My kids made me peppermint bark yesterday.
And lest you picture melted white chocolate layered over milk chocolate, and red and white striped candy canes crumbled artistically throughout, let me clarify. My kids took small chunks of candy refuse from the past two weeks, including fudge, razzmatazz flavored candy canes (because that's a thing at the Dollar Store and also the North Pole, apparently), and a Reese's peanut butter cup, crumbled it in a cup and then left it on the heating vent behind the couch. For me. For three days.
And during this time they'd motion one to the other and race into the living room looking excited and secretive (or as secretive as an excited seven-year-old can look) to check on the concoction, probe it with their marker-stained fingers, cough into it with their croupy January coughs.
They were so excited one of them told his old kindergarten teacher about their awesome surprise. The teacher was so horrified he waved me over as I waited in the hallway for piano lessons to finish and stage whispered, sotto voce, "Do you know your kids are cooking old candy for you? On the radiator?!"
Um, yes. I did. Because Mama knows everything, especially if it involves a heating vent, candy and the space behind the "fancy couch", as we like to call it.
My husband sniffed it out early on and professed it so disgusting that he would never touch it let alone eat it. He also promised not to tell Mama. He may have even made up a rhyming song extolling its grossest features. But not me.
And do you want to know why?
Because I also made Indian food last night. We'd gone out for Indian food at a favorite local restaurant for New Year's Eve and the kids had been so interested, so curious, so impressively ravenous. Four distinctly white kids, ages 5, 7, 7 and 8 choking down saag dal and baingan bharta, wrestling over the last naan or roti, it was a thing of beauty I tell you.
So on the way to the grocery store for my weekly shopping I devised a list of ingredients in my awesomely organized head (said no one who's ever met me), and then I got whatever I remembered or whatever they had at the store (including my third bottle of garam masala, which I didn't even use.) I went with a multigrain texmati rice instead of jasmine for the extra protein and the ground cardamom over the whole cardamom because beggars can't be choosers. I made the stock boy get me more ginger and loaded up on garlic, eggplants and the expensive lentils.
What could possibly go wrong?
Once home I yelled at my kids to finish their homework, sat with two while they practiced piano, kept fishing the Gravity Maze marble out of the food disposal, and attempted to follow four new recipes, one augmented by a video with a sweet Indian woman named Nisha Madhulika. All at the same time.
And do you know what? The white rice browned, I used coriander seed in place of cumin (which seems like a subtle difference until it's really not.) I whipped up a cold, crisp raita which tasted strangely like a chai latte. Because I'd used French Vanilla yogurt instead of plain. The baingan bharta limped through close to expectations but we were thisclose to setting off the fire alarm (which automatically calls the fire department) while "blackening the aubergine."
Then I cheffed it all up onto their plates and acted like I had invented Sesame Street... Or razzmatazz peppermint bark.
And do you want to know what those kids of mine, ages 8, 7, 7, and 5, did when faced with plates of reddish, yellowish and whitish gunk and turmeric-tinted sludge, sprinkled merrily with cilantro?
They asked for seconds.
Which is why immediately following dinner I took a bite of the "treat" they'd made, that smelly, moist, sticky discolored turd of a treat that I'm actually pretty allergic to (peanut butter cups?!), and I ate enough that they knew I ate it, and I complimented them. For real.
Because that's what you do for the ones you love. You cook bad lentil dal, you ignore the coriander, and yes, you say thank you and mmm, mmm good to the chocolate candy cane turd.
Wishing you a week of more cumin, less coriander, lots of seconds, and no razzmatazz turds.