New tricks, old days - FamilyEducation

New tricks, old days

February 21,2011

I took the kids to a cat show on Sunday, while Scott was playing tennis. For the first time in a long while, L. was ready to leave the house before anyone else. He was so excited to go to an actual cat show, that he grabbed his encyclopedia of cat breeds and his latest copy of Cat Fancy and he was dressed and by the front door with shoes on long before T. was ready--something that never happens. It was good to see him so energized, so happy to get out of the house for a change. The cat show was fun--lots of beautiful pampered and contented cats, but L. lasted about an hour and then he was done. No matter how exciting the outing, we find that L. tires of the public exposure, the lighting, the noise, the sounds, after about an hour.

His restlessness usually begins with leg twitching if we're sitting, and aimless wandering if we're not.

"I'm ready to go," L. whispered to me just as judging on an impossibly long, hairless, Sphynx cat was about to begin.

So we left. 



L.'s been on a kick lately where he's trying to avoid coming to the dinner table.

"I'm not hungry," he'll call down from his room, after numerous summons to dinner.

This won't cut it with us, though, because if there's one thing we've always insisted on it's been dinner as a family. Even when the kids were in high chairs, we'd pull them alongside the table and make them watch us eat. Family mealtime is pretty sacred at our house.

I like to make some meals festive and special, just for the fun of it. Last night I lit some candles, and T. turned off all the lights and declared it "Dinner Like in the Old Days" night. We talked about how people might have eaten their meals, in the days before electricity. The rustic nature of the meal worked well with Dinner Like the Old Days night. I made an delicious lentil dish with French lentils--my new favorite kind of lentil, and roasted small potatoes with lots of lemon, olive oil, rosemary, and coarse salt. My dad calls those potatoes "Potatoes Maria" after my mom, who invented the recipe. The more lemon, the better, I think.

Last night we lured L. downstairs by telling him about the candles but he protested the whole way. We insisted he sit with us, even if he wasn't going to eat.

"It's not like you ever stay put at the table for more than 5 minutes anyway," I said a little sarcastically.

L., thinking I said he only had to sit at the table for 5 minutes, sprang up and set the kitchen timer.

He ate one cube of tofu and two sugar snap peas. Then the timer went off, and he fled.

"Wait!" I called after him, in a last-ditch attempt to hook him back. "What did you like best about the cat show we went to today?"

He poked his head back around the doorframe.

"DUH!" He said. "The cats!"



French Lentils in Red Wine 

(T. calls the dish "old style lentils from the time before electricity")

2 cups French lentils

1 tablespoon oil for sauteeing the onions and garlic

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

5 1/2 cups water 

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

coarse salt to taste

1/2 cup red wine (to add right before serving)


Rinse lentils, pick over to spot any of those nasty stones that will ruin a good lentil dish (I never find them, but it's better to be safe than sorry). Heat oil in a large stockpot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, garlic and onion and saute until the garlic turns golden brown and the onion is translucent. 

Add water, lentils, coriander, cayenne pepper, and salt and cook over medium heat until the beans are soft--about 30 minutes. There will still be lots of liquid left, but you can simmer for longer (mine cooked for about an hour and a half). Add the red wine a few minutes before serving, and stir to incorporate. Season with coarse salt. Serve over a bed of white rice.


It sounds like a plain sort of dish, but it's deceptively delicious and melt-in-your-mouth wonderful, I think--and even better when eaten by candlelight.