As my tea party grows, the invite has been expanded to include guests that might otherwise not find me at my little table in the WordPress community. Facebook takes all the quality of a great restaurant and brings to it the convenience and variety of a food court. From the comfort of my booth, cup and saucer in hand, I get to rub shoulders with lovely ladies tinkling glasses of gin and tonic, or a sharp Sauvignon Blanc while everyone swaps stories that are clever and witty without ever acknowledging that it took 4 tries to get that entertaining anecdote to make sense. As I’ve mentioned before, social media is like a 3 way mirror that allows me to check myself from all angles to make sure I haven’t let too much crazy show. Unfortunately, there are also those that use the time and anonymity to suit up and take sides in the ever growing Mommy wars that no one ever wins.
Now I’m not trying to be sanctimonious by saying, “Follow my lead as we love and care for our fellow (wo)man while holding hands, singing Kumbaya from higher ground”. I’m more of a cautionary tale; “Watch your step because guess which road is paved with good intentions, so stick together because this is treacherous terrain “
Speaking of best intentions, gather round for an tragic tale of hypocrisy, sexism and betrayal, or as I like to call it, Wednesday in the Cractpot household.
I try as a mother to support a large variety of foods. From a young age we’ve encouraged the sampling of offerings not commonly found on children’s menus such as sushi, calamari or escargot. The success of our experiment has been overwhelming… especially on our pocket books. No longer content to just sample, everyone begs to order their own delicacies, which when multiplied by 5, gets expensive. As a way of staying the course without resorting to selling internal organs on the black market (which I’m short on anyway) I’ve taken to recreating some of their favourite dishes at home. I was thrilled when I came across a vacuum pack of fresh mussels on sale that provided step by step instructions for preparation. A quick stop at the liquor store for a buttery chardonnay for the wine sauce, and we were ready to go.
Step one instructed us to open the packet and soak the mussels in cool water for 30 minutes.
After helping my daughter carefully transfer the mussels into the sink, I uncork the wine to let it breathe. I then conveniently remembered that white wine rarely benefits from aeration but now the bottle was open, why not pour a glass to get my creative juices cooking.
Once I had rummaged for a chiller in the back of the cupboard and got the bottle all settled in an ice bath, I picked up my glass and resumed reading Step 2. Discard any mussels that do not open. I peered doubtfully into the sink relieved to see that after only 10 minutes already quite a few had. Step 3, involved removing the remaining mussels and hitting them on the head with a spoon until they closed back up. Any mussels that did not close were dead and should not be consumed. Wait…what?!?
Like any self-respecting, meat eating, animal lover, I prefer not to think about my food before it arrives at the grocery store and yet somehow I had managed to accidently walk right into a moral dilemma with my three kids in tow. Moving on from best intentions to the hypocritical portion of our programming, I take another sip of my wine and whisper “Yikes…they’re alive down there” as I stare mournfully into the sink.
“What do you mean?” the kids clamor as they rush over to peek out from under my arms and over my shoulders, trying to get a better view. I explain what I think I had known all along but had chosen to suppress; shell fish (other than shrimp) need to be kept alive until right before they’re cooked due to an enzyme that quickly breaks down the meat making it unpalatable or worse poisonous. Bathing them is a way to trick the mussels into relaxing enough to suck in clean water to flush out salt and sand. Mussels will eventually drown if submersed indefinitely, which is why we add insult to injury (injury to insult?) by poking them with a utensil to make sure we haven’t waited too long. I take another long sip of my wine as we continue to stare morbidly fascinated into the sink. As we wait for them to open up, and in effect, walk into our carefully crafted con, I can’t help but murmur “This is entrapment” which my ever curious middle child catches and asks, “What’s that?”
After almost a full glass of wine the best I can come up with is an example, “You know, like when female police officers pretend to be prostitutes to catch criminals because in Canada it’s legal to sell sexual services but illegal to purchase them.” My daughters’ eyes go round as they absorb that juicy bit of information but my son seems to take it in stride, concluding, “So that’s why they need more girls on the police force”
“What? Wait! No!” I pour myself another glass of wine, “Women play really important roles in law enforcement but because statistically it’s more likely the clients will be men, it makes more sense to use women as bait.”
Another lengthy pause, another gulp of wine.
“Why are the customers usually men?”
Luckily, I avoid answering further questions by excusing myself to google “How to reintroduce mussels into the wild”. I had skipped ahead in the directions to the part where they describe how to rip off the mussels’ beards without killing them and had decided enough was enough.
I`m on my third glass of wine and in the process of locating the nearest salt water location while the children keep busy discussing the ins and outs of the sex trade, as my husband comes home from work (surely wondering why there can’t just be a meal on the table like all the neighbours households). Wine makes me maudlin so I cry as I explain that I really need to face the harsh reality of my meat consumption so my husband pushes me upstairs to clean up as he tries to reason with the children to please not repeat any of the aforementioned conversations in the school yard. I come back downstairs to find the table laid out with a beautiful salad, fresh bread and mussels lightly drizzled in a wine sauce (there wasn’t really enough wine left to accomplish much more than a light drizzle in all fairness) and my daughter consoles me by confirming the mussels would never have survived the trip to the ocean and everyone agreed their deaths shouldn’t be in vain. Over dinner my middle child asks that we keep the shells to use for an art project which reminds my oldest of her Native Studies course and she explains how resourceful they were when they hunted, using every part of the animal in respect for their sacrifice. I comfort myself with another glass of wine (*hic*) and the knowledge that while my parenting style might never be highlighted in a “How To” manual there are worse ways to end the day.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We’re all doing the best we can, and while some might come by it naturally, others can only stumble and trip their way through. Rather than stand on the sidelines, criticizing and pointing, let’s get out there and help each other up, brush each other off and get on with the business of making it to the finish line alive.
Later that evening as I tucked my youngest into bed, he looked at me sweetly and asked, “Mum, what do female firefighters pretend to be?”
What could I say? “Female firefighters pretend that they know exactly the right way to douse the flames and save lives, but sometimes, things go sideways and they just have to work as a team, not give up, and do the best they can until the fire is out, just like male fighters”
Just like all of us.
And with that I curl up beside him knowing I did the best I could, to dream of liberated mussels and exploited sex trade workers….but that,
is another story…
Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others. ~Jacob M. Braude
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