Idiometry: n. the branch of language arts dealing with angles of conversation between parents and middle school children doing homework together, particularly if the homework is from 1100 Words You Need to Know.


Lesson 1: A Pig in a Poke.

“Ok, say you’re a duck hunter, and -”

“But dad won’t let me hunt because he doesn’t like guns.”

“Um, yeah. Well just pretend, ok? Pretend you’re a duck hunter, and you need a really well-trained dog – one who’ll respond to voice commands and always behave, like the Appersons’ dog. And you meet a man who says he has just the dog for you. And you pay him in advance, and then the dog he delivers to you is Charlie. That’s a pig in a poke.”

“Mom!!! I thought you loved Charlie!!!!”

“Oh, honey, I do love Charlie. But Charlie isn’t exactly … well, he’s Charlie. He’s definitely not a hunting dog, even though he’s a Lab. I mean -”

“Harsh, Mom. Harsh. Totally uncool. C’mon, Charlie, let’s go upstairs and finish homework on my bed. I think you’re a good dog, Charlie. I love you. Good boy, Charlie, good doggie.”


Lesson 2: Furtive

“So does furtive mean, like, telling secrets?”

“Not exactly. Furtive means sly and sneaky. Like, remember when you were in 5th grade and you were supposed to be paying attention to the math teacher but you kept sneaking glances at that girl you thought was cute, but you didn’t want the teacher or the girl to notice?”

“Mom, oh my gosh! Are you EVER going to stop with that story?! It was 5th grade, Mom. FIFTH. Get over it.”


Lesson 3: Octogenarian

“Hey, Mom, I know you’re still at work, but Dad said you could probably help me write a sentence with this word because you’re closer to it than he is.”

“Sure, honey. What’s the word?”


Lesson 4: A Flash in the Pan

“So ‘a flash in the pan’ is like the one year when we had a perfect football season but then the next year we didn’t?”

“Kind of. ‘A flash in the pan’ is like… well, it’s something that’s really, really popular for a short time and then just disappears.”

“So The Beatles were a flash in the pan? Because they were like really, really popular back in the olden days and now you never hear about them.”

“Um, no. The Beatles were definitely not a flash in the pan.”

“Are you saying that because you like The Beatles? Because I gotta tell you, Mom, The Beatles… man, there’s not other way to say this, The Beatles suck. That Yellow Submarine song, man that’s like What Does the Fox Say? It’s one of those stupid songs that just sticks in your ear and bugs you all day.”

“Ok, let’s try again. A ‘flash in the pan’ is sort of like Miley Cyrus. You know? She was really popular, and everyone thought she was awesome, but now not so much.”

“So Miley Cyrus was a flash in the pan, or Hannah Montana was a flash in the pan? And wasn’t Wrecking Ball sort of popular even after kids stopped following her? Wasn’t her dad more of a flash in the pan than she was?”

“Let’s try this again.”

Lesson 5: Solace

“Oh, ‘solace’ is one of my favorite words. It’s one of those words that feels good to say, and the way the word sounds is kind of like what it means. It’s a soothing word. Solace is a special kind of comfort. People usually talk about places or circumstances that provide solace in times of trouble. Some people find solace in quiet places like the woods; others find solace in the company of other people. I often find solace working in the kitchen. In fact, the working title of the book I’ve been writing is The Solace of a Southern Kitchen. That’s how much that word means to me; it’s really a good one. I’m so glad it was on your list. Does that help?



“Are you still there?”


Happy week.


Food | Week of October 6, 2014

KaleMy family wants you to know that last week’s sour cream chicken did not pass the acid test (an idiom I’ll get to explain in mid-February, if they stay on schedule). It’s possible that there was a tiny problem with execution on the chicken because Bernard was helping me in the kitchen and my “some lemon juice” and his “some lemon juice” apparently are not the same thing. There’s also the matter of the “sprinkling of crumbs” which translated into full breading. Anyway, this week instead of going out on a limb (that will be week 28) with new recipes, we’ll stick to old favorites with fall cooking, warm and savory, in mind.

