That gorgeous Italian import Giada de Laurentiis knows her way around the ktichen may not come as a surprise, but the fact that she struggles with the same bittersweet parenting issues all of us face might.
The Food Network star and Emmy award-winning host graced Chicago with her good looks, gastronomy and groceries last week in celebration of Target's redesign of 55 area stores, her latest cookbook, Giada at Home, and her own line of exclusive products for the chain, including pasta sauces and flavored coffee to kitchen essentials like stainless steel cookware, ceramic bake ware and nylon tools, all designed with the at-home cook in mind.
Strolling arm in arm with Giada through the Tribune Plaza was like gabbing with an old, impossibly beautiful friend who knows exactly what it's like to be a working mother who bakes up savory (veggie-loaded) foods in cupcake form for little little ones you just don't want to let go... but do.
How has motherhood changed you?
Nothing like a loaded question to kick things off.
I don't even know where to start or when to start. It's changed me in many, many ways.
It's changed me in the sense that I really think about the work I do, and how often I leave home, and what kind of deals I sign, and all that kind of good stuff.
And, it's also changed the way I cook. As I think any mother would know, you have less and less time for yourself, so as much as I like to cook, sometimes I have to make it really quick so that I can feed both Jade and my husband. So, I think it's changed my cooking style, my lifestyle.
Teaming up with Target was partly because of Jade in the sense that I found that you really do need a quick and easy way to feed your family. Healthy, delicious ways to feed your family that are affordable and convenient.
All of those together are how I've changed.
I can definitely identify with you there. I have two kids under the age of five, a husband who comes home hungry at the end of the day, and love to cook, but have to keep streamlined quickness in mind at all times.
What is the best piece of parenting advice that's been handed down in your family?
I think that the most important thing to me is that parents do the best they can at mixing up the meals for the kids, keeping it interesting, and trying to cook fresh food.
I think what has become more and more convenient are places like Target, especially in the Chicago area, where they've redesigned 55 of their stores, in that they carry fresh produce, meat, and baked goods.
I can run in there and get diapers and some cleaning supplies and maybe a pair of tennis shoes… for some reason in preschool, my daughter is just destroying her tennis shoes. I feel like I'm always buying her new shoes, and she's growing out of everything so quickly that every time I go get her dressed I'm like, 'No way! This fit you yesterday and now today it doesn't fit you?'
So I'm always feeling like I need to go and grab her new things, sweatshirts, shirts whatever, and then I can also pick up a pound of ground beef, some chicken and a head of lettuce, some bananas, some eggs, just the basics to get you through the week. Having Target do that has made it more convenient to buy fresh produce, which I think is so important in this day and age to really help our children eat better and learn to eat better.
Now that Jade is in preschool, do you find yourself wanting to hold on to her babyhood? How do you deal with letting go?
Before they go to preschool, you can really control everything about them. You can control their friends, you can control what they eat, you can control just about everything. Then they go to preschool and little by little you lose them a little bit.
But, I think that she's growing up, and I have to let her grow up. It's a very hard thing I think for parents to let your children make their own decisions and let them grow up.
It's also been a lot of fun and very rewarding to watch her - everything about her grow, from her ability to talk… now she tells stories. I just feel like her whole world is opening up, and she's seeing all new things that she's never seen before. It's like going from seeing in black and white to seeing in color.
Agreed. My son is in preschool, too, and he takes the bus on his own and has his own social life and social calendar at school, away from me. And that was hard at first, and I was scared and nervous, but at the same time, watching that happen and unfold is so exciting for me as a parent. It's a part of the mommy experience to let them go, even when you don't really want to but want to.
And I think for us it's detaching a little bit. We've been so attached for the first two or three years, and then suddenly you have to let go, and that's a really hard thing to do. Plus, women love children when they need them.
We love it when they need us. So when they don't as much anymore it's like, 'No! This can't be happening.' I think it's a growing process. Not just for the kids, but for the parents as well.
Tell me, what do you like to do together as a family when you're all together and have some downtime to just enjoy each other?
Well, what do you think I'm going to say?
Does it start with a a C?
We love to cook together.
It's super cute, because the first week of school, when Jade was going to preschool, a lot of the kids, especially the little boys, were having trouble leaving their mommies, and they would cry, in the room, and at our preschool, they allow you to spend five minutes with them, then say your goodbyes… so the parents would all leave, and the teacher would tell me that Jade would see the crying child, and basically go to the kitchen, they have a little section that's a play kitchen, she would make them a plate of pasta, bring it to them and say, 'Look! I made you some pasta. I think you'll feel better now.'
That is her way to make the children feel better, by cooking, and obviously I think that comes from spending so much time in the kitchen with me, and that's what's fun for us.
Maria Pilar Clark is a mom times two and Windy City-based writer.
See more of Pilar's stories here.