Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On the Trail of the Teenage Boy

In just a few short months, my son will become a teenage boy. Already, this has brought me into frequent contact with an increasing number of the creatures. Oh, I've seen them around: Exhibiting poor judgement, riding ridiculously tiny bikes against traffic, slugging each other, wearing jeans so low they have to effect a laughably awkward gait. Supremely unaware of how they appear to others, their every action seems calculated nevertheless to attract the attention of others.

My son's imminent entry into their ranks has meant that I now encounter them not only on the street, but in my home. They are at the age when my own interest in them failed to materialize, so my knowledge is spotty. Being who I am, I'm using this as an opportunity to learn more. Already, I've concluded that much of what we think we know about them is just wrong and that so much more study needs to be done.

For example, I have found that taken as individuals, they are often quite likable. Not only that, but my curiosity about them seems to be reciprocated; a number of them have taken to spending nearly as much time in the kitchen with me as upstairs with the Xbox. We eye each other curiously as he paces restlessly around the kitchen, issuing a steady stream of conversation. This was my first surprise; I had been lead to believe that they communicate only in shrugs and grunts and then, only reluctantly. My experience has been that they have a great deal to say and do so, given the slightest opportunity and minimal probing. This must be much the way Diane Fosse felt when she came to be accepted by her gorillas.

True, I don't get my panties in a bunch if they cuss, and this may help to explain their continuing interest in me, but it doesn’t explain the initial attraction. It has been proposed that the teenage male's consuming interest is sex. I'm convinced their primary interest is consuming. So my theory about what drew them to me in the first place is this: I cook. The current doctrine is that their core diet consists of pizza, burgers and burritos. Again, I have to disagree. I think that may be based less on preference than availability. They seem to able to consume approximately a third of their body weight and if heating a frozen pizza is the fastest and easiest way to fill the chinks, they will do so. But present one of them with a bowl of tortilla soup, or white chili or coconut curried chicken and it becomes clear that sex is a secondary drive.

“So...what are you making?” they’ll ask casually.
“Etoufee. Do you like it?”
(Casual shrug) “Mnm. Never had it.”
(Holding out the spoon) “Come here.”
This is when they’re at their cutest: Cautious, curious, intrigued, hopeful — but all of it barely restrained under that casual “whatever” veneer. Then it hits them. ‘Casual’ crumples a bit as they close their eyes and let slip the tiniest sigh. Gotcha.
“So? It’s okay?”
“Would you like some?” (tee hee) “Go get a bowl over there and stop pacing. Sit.”

I worried about the teen years: How will I know where my child is, who he’s with and what he’s up to? I don’t worry any longer. As long as my kitchen continues to function, I know precisely where the boys will be.

Tortilla Soup

(takes about 20 minutes but be warned: my measurements are all "-ish")
In a tablespoon of olive oil, sear 4 cut up chicken breasts.
Remove chicken, add another tablespoon of oil and saute:
(these can all be chopped together in a processor)
1 chopped onion
3-4 chopped garlic cloves
2-3 chopped jalapenos
½ cup green, red or yellow peppers (or mixed peppers)
Saute until soft.
Put veggies in a blender.
Add 2 cans of chopped tomatoes and 2 cups of chicken broth.
Blend until thickened but still slightly chunky.
Pour blender contents into a pot over medium heat.
1 teaspoon of thyme
½ teaspoon of cumin
zest of 1 lime
1 cup cubed zucchini
1½ cups of frozen corn
the cooked chicken
4 more cups of chicken broth
Let simmer for 10 minutes.
Add juice from 1 lime and a small handful of cilantro, chopped
Pour into bowls over a handful of tortilla chips and serve.
Optional additions:
Serve topped with shredded Mexican cheese blend and chopped green onion
Serve with chunks of avocado.

* In a big hurry? Use garlic powder and onion powder — about a tablespoon each — and frozen pepper mix.


Rachel Nagher said...

I LOVED the Diana Fosse bit, hilarious!! :)

Anonymous said...

I've experienced the same thing. I'm always amazed at the things I learn. Love the way you write.