Why I Never Give Advice, and You Shouldn’t Either: A Basket of Holiday Wisdoms

Boroña-Pola_Lena (2)

“I’m here to have a good time and say exactly what I please. I hope you are too. But if it’s balance you want, go take a Pilates class.”

[A-hem. There is a photo credit below.]

Now that the wild applause of the critics has died down after our first post here at Rhapsody In Cool, I think it’s time for a little pre-holiday gathering. You know, just us chickens? An informal chat before we all head into our kitchens and perform the time-honored holiday ritual of thrusting our arms elbow-deep in a turkey’s bottom.

I had been wondering if Rhapsody should be an advice columnist, and then I decided—giving my drink a thoughtful