by Kerry Knight
The adorable little girl that moved into the house across the street skipped into the front lawn and started dancing. Her parents, understandably overcome with pride, stopped unpacking and watched, enraptured by their budding ballerina. Three years old, Katie Bouziak looked like a cross between Shirley Temple and that weird kid in, “The Day of the Locust” that torments Homer Simpson. My sister who was also three years old and could already spit and whistle and throw a ball farther than I, stared balefully out our bay window while little Katie pranced like Dawn Weiner’s mincing sister in Welcome to The Dollhouse, and our Mom cooed, “Oh Mardi, it looks like you’re going to have a new little friend!”
Mardi continued her malevolent glare and monotoned, “I think I’m going to hate her.”
“Now Mardi, you can’t judge a book by its cover you know…”
We all know that feeling, even as adults, even when we have learned to or are forced to soldier on and ignore what our guts unequivocally tell us, so when I saw the cover of Kathy Buckworth’s Shut Up and Eat: Tales of Chicken, Children and Chardonnay I instantly thought of Mardi, and Homer, while my inner dialogue went a little “Shining”.
“Give it a chance”
“I don’t want to.”
“I just don’t.”
Of course, I am not the target audience for this book, it even says so on the back cover. Shut Up and Eat! is a must-read for any woman who’s ever wondered: What the hell am I cooking tonight?”
Certainly I am not that woman, but it claims to be work of humour (”laugh out loud funny”) and I like food, so I am intrigued. I am also a sucker for the following: exclamation marks, (and anything in parentheses,) – dashes- and colons!!
“Amy Sedaris meets Erma Bombeck in this no-holds-barred look at that most fraught of family institutions: mealtime!”
High heels to fill indeed. Amy Sedaris is one of the funniest women alive, star and co-writer of Strangers with Candy, and author of the NY Times best selling (and Quill Award Recipient for Best Humour Book) I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. The late Erma Bombeck was an American Institution; her column syndicated in over nine hundred newspapers, she chronicled suburban home life and made plight of housewifery from the sixties until the nineties. Author of a baker’s dozen of books, including “Just wait til you have children of your own”, and the ubiquitous “If Life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing In the Pits?” Bombeck started her career interviewing Eleanor Roosevelt and Mamie Eisenhower as a reporter with the Dayton Journal Herald.
“A champion of women’s rights, in 1978, Bombeck was involved in the Presidential Advisory Committee for Women, particularly for the final implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment, with the ERA America organization’s support. Bombeck was strongly criticized for this by conservative figures, and some U.S. stores reacted by removing her books.”- (From Wikipedia)
I suppose it is possible that Ms Buckworth does indeed have the talents of Erma Bombeck and Amy Sedaris, which reminds me of an old joke that goes a little like this (feel free to update it; make it your own!):
A lad is walking along a beach and finds a magic lamp and rubs it. Like ya do. Out froths a genie! Who knew?
“As a reward for freeing me, I will grant you one wish!” exclaims the genie.
“One? I thought I got three!” counters the ingrate.
“Nope, different genie. One’s all you get,” grumbles the tightwad genie, slightly miffed.
“Alrighty then, I want the talents of Laurence Olivier, Luciano Pavarotti and Wayne Gretzky”
“Your wish is granted!” says the genie, and poofs off.
Sure enough, the next day the guy wakes up with the singing skills of Laurence Olivier, the hockey skills of Pavarotti and the acting skills of Wayne Gretzky
See, these are the things that run through your mind when you are confronted with a back cover, written Comic Sans, that makes such dubious claims. One cannot help but be skeptical, so one proceeds to continue to make judgments on this book without even cracking the spine (of the book, not the author, although that too becomes tempting)
The front cover depicts a woman in a skirt- maybe Ann B. Davis in a frivolous dirndl and apron- and brandishing a wooden spoon.
“Shut Up and Eat!” screams the title, also written in a wacky font that is reminiscent of The Brady Bunch. It is worth noting that this woman (or possibly transvestite) is only depicted from the waist down, so it could be the woman/tranny of your dreams/nightmares.
Flipping through the book, one is assaulted by “cheeky” observations by Buckworth and shopworn quotes from Dorothy Parker, Fran Lebowitz and Calvin Trillin, so there is lots of good stuff in here that will have you nodding in time if you are part of the soprano section of the choir to whom the author is preaching. Still, it is supposed to be funny, right? So, lighten up!
When Buckworth explains to her little darlings that animals have a short and painful life, (see Kathy’s Rules of the Kitchen #7) and aren’t cute anyway, roll with it! Do not think of maybe telling your children that there are in fact alternatives to hormone-filled factory-farmed meatshit, that you can actually get your kids to eat ethically raised and humanely slaughtered animals. Do not worry that your seven-year-old daughter has bigger boobs than Pamela Anderson, or that little Johnny is the poster child for a Listeria outbreak. Do not validate your daughter’s concerns by discussing vegan or vegetarian options. What’s funny about that?
