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Last Sunday afternoon on the spur of the moment (the first moment I recall having in recent memory, actually) I called our neighbors and invited them up for a child-friendly 5 pm dinner. Then Aaron, Leo and I walked to a far-off, great big park and ran around. When we got home it was 4:45. I raced into the kitchen, brought water to a boil, threw in the asparagus ends and pea pod shells along with some chicken bouillon, microwaved sliced asparagus, chopped an onion and wondered how anyone ever manages to produce calm, home-cooked meals in real time.
I was grating cheese and just finishing the risotto—and a glass of wine—when our neighbors arrived. Somehow, the toddlers and adults all managed to be seated on our patio as the risotto managed to be done, and we sat down to a spring meal, the white, creamy rice dotted with green asparagus and peas, served alongside a lovely green salad. I snapped a few photos, then jokingly started to write captions for them: “A Brooklyn family enjoys a spring meal al fresco.” “The Singers entertain casually, serving an early meal suited to the tastes of children and adults.” “Risotto on the patio.”We raised wineglasses, beer bottles and sippy cups for a toast. Then Leo and his friend Sadie finished eating and started throwing cutlery, and a few of us adults scarfed the rest of our food standing while the kids were hosed down and set loose. It was probably 5:20. Ah yes, that must be why I love lifestyle photos in magazines, with their escapist captions, and the sense they give that this sort of easy enjoyment will settle on your household permanently if you just follow the recipe. Well, my risotto recipe is pretty fast, and the kids did eat the veggies, so you could try. But if I were you I would take a picture right away, just in case.
Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.