, and then you burn them. Every. Single. Damn. Time. 

Everyone still liked them, though. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

Today is Elijah’s birthday. His birthday almost always lands in Lent, but this year is special, as it’s a Friday in Lent. Also, he has to stay after school to do some work with his math teacher. It’s hard out there for an Elijah. We’ll whoop it up on Sunday, though. 

 

 

Pico De Gallo

quick and easy fresh dip or topping for tacos, etc.

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced OR 1/2 serrano pepper
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • dash kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and serve with your favorite Mexican food

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Spicy honeyed pineapple with ice cream

You could drizzle this with a caramel rum sauce and maybe sprinkle with pralines, but it's good just with fruit and ice cream, too. You can also serve the pineapple as a side dish (without ice cream!) for many Mexican foods.

Ingredients

  • 1 pineapple, cut into spears or rings
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • sriracha sauce to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler; or, if grilling outside, let coals die down.

    Mix olive oil, honey, and a few dashes of sriracha sauce, and slather the sauce all over the prepared pineapple.

    Spread in single layer on pan or over grill and cook, turning once, until it's slightly charred. 

    Serve hot with a scoop of ice cream. 

 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

5 from 2 votes
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French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

What’s for supper? Vol. 166: Everything is awesome

Raise your hand if this was your favorite week ever. Yeah, I thought so. Oh well, at least we have food. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese; chips; string beans

Just another busy Saturday. You can see I made another stellar shopping list, too.

Grilled ham and provolone on sourdough bread with a little mayo on the outside, fried in butter.

Sometimes we slip thin slices of Granny Smith apples inside these sandwiches before frying, but not this week.

The string beans are finally looking less wretched, though, so we had just washed and trimmed them and ate them raw. Dreaming of the garden, if the snow ever leaves.

SUNDAY
Porchetta pork roast, farro salad, garlic bread

This was most certainly a bright spot. Best porchetta pork roast in the world. A few weeks ago, the Herreid clan was in the area for a wedding, and John stopped by with a bounty of leftover food. The Herreids are all, as far as I can tell, food geniuses. Ben is the chef at Wildflour artisan pasta restaurant in Leavanworth, WA, and this porchetta is one of his dishes. If you’re ever in the area, I highly highly recommend going to Wildflour. I’ve had the chance to taste Ben’s dishes a few times, and they are outstanding.

Damien recreated the porchetta this week, with a few minor adjustments. I’ll put a card at the end (probably later today. I can’t seem to ever finish this post!).

I was working while Damien cooked, and didn’t get a lot of pics of the pork, so here are some from John Herreid, when he made the same recipe at his house:




Eh? Eh? Have mercy; it’s the food of the gods.

I couldn’t find a nice big roast so we could roll and tie it like you’re supposed to, so we just had some sort of slabs to fold in half; and I couldn’t find white pepper, so he used black pepper and a little red pepper. I always think I don’t like fennel, but when it hangs around with the right flavors, it’s heavenly. So this was fennel root with onions, sweetened with apricot preserves and golden raisins, and heated with the peppers, along with sausage, white wine, coriander and garlic. Amazing. The smell alone will absolutely murder you, in the fun way.

He prepped the meat the day before, and then started it cooking in a 185 around 8 a.m. on Sunday and cooked it until about 5:30, turning it up to 500 for the last 20 minutes. Then you blast the heat and the end and crackle up the fat until it’s ready to melt under the crust. Hot damn.

For a side, I made this farro salad which was good, but not really the right accompaniment to this particular porchetta. They both had very strong flavors which didn’t complement each other as I hoped. The porchetta was more dusky and autumnal, I guess, and the farro more piquant and summery, or something. Anyway, next time I’ll probably just serve plain bread and asparagus or spinach or string beans with the porchetta, and save the farro salad for steak or grilled chicken or something with less complex flavors.

The farro salad was gorgeous, anyway, and really fed my hunger for color. Check out the vegetables:

and check out the dressing:

I do love farro. It’s like if barley and pasta got married and had a kid, and everyone’s like, “Whoa, look who got all the best genes!”

Overall an excellent meal.

I say the combination wasn’t ideal, but yet I also ate a lot of it. A LOT.

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, fries

Monday got eaten up by the locusts, so we had some late, hurried frozen chicken burgers. Which are actually pretty tasty.

TUESDAY
Calzones, banana splits, fried cheese balls

Tuesday was Irene’s birthday, and she asked for calzones. Recipe card at the end. I made some plain, some pepperoni, and some olive. I had a lot of help from my kitchen buddy.

I made sixteen calzoni, using four balls of readymade pizza dough cut into fourths. Sheesh, I love calzoni. Is there any friendlier food?

Then you brush a little egg wash on top and they are so plump and shiny.

Notice those little balls on the plate. I had a bunch of cheese filling left over, so I added a few beaten eggs and some panko bread crumbs to it, rolled them into balls the size of ping pong balls, and rolled them in bread crumbs again.

Then I chilled them a few hours and deep fried those suckers.

They were good! I wasn’t sure if they would hold together, since they were mostly ricotta, and I wasn’t sure if the crust would be thick enough, since I didn’t bother dipping them in egg; but they turned out really nicely. I think the small size and the chilling helped them hold together.

They were very light and tender, as tasty as fried mozzarella sticks but not so heavy. We dipped them in hot marinara sauce.

The only down side was that they were absolutely overkill as a side dish for calzones! It was like going to see a Shakespeare play and then stopping off for some sonnets on the way home. I would make these again as a side dish to something that wasn’t already mainly hot cheese, and maybe stick a little pancetta or basil or something in them.


WEDNESDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes, peas

Benny asked for this dish very ardently.

I think mainly because I found some Wooly Willy dishes at a thrift store. I went looking for an Amazon link out of habit, and this is what I found:

Decorative use only, you guys. You’ve been warned.

The only useful advice I have about ham is this: if you buy a pre-cooked one, you can slice it up and then heat it, and it heats up much faster. You don’t want to know how long it took me to figure that out.

THURSDAY
Beer brats, smoked wings

Damien made this outside on the grill. Very delicious. He used his sugar rub for the wings and let them sit for several hours before grilling. He boils the brats in beer and onions before grilling. I’ll put recipe cards at the end at some point today.

I feel like we had an assortment of chips. It was only yesterday, but my memory is foggy. I blame the locusts. You can see the lengths we went to to prepare an attractive table, too. Ehh, the meat was good.

FRIDAY
Waffles, eggs, home fries

That’s what it says on the blackboard, anyway. Looking back, this week’s menu was designed to kill us quick, but here we still be.

And now I find out if the formatting is completely screwed up. I updated my blogging system and now everything takes an extra four steps and sometimes doesn’t work! It’s awesome. Everything is awesome.

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you’d like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point – pepperoni, olives, etc. – if you haven’t already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

Ben Herreid’s Porchetta pork roast

Ingredients

  • 1 deboned pork shoulder
  • 2 sweet Italian sausages, removed from casings
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced like the onion
  • 2/3 cup apricot preserves or quince paste
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • kosher salt

spice rub (makes a little less than a cup)

  • scant 1/2 cup ground fennel
  • 1/4 cup ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp ground white pepper OR black pepper with some red pepper flakes thrown in

Instructions

  1. Directions:

    Cut open pork shoulder so that it can be rolled up. It should be cut sort of like a tri-fold brochure, keeping the fat as the outside layer. Season liberally on both sides with spice rub and kosher salt.

    Make filling by sautéing fennel, onion, sausage, garlic. Once sausage is browned and both fennel and onion is soft, set aside and let cool. Mix in golden raisins and apricot preserves. Season with salt.

    Put fennel/sausage mix inside pork shoulder and roll tightly. It will be messy. Tie with baking twine as you would a roast. Transfer to a covered roasting pan.

    Roast at low temp (185) in covered pan with three cups of dry white wine for 7-10 hours, or until the pork is fork tender. Drain the drippings and set aside.

    Uncover and roast at 500 for 20 minutes or so, rotating the pan midway through. You want to crisp the exterior up and render the outside fat.

    Slice and serve.

    If you like, reduce the drippings to add back in on top of the pork.

Expose your kids to art! (Or vice versa)

Expose your children to art! Or vice versa.

Portrait of a youth who stopped and looked closely at a work of fine art. This is a win.

The other week, we visited the Worcester Art Museum in MA. I heartily recommend it if you’re in the area (and it’s free all through August!). They had a world class collection with tons of variety, from pre-Columbian art to this guy; it was quite kid friendly (a docent in the armor display helped the kids try on helmets and gauntlets), the docents were genial and well-informed, and they had the exhibits arranged well to really help you see them. We saw everything in about three hours, and had time to go back and look at our favorite rooms.  Looks like they have a pleasant cafe and a bunch of programs, classes, and demonstrations, too.

About what happened in the photo above, I take full responsibility. I’ve been reading them Black Ships before Troy: The Story of the Iliad and he got kind of hung up on Helen of the Fair Cheeks.

Of the Fair Cheeks.

I’m just glad he didn’t notice what was going on on the B side of some of those Grecian urns. Whoo-ee!

Anyway, we had such a good time that I want to encourage everyone to bring your kids to an art museum this summer, even if you don’t think of yourself as one of those high culture families. If you’re in New England, don’t forget about Free Fridays (which includes art museums and lots of other fun stuff).

Here’s something I wrote a few years ago, on that topic of why adults sometimes struggle with visiting art museums, and how kids can show us how to do it better. For more reading on this topic, check out “Introducing Children to Art” by an actual artist, John Herreid, who is raising three hilariously arty kids.

***

Remember the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when the Holy Grail is being snatched again by the bad guys?  Indy cries out in righteous indignation:  “That belongs in a museum!”  I love me some Indiana Jones, but I have regretfully come to the conclusion that this line was not meant ironically.  This really is the highest compliment that Americans can pay to an object of beauty and worth:  that it belongs in a museum.  I heard someone say the exact same thing in real life, when our college group first stepped out into one of the teeming, sun-drenched piazzas in Rome.  There was a magnificent fountain in the middle of the square, featuring a sculpture carved by one of the giants of Western art.  And people were sitting on it, and smoking, and drinking terrible wine, and flirting with each other, trying to sell socks out of a duffle bag, and generally acting like this timeless piece of art was theirs.  Almost tearful with outrage, the fellow cried out, “That should be in a museum!”

He meant that it ought to be protected from the elements, and also from bird droppings and graffiti and vandals.  But he also meant that it ought to be tucked away indoors, where the lighting could be controlled, where people would speak in hushed tones as they file past in reverence — where only the select few, acting in a very select way, would see it, and no one would get comfortable with it.  And there, he was disastrously wrong.

Art museums are necessary because they are the most convenient way to preserve and share works of art which would otherwise be tucked away in the private homes of the very wealthy.  But there is always the danger of museumishness taking over the work of art — making us forget why the artist made the piece in the first place.  It’s a relatively new idea that art is here to “challenge” us, to jar us out of whatever cultural sin is currently considered intolerable.  Instead, the great artists of every century have all said one thing:  “I see something!  You come and see it, too!  Do you see?”

Well, that’s a pretty big topic.  But in this little post, I can say that the problem with putting something in a museum is that it tends to give the impression that the question, “Do you see it, too?” is already answered.  We feel like we have to stroke our chins gravely and say, “Yes, yes, of course I see,” whether we do or not, because there it is, in a museum.  It must be Real Art. No wonder so many people have an aversion to art.  They think they’re expected to respond like highly educated robots when the encounter it.

What’s the cure for a case of Stifling Museumishness?  Take your kids to the museum with you . . . and do what they do.

Oh, listen, if your kids are awful, please don’t take them to a museum.  If they can’t be controlled, don’t take them.  If they can’t tell the difference between indoors and outdoors, and if they don’t obey you, and if otherwise kind people groan audibly when they see your family coming, then by all means, stay home.

But many parents underestimate how responsive their kids will be to good art.  Kids in art museums will often behave in a way that is not only tolerable, but which the adult patrons should imitate.

Kids do not talk in whispers, as if they are at the bedside of a dying tyrant.  Why do we whisper in front of art?  We shouldn’t speak loudly, to distract other patrons; but a normal, conversational tone of voice is completely appropriate.  Talking about what you’re seeing isn’t rude!  It’s a natural thing to do, and makes the experience so much more rewarding, when you hear other people’s takes on what you’re seeing. I also like to eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations — so sue me.

Kids do not pretend to like things they don’t like.  It’s one thing to have an open mind; it’s quite another to be a sucker. Many museums have extensive collections in the ever-popular genre of Egregious Crapola, and sometimes it really is only kids who are willing to point this out.  Many adults have been duped into giving up on beauty; most kids have not.  (But really, each kid is allowed to say, “I could have done that in ten minutes with a gallon of housepaint and a stick!” one time, and then they’re done.  This comment may or may not be true, but it gets old fast.)

Kids are also remarkably open to admitting that there is more than meets the eye.  They may shrug or grimace in front of a wonderful piece, but they are usually ready to listen if you point out, “No, look at how the light shines through that leaf!” or “See how realistic her hand looks — but get closer, and it’s just a bunch of paint” or “But why do you think this guy on the side has that look on his face?” or “Holy mackerel, what is this?!?”

Kids laugh at paintings – not only ones that look ridiculous, but ones which are meant to be funny.  There is nothing sillier than a bunch of adults gravely appreciating the finer points of a work of art which is supposed to be hilarious.

Kids do not suffer from appreciation anxiety.  Some adults who feel insecure in their grasp of art may spend their entire museum time wondering how obvious their lack of expertise is.  Well, that’s no way get to be more of an expert!  Kids don’t think about how they appear to others; they just look at the art.

Kids do not waste their time looking at exhibits that don’t interest them, out of a sense of duty or thrift.  They will keep circling back to take another look at that one room or one piece they really like, and that is a much more natural response than trying to “do” the whole museum just because it’s there.

Okay, yes, and some kids will go berserk and behave like little demons, while their fond parents look on and do nothing. Or if you have a generally decent child who is temporarily going through a highly unreasonably, ridiculously loud stage, then this is probably not the best time to work on enhancing their cultural education. But really, if your kids are generally the non-demonic, non-berserker types, consider taking them to a small museum next time you have a chance.  Wear comfortable clothes, discuss expectations ahead of time, plan a small treat for afterwards, and just relax.  You will probably have a lovely time!
**
A version of this post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in March of 2013.

About the cover art for SGNFP

My beloved cover

was done by the immensely talented John Herreid, who is a graphic artist for Ignatius Press.  (He also happens to be my sister’s husband’s brother, and he made the cover for me as a gift!)

Check out John’s latest blog post for Ignatius Press Novels, where he describes a few of the ingenious processes he used

while lovingly creating some of his favorite book covers.  So cool.