Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Phyllo Dough, Chess, and Voltaire

I bought some phyllo dough for a fancy recipe that required roasting an array of vegetables and cutting the dough into small squares to fit in cupcake pans so that we could have our own personalized little bundles of healthful goodness. It was a lovely thought, but it was Tuesday and I was tired and Fiona was having a conniption.

First, Fiona: her chess camp counselor recommended that we move her from the morning session to the afternoon session, for the more advanced chess students. 

This should be something to celebrate, right? But no. Because her afternoon daycare is apparently a lot more fun than chess camp. There were plans to go swimming at the Y on Friday afternoon. And now her life was OVER. 

A major, out of this world crazy screaming, crying fit ensued. "ADVANCED CHESS HAS RUINED MY LIFE! I WON'T GO! YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!" She was so over the top with despair that it was really hard not to laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. All because chess was getting in the way of swimming at the Y. Even though we have a membership to the Y and can go swimming there any damn day we want. 

If only she wasn't checkmating her poor unsuspecting morning chess camp friends, who apparently have become her BEST friends, whom she will NEVER EVER SEE AGAIN FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE BECAUSE WE MOVED HER TO THE AFTERNOON CAMP, where she doesn't know anyone. Oh, the woe!

The tiger mom lurking deep within me wanted to say, "Actually, yes, I CAN make you go. You're going and that's the end of it." And you're going to crush them all at the tournament.  But I didn't. My heart was breaking. 

As adults, we deal with disappointment every day of our lives and it's a challenge to not automatically think: "Get over it. This is life." As a parent, if you have the power to shield your child from sadness, more than likely, you will do it. You weigh the pros of giving them what they need intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, with what they want, deep to the core of their being. 

Sometimes, it's a close call. Do you let them eat Skittles for breakfast? No. Well, unless it's their birthday or something. Do you let them get covered in mud even though they're wearing their brand new swimsuit?  We all know the answer to that one is hell yes. Do you let them blow off chess camp so they can go to the Y with their friends, even though you spent good money for that camp and there's a chess tournament in two weeks? Dammit, I guess you do.

Of course, Laura and I listened to her pleas, offered options, none of which were as great as swimming at the Y. Maybe she'll meet some new friends at the advanced session, we reasoned. Maybe this would be all for the best in this best of all possible worlds! 

But eight-year-olds don't understand Voltaire.

It was a long, drawn out process and I still didn't have dinner started. (We're leaning toward letting her go freaking swimming on Friday with her friends. Because we're softies, that's why. It's a compromise of sorts. And she made a very, very strong, albeit exaggerated, case.)

So, finally, dinner. 

Phyllo dough is annoying. You're supposed to take each freakishly fragile sheet and brush it with butter while you keep the other sheets moist with a clean, damp cloth. Whatever, Martha Stewart. All my damp cloths are dirty. Phyllo dough is one of the main reasons I'm not Greek. 

I was not in the mood. So I took a few sheets, drizzled them with olive olive oil and repeated the process until my pan was sufficiently covered. It was a totally half-assed way to prepare this improvised  dinner.

 Top with your veggies of choice. I know some people hate mushrooms (I'm looking at you, Annabel), so you could substitute those with zucchini (yuck!) or red bell pepper, or anything you damn well please.
 I remembered I had some "fresh" spinach that was on its last stems, so I quickly sauteed it and added it.
    Top with goat cheese. 
Anything can be transformed into an impromptu quiche. Beat four eggs with about a cup of milk and add a cup (or so) of Swiss cheese. Season with salt and pepper, add the egg mixture to the veggies, and bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes.

When you really think about it, phyllo dough is like advanced chess camp. It's complicated and it pisses you off really bad, and you don't really know what you're doing, but in the end, it comes out OK. And if you're lucky, you get to have your phyllo and go swimming too.

Peace and love.


  1. So I hope that means you will be here,, in a couple of weeks??


  2. Jessie - Yes, she is registered! She has moved from beginner to intermediate. Thank you for teaching her back in the day :)