Demonstrating that I do indeed have a sense of humour, I throw in, gratis, another joke, re-worked for your enjoyment:
Q: How many vegans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: That isn’t funny.
Tell your vegan kids this joke, or if you have feminist friends, substitute the word “feminists” for “vegans” in the above joke, run for cover and grab another glass of Chardonnay, smirking gleefully as they blow a gasket. Tear yourself away from your compendium of “The Collected works of Cathy Guisewite,” stuff the kid in the Bugaboo stroller and Sally Forth to the supermarket to pick up a can of condensed cream of chicken soup.
Of course there are numerous other ways to get your kids to eat, but none of them are as sassy and wiseacre and “W Channel” as Buckworth’s chef-d-ouevre. Personally, I was weaned on Green Eggs and Ham, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and guilt.
For those of you that are interested in keeping the barn door closed before the little colts escape, you might want to give Rituals of Dinner a go.
Here you will learn fun new words like neophobia (the fear of the new) and neophilia (the love of the new).
Expounds Visser, “ Fast –food manufacturers and other mass producers of foodstuffs love and encourage the neophobia in us: the acceptance of, even preference for, hamburgers or pizza day in, day out, served always in the same way, in similar surroundings, and with always the same small range of trimmings…..the constant comforting presence on the table of the same brand-name sauce to lend a predictable taste to everything….””
I offer, as an opportunity for you to draw your own conclusions, the following: (a hilarious and wacky excerpt from Shut Up and Eat):
Kathy’s Rules of the Kitchen
- A little mould never hurt anyone. Cut the corner off that cheese, scoop that green stuff out of the sour cream, and go for it.
- Unlike their fresh counterparts, frozen, green vegetables never get soggy and multi-coloured (while they’re still frozen, that is). Embrace them.
- The correct answer to “What’s for dinner?” is, “Something nasty that you will no doubt hate. I’ll call you when it’s ready.” No reason at all to raise their hopes. If they can choke it down, we all win.
- Use dessert as a bribe. All good things in life are bribes that help get something nasty accomplished. Get over yourself, Supermom.
- If you use a cereal bowl and the dishwasher is not full of clean dishes, put the damn bowl in the dishwasher. When milk and Cheerios are combined and sit for more than an hour, they form an unbreakable bond with the bowl.
- If food falls on the floor and you’re still planning on cooking it some more, it’s good to go. Just put it on someone else’s plate.
- Yes, children, all meat comes from one animal or another. Most of them are not very cute anyway, and live such short, miserable lives that they are never named nor do they experience any joy whatsoever. Let’s move on, shall we?
- When adding items to the grocery list, do not scribble “Something good.” You’ll get smacked once I figure out whose handwriting it is.
- I do not get to make “Mommy’s favourite” dish every single night of the week. First of all, that’s not logistically possible. You can’t have seven favourites, you frigging math geniuses. Second, if they were my favourites they would never include green beans or ketchup. This is for you, one way or the other.
- I know all the hiding places for the peas and lima beans. Stop it.
- Pasta out of a can is still pasta. Stop listening to Grandma. I ate my share of tinned spaghetti when I was a kid, trust me.
- Beans on toast is a meal. Don’t listen to your Uncle Kevin. Remember he’s related to your Dad. ’Nuff said.
- Speaking of Dad: Barbecuing something for ten minutes means nothing around here. Just know that and set the table. That would be impressive.
- You know that 30-second rule? I don’t understand it. Chances are, you dropped it there in the first place, and I’ve never seen anyone in this house move that quickly to pick up something they’ve dropped. Let’s go with three days, okay?
- Don’t eat a whole bag of cookies at once.
- Do I really have to talk about the straight-from-the-carton drinking? Okay, okay. I’ll stop.
Yes, please, stop. Or at least Shut up. Anyway, Kathy Buckworth has lots of fans, is laughing all the way to the bank, and if you found yourself chortling while reading these “Rules” and getting sloshed on Chardonnay as the chicken tenders petrified at 350 into mummy fingers, check out the following websites for more hilarity and commiseration
(Note demographic): Yummymummyclub.ca, Funny-mummy.com, Everythingmom.com, Parentcentral.ca
Incidentally, my sister Mardi never did befriend Katie Bouziak, and Homer Simpson stomps the weird kid to death. Choose your friends wisely.
Kerry Knight is a starving writer who has been eating all his life. Growing up in a family with eight others, he learned to read devouring the collected works of Kate Aitkin and Mary Moore. He lives in Parkdale and regularly cooks for his wife Ivy and his three dogs, Poppy, Betty and Peabody. Follow Kerry Knight at twitter.com/keppsterr.