“As a diner, the idea of me chewing 17 bites of one thing and another 17 bites of another is absolutely boring, and not how I want to eat,” said the chef Mario Batali."Entrees are dead! claims the NY Times. Wives get expensive push presents after pushing out a kid!
Why should we care about the lives and tastes of people who, unlike most of us, are not worrying about whether their ARM mortgage is about to give up it's teaser rate or if we can keep the heat on with the rising utility prices?
Because these are the types of stories the NY Times, arguably the most read newspaper in the country, is publishing. And when those are the kinds of ideas that are pushed onto the rest of us, the competition to succeed (or at least appear that you are) gets tougher.
One of the most awesome aspects of the American dream and capitalism is the idea of social mobility. We have this idea that through hard work and the right opportunities we can succeed and give better opportunities to our children. Part of that involves giving our kids the cultural cues to be part of a better class than they are currently in. It starts with basics like better food and housing, access to doctors and dentists, education. But very quickly it goes to non necessities, the right clothes, the right schools , tutors and extracurriculars, technology, etc. While a huge part of this can be seen as spoiling a child, the reasons for doing it are so that our children feel comfortable and confident in a better social class. It is our version of teaching them what fork to use with what course. And a lot of the work of making sure kids have these opportunities falls on women who play chauffeur and shopper, negotiate parent teacher conferences, make sure that the home looks right for the class they are aspiring to and that the food the kids are getting is not just enough calories for growing bodies but the right kind of calories from the right kind of food in the right kind of portions grown in the right kinds of places with enough variety so that the kid won't look like a complete idiot when someone says "let's have a prosciutto sandwich".
So when the Times comes out with a story about how the entree is dead, I groan internally. This means I am going to have a much tougher time cooking if I want the Kid to have the right social cues.
I am a fabulous cook. I throw awesome dinner parties. People have suggested I open a restaurant or go to cooking school to be professional. I have no interest in cooking for money. Pulling together a meal made entirely of appetizers and small plates is something I could do, but the amount of work involved in coming up with several complementary small dishes on a daily basis is too much for the average mom. We barely have time to cook to begin with, and if we do, we also have the clean up to think about later. The cookware dirtied by a tapas dinner would make a Thanksgiving cook cry. But if we want our kids to fit in, we will do it. Heaven forbid our child gets bored after chewing 17 bites of a one dish meal of beef stew with organic beef and veggies done in a slow food style (slow food being the last trend women had to follow to prove their devotion to their families bellies).
And with all this extra work women are doing, it is no surprise that expensive presents are the part of the barter system. We would think it unconscionable for a woman to say to her husband "Let's see, 40 weeks of pregnancy, that's 6720 hours plus the hazard pay for labor and delivery- that will be $50,000 please, plus a bonus cause I managed to push out a kid with penis who will carry on your family name". But a shiny bauble of sentimentality provides a financial motivation in a less crass way.