Since this week is fall break, I’ll be home with the kids and catching up on some reading. One of the books on my list is Mark Bittman’s new How to Cook Everything Fast, which comes out on Tuesday. Bittman’s interview with Rachel Martin on NPR this past week was great. When Martin said she had trouble getting the chicken Parmesan ready in 30 minutes, Bittman was quick to ask if she had followed the directions and equally quick to call her on the carpet (week 16) when she responded, “Not exactly.” If you want the meals prepared in exactly 30 minutes, then apparently you must follow the directions precisely- to the letter. Not exactly my cup of tea (that one isn’t even IN 1100 Words – Bonus!), but I’ll give it a go and share my review in a few weeks.

Beef Bourguignongarlic on the menu board

If you’ve been following here for a while, then you know this recipe is a frequent flier. Even though the cooking time is long, the preparation is easy. I find cooking in the slow cooker works fine; just prep everything right up to the point of putting the Dutch oven in the oven and instead put everything in a slow cooker.

Roast Chicken | Pearl Couscous | Broccoli

If you are not on school holiday this week, then give yourself a break and buy a roasted chicken from the grocery (you can go conventional at Kroger, high end at Fresh Market or organic/free range at Whole Foods – your choice). A simple meal like this is more restorative than anything, particularly if your household is busy. If you are at home and have the time, then roast a bird or two yourself using this top-rated recipe from Epicurious. It’s easy and predictable, and your house will smell great. Serve with simple sides like pearl couscous (my family’s favorite), steamed broccoli (yes, that like that, too) or a simple green salad.

Refried Beans | Basmati Rice | Cilantro Sauce

I bought several varieties of Rancho Gordo heirloom beans recently, after reading all the rave reviews, and then last week a neighbor gave me a few more. If you’re not familiar with these beans, they’re worth the effort to find and try them. Any, trying to put it delicately, the Rancho Gordo beans do not have unpleasant side effects. This week I’ll be cooking pinquitos, which are similar to red beans that you’ll find in any grocery store but taste entirely different. The last time I made these, I soaked them overnight and then cooked them in the slow cooker for an entire day. I let them cool, then I used Mark Bittman’s recipe (it’s his week, I know) for refried beans (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian). I served with plain basmati rice (cooked in chicken stock) and a cilantro sauce that was basically chopped cilantro, salt and lime juice.

tomato harvestWeeknight Bolognese

Yep, I’m making it again. It’s easy, and we love it. The end. But I will be using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, since this was the last week for tomatoes at the farmers market.

Celery Soup | French Bread

Yep, it’s time to hit this one again, too: Jane Grigson’s Genius Celery Soup, the only recipe I’ve saved from my Food 52 browsing days. I want to see if it’s as good as I remember, and if my people will still like it.


  1. Oh, how I loved this. I saved it to read until after dinner, with a glass of good wine by my side and the kids in bed.
    I just saw my future. Because right now these conversations are about weird idioms (Amelia Bedelia is an exhausting read to young kids, I tell you) and things they’ve never seen, “Mama? What’s da cansah?” Me: “Cancer? Well, um…” or “We saw people connected by their heads? On Dad’s computer? Was that real?” Me: “Oh, um… conjoined twins? Well. Yes. I mean, sure…” and then I try to explain something for fifteen minutes while driving them all to school. I literally picture the trees with leaves changing colors, flanking the road as I drive and try to explain things that defy explanation to children, ages four through seven.
    Yes, I chuckled, and sighed and loved this. And I will be first in line to buy your solace book, even though I rarely cook anything I can’t cook in less than 40 minutes with two pans or less.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i am thoroughly impressed at: a. your patience with this homework child, and b. your amazing recall of the dialogue. I pt gives me hope my brain cells will grow back when they get a bit older. Thankyou Thankyou!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a keeper! I’m passing it along.
    P.S. Amelia Bedelia was one of those book series’ that I could enjoy right along with the kids.

    Liked by 1 person

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