On Food & Love & Adolescence (+ Stove-top Mac n Cheese & Zucchini Lemon Bundt Cake)

My son is almost 13. He loves food. He used to eat most things I made. One of the ways I show my love for people is by cooking for them. Vis a vis my son that expression sometimes feels like a fine line between loving and spoiling. “Would you like a poached egg or crepes for breakfast?” is a common question proffered on week-day mornings in our house.

 

These days he wants no breakfast or maybe one or two bites of something. Why? In part because he went to bed too late and has no time, in part because maybe he’s really not hungry in the mornings, and I think in part because he’s rebelling against our expectations of him, including basic caloric requirements. . .

 

I’m so wrapped up in feeding and nourishing people that when my own son walks out the door (in a huff often) with nary a bite and then comes home having eaten only a fraction of his lunch I wonder how he can thrive. When I ask him he says: “Look at me! I’m fine! I’ll be the first to know when I’m not!” And he is thriving, I can see that he is.  And yet it’s hard for me to just let him be. He tells me I care too much and need to chill. I’m working on it. I am!

 

After he left in a huff this morning (because I asked whether he was going to drink his smoothy–which he didn’t) I’ve gone about my work day. I have plenty to keep me busy but then I see an overgrown zucchini on my counter and think of the Zucchini Lemon Bundt Cake he used to love (would he still love it?!) and whether I should make it when I’m done with my work.

 

I think I won’t make it because I need to find different ways of showing him my love my right now. And of course I’ll keep making things I think he likes but I’m working on expanding my love/parenting tool-kit . . .  like more listening and less talking.

 

He does consistently like my quick stove-top Mac n’ Cheese so if you find yourself in the presence of a hungry adolescent or really anyone who needs to eat and isn’t particularly into vegetables, give it a try!

 

Quick Stove-top Mac ‘n Cheese

 

Variations

  • Add vegetables such as peas, broccoli, cauliflower or finely chopped kale or chard about 3 minutes before the pasta is tender.
  • See this cauliflower pasta and this Brussels sprout pasta for similar dishes with vegetables.

Serves 2-3

 

1 1/2 cups tubetti (or ditalini or small elbow macaroni)

3 1/4 cups vegetable broth, chicken stock or water (if using water you’ll need 1/4 teaspoon salt)

1/2 cup heavy cream

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar or other grating cheese or a combination of cheddar and Parmesan

Salt, to taste (you won’t need much or any at all if you’re broth is salty–the cheese adds salt too)

Fresh parsley, basil or chives, for serving (optional)

 

Put the pasta and broth or water and salt in a medium saucepan and stir well and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 9-10 minutes uncovered until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the pasta is tender. At this point add the cream and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until it thickens slightly and is nice and saucy.  Stir in the cheese and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. This quick version thickens a lot as it cools and is best enjoyed right away.