On the morning of September first I climbed into bed with each of my children and hugged them. "Good morning first day of third grade boy." I whispered to Sebastian. Next I curled up with Julian and again, whispering, said, "Good morning first day of kindergarten boy." Julian happily answered back, "Good morning first day of work mama." On the first day of school I became the "Healthy Food Coordinator" for the VNA Family Room, which means in one fell swoop everything is different.
Before I tell you about this job, let me say, I am not one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason. In part this is because my brother liked to walk around New York City, in the eighties, talking to homeless people. Hearing the stories of why people became homeless sort of kills the possibility that the world will work out for everyone. There is also that small thing of my mother dying when I was 12 and becoming a type 1 diabetic when I was 13. So with my lack of Pollyanna feelings about the world established, let me tell you about my new job and the organization I am working for.
The Family Room has been in our lives since Julian was an infant. At that time I was struggling to figure out how to care for a newborn and keep an overactive, curious, outgoing preschooler occupied and happy. I quickly learned that our days went better if I could just get us organized enough to get out of the house and to the Family Room, at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays when they have family play. Family play is a drop in play program with staff and food. However that does not really explain the role the VNA has had in the lives of my family for the last 5 years, or the feelings of grief I was having as I tried to figure out how I was going to graduate with my children from there.
However this last fall I had come to the realize I did not need to work just because Julian would be in school all day. Taking care of my family and what we eat is still important work and finding some meaningless, low paying job was not going to make me happier (although it might have made us more financially stable). If I was not going to work, I would have the time to volunteer at the Family Room, teaching cooking workshops to the participants and helping with food. So comfortable with my choices I started to look forward to the free time I would have to cook more, blog etc.
Then in May or June I heard that the Family Room's Americorps Vista position was going to be available and the position was, "Healthy Food Coordinator." I am going to skip over the brief period when I thought the position was already filled and just say, "Wow!" This position is even more, "meant to be," if you believe in that kind of thing, as now I am working 3 blocks from the boys current school. This is only amazing when you realize we decided in April to move the children to a school that is 2 miles from our house, instead of the one Sebastian attended for the last 3 years, that is a mile away.
I have now been doing my job for one week and I feel very confident in saying, I can tell you at the end of the year exactly what I am doing. One thing I have not had to do is spend time getting to know my coworkers or the programs they offer. I know I will be teaching cooking workshops, helping to source more local foods for all the programs with a focus on the preschool and developing menus for the preschool ready for them (probably me to start with) making their own meals. I will be using the skills and relationships I have been developing in the kitchen and with food here in Burlington. Some of my children's pickiness will help inform what I do, but really much of Sebastian and Julian's opinions about food are uniquely their own. Take last week and the watermelon popsicles I made when Sebastian declared he was tired of eating the melon from our CSA.
So I had this moment of inspiration to make watermelon cream popsicles, which would be a riff on a drink I used to get on vacation. The drink was called a watermelon cream and is made by blending fresh watermelon juice with vanilla ice cream. However rather then make vanilla ice cream I decided just to use milk, cream, sugar and vanilla extract and then freeze the mixture in popsicle molds. Both Sebastian and Julian were so excited when I told them the idea and hounded me until I got popsicle sticks to make them. Lewis, Julian and I all love them. Sebastian, the child who was tired of watermelon, declared that they are not what he was expecting and he doesn't like them. Apparently, he said, he was expecting them to taste like a wonderfully ripe slice of watermelon and they don't. Perhaps because his mother intentionally made them a little different from the flavor of watermelon because he was tired of it!
Watermelon Cream Popsicles
2 1/2 cups watermelon puree (make watermelon puree by whizzing watermelon chunks in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender. You can remove the seeds if you want but it is not essential)
3/4 cup heavy cream (you can substitute half and half, whole milk or any milk substitute such as soy milk)
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, use whatever you keep in the house, even soy, rice, almond etc)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Combine all the ingredients and combine well using whatever machine you used to puree the watermelon chunks. Pour into popsicle molds (or paper cups with a stick handle) and freeze until hard.