Friday, October 09, 2009

weather, food traditions, new tax rule

Okay, I admit to being a wimp. It's only October 9, in Texas, and I turned on the heat. Yesterday the air conditioner, which had been silent for a couple of weeks, kicked on, but today it was cool--never got above the mid-60s--and so damp that it chilled your bones. I closed the vents over my greenhouse windows--that's always a big deal, because I have to stand on a stool to do it, so I only open them when I think I can leave them open for days at a time. But this afternoon I was cooking and felt the cool, damp breeze come in. Tonight, when the furnace kicked in, Jacob said, "It's a monster!"

You know how the furnace smells when you first turn it on for the year? Well that smell fooled me today, and I burned some spinach. Now I ask you, who burns spinach? That's not easy to do, but I did it. Smelled something a little funny but thought it was the furnace--until I walked back into the kitchen! Me oh my! I found myself doing something I swore I'd never do tonight--cooking separate meals for a child and myself, but I wanted scrambled eggs. Jacob's mom said he wouldn't eat them, so I thought I'd make him a pbj sandwich. He wanted chicken nuggests--those yucky frozen ones. Doused with lots of ketchup, he ate them happily and then settled down to eating straight ketchup. I put a tiny spoon of crustless apple pie on his plate, but he scorned it. For myself I threw tomato, a bit of gravlax lingering the fridge, a couple of huge mushrooms sliced, and a scallion into my eggs--very good but with struggling to cook two meals, I let my eggs get a bit overcooked for my taste. And next time I'll saute the mushrooms first.

I was reading a piece tonight about family food traditions--actually it was about a family who had spent time in northern Thailand and brought back a dish that became a family tradition, served with great ceremony. It had nothing to do with the Eastern European Jewish roots of either of the parents, but the entire family looked on it as their dish. I tried to think about dishes passed down in my family from generations before--my mother's roquefort cheese ball comes to mind, because all my kids love it and one daughter-in-law makes it annually. But none of my kids will eat Mom's coffee cakes and that tradition has died--I don't make them anymore because they're a lot of work for no audience. In my immediate family Doris' casserole would come closest to being a family dish--we all adore it, except Megan who hates it. When Colin requested it for his 40th b'day, Megan contented herself with Colin's Queso and didn't eat the casserole. So it would seem we're a family without food traditions, and yet when I started my cookbook (Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books--got to get that plug in there), the kids each contributed with, "Remember when you used to do . . . ." Another recipe that comes to mind is green noodles--it's in the cookbook, along with the cheeseball and Mom's coffee cakes. And then there's Jewish food, introduced to us by the children's father--some of us love it and some don't like at all. Maybe with four kids, it's hard to have taste buds agree on a tradition.

There's a new tax rule that has literati buzzing and, frankly, puzzled. It seems you have to declare the value of books you receive in order to write book reviews. Now that's plain darn silly. For scholarly publications, the book is your payment--you get nothing more--so now, you have to pay for the privilege of writing a review? Might wash with young scholars looking for credit, but they sure don't need to add to their tax bill, even that tiny amount. For newspapers, etc., you get a small fee plus the book. But now you're supposed to declare the market value of the book as income--even though you may end up disliking the book and writing a negative review! I don't know how they're going to track it, though one source I read said you have to declare in the review that you received a "gift" of the book or else the editor of the publication has to declare that in a sidebar or something. Seems to me the government will spend more money and time trying to track such things than they'll reap from the paltry taxes paid on books valued at $24.95. Just another thing to worry about.

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