I’ve been told that parenting is a long series of lessons to learn. I believe it. Lessons in when to butt in and when to let go, where to set boundaries, how to really listen, how to work on your own issues so you don’t hand them over to your child… I’ll take each of these lessons as they come, I guess, and do my best to learn them. But, so far there is one parenting lesson that keeps shoving itself in my face and that I seem simply unable to learn.
Do not eat soupy or saucy foods over your baby.
You’d think this wouldn’t be so hard, right? But we have a baby who already seems into the idea of family meals, and no matter when I last fed him, if I sit down to eat, he’s like, “me too! me too!” And then I end up nursing him while I’m eating and I always spill. Every time I think, ‘ok, this time I’ll be really careful, and it’ll be fine.’ And every time, I spill anyway. As a result, all of Espen’s adorable outfits, in addition to being covered with monkeys, and teddy bears driving cars, and spit up, and pee, are also covered in little splotches of marinara and vinaigrette.
The most notable example would be the carrot soup incident of Saturday. I was starving and wanted to eat my carrot soup. Espen also decided he was starving, so I started to nurse him. First I dripped just a tiny splotch of soup on him. Grr. Be more careful. Then I dripped a slightly larger splotch. Ergh! I got up to get a towel to dab off the soup splashes, and as I sat down, somehow I managed to tip the entire bowl over and onto my lap. The backsplash completely soaked the baby and Joel’s pants as well as mine, and the entire family wound up needing a wardrobe change. Except the dog, who got to lick the soup – that I, personally, had really wanted to eat, but that was the last bowl! – off of the floor.
You’d think because I’m doing baby laundry all the time, the whole spilling thing wouldn’t irk me so much. But it irks me more than anything. Somehow, I’m mentally prepared to wash endless piles of baby clothes as a result of the baby getting them dirty because, well, he’s a baby. When I have to do laundry because I’m a dumbdumb and spill on my baby, that’s just annoying.
Ok, just had to get that off my chest. I promise I still haven’t learned my lesson though.
Now on to cozier things, namely spoon bread. There is something about any food being called spoon(insert food here) that makes it irresistible to me. There aren’t really that many foods that actually fall into this category – I can only think of spoon bread, and spoon fruits (a sexier name for jam), and then Heidi recently wrote about something called spoon butter, which I immediately wanted to eat but then discovered it’s actually something to rub onto your wooden spoons, which made me sad, and now I’m going to have to invent spoon butter that I can eat – but whenever I hear about them, I want to cook and inhale them as fast as possible.
The spoon prefix, for me, conjures all things soft and comforting: holiday puddings, nursery school snacks before nap time (mmm, nap time), the bowl of mush from Goodnight Moon. Being spoonable is the antithesis of being rough and challenging, it’s being soothing and gentle and made by hand with great care.
Spoon bread, itself, is actually somewhat of a cross between cornbread and custard. A bit like a souffle, it can be either savory or sweet. This version, packed with spinach, is decidedly savory. Joel declared that spinach spoon bread sounds like every child’s nightmare, but I think it sounds dreamy. And it is dreamy. It’s a little nubbly with gentle grainy sweetness from the corn. The spinach ribbons through all silky and buttery and nicely green tasting. Nutmeg makes everything fragrant. A normal spoon bread is made with buttermilk, but because I’m doing the (mostly) dairy free thing for the moment, I made this one with coconut milk and a squeeze of lemon, and that was amazing! It made the bread fantastically rich and moist, without making it taste coconut-y at all. You can still make it with buttermilk if you please, but I highly recommend my version.
While the recipe was billed as a Thanksgiving side dish, I want it as a side dish on any normal evening when a little extra coziness is needed, which – let’s face it – is pretty much every evening in November. I don’t think I would mind eating it that often.
- 3 Tbs. butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 16 oz baby spinach
- 3 cups coconut milk
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup coarse or medium grind cornmeal
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. flour
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- 1½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- pinch of nutmeg
- Heat your oven to 35oF and butter a 9X13 inch baking dish or a very large skillet.
- In a separate frying pan (or the skillet, really, if you want), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, just until the spinach is wilted, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut milk and lemon juice (or replace these with 3 cups buttermilk) with the egg yolks, cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Stir in the spinach.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then fold them into the spinach mixture until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish or skillet and bake until golden and set, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool for abut 10 minutes, then serve warm. The leftovers actually keep pretty well, and make a delicious breakfast!