Originally posted July 25, 2009
Who was it who said that being a parent is like being pecked to death by a bunch of chickens? I can really relate.
"If you can't say anything nice then don't say anything at all," I recently lectured my kids. So on top of feeling the effects of too much sibling drama, I sounded just like my Mother.
Maybe she's the one who coined the pecked-to-death metaphor.
Most days I'm guilty of believing that the sun rises and sets on my kids' shoulders, but the sun, it turns out, is sick to death of the bickering too, and refuses to set anywhere near my kids until they shake it off.
It's got a point.
Mom called. I debated about answering as I was feeling deflated by all of the whining and bickering and back talking, but she was returning my call from hours before, so I figured I should pick up. I needed one of her recipes.
But that was before, when I still felt like feeding people.
Now, I'd rather grab a box of mac and cheese from the pantry and toss it over my shoulder for someone to catch on my way out the door.
"Do you have all of the ingredients?" Mom asked. She makes this chicken dish my family raves about.
"I have no clue," I sighed. She lives in upstate New York, a bazillion miles a way by most standards, but still she managed to pick up on my mood.
"Okay," she encouraged. So you take chicken breasts and put a thin slice of Swiss cheese on each one. Do you have any Swiss?"
"Uh, it's kind of old …" I realized, peeking into the fridge. I need to get some groceries. I guess I need to clean out my fridge, too. I really am a slacker. No wonder my kids are mad at me. "Oh, and salt and pepper them first. And not too much cheese. It's not about the cheese," she emphasized.
Now I remember. I made this dish once, and recall that for me it was all about the cheese. I'm feeling cheesy, right now, actually, and I'll put as much cheese on my chicken as I please.
When I start rhyming and getting all Dr. Seussy, I know things are looking up. I just don't seem to be able to play the wounded mother for long.
"Whisk a can of cream of chicken soup with white wine to thin it out. I always add salt, pepper and thyme, by the way." My Mom loves thyme. She puts it in everything.
"Not too much wine, just enough to thin the soup," she reminded me. Ah, good. Some for me, then. Maybe I will make this tonight. "Pour it over the chicken …"
"Wait, Mom, don't I need to beat the chicken or something first? Like with a mallet or something?" I once used a hammer. To tenderize chicken. Not a good game plan, I learned.
"Uh, gee Jen, no, just leave the chicken alone for this one," she wryly replied.
"Darn. I was kind of looking forward to that part."
"So maybe you wanna wring the chicken's neck and pluck it first? Would that help?" It would. We had a good laugh and I began to feel better.
"So, you gonna make it tonight?" Mom asked.
"I don't really feel like cooking, anymore. Frankly, I think I'd rather just drink the wine and go see a movie."
I ended up pulling out a can of green beans, the box of mac and cheese and some hot dogs for my husband to cook and headed out to treat myself to a movie.
"Whatcha gonna see?" my son Noah asked, as I passed him in the yard on my way to the car.
"My life in Ruins," I replied, laughing a bit as I enjoyed the double entendre. I reached out to touch him in spite of myself. Life would go on. I already missed the little bugger and I hadn't even gotten out of the driveway.
But at least he's not a thousand miles away when we need to make up.
By no means should this be confused with a cooking column. I mean, come on, Stove Top? But this stuff is comfort food, and I needed comfort. Comfort is meant to be shared, so have at it.
Here's the rest of Mom's recipe for what she calls 'Bistro Chicken':
Pour a box of Stove Top stuffing over the chicken, about 2 cups (the whole box) per four breasts.
Melt a stick of butter (yes, she said a whole stick) and drizzle it over the stuffing, then bake uncovered for an hour. I forgot to ask Mom how many degrees, but for Pete's sake, isn't everything 350 or 375? Either way, after an hour the chicken should be done. Serve, and make sure you share. It's very tasty. Especially the crispy, buttery stuffing stuff.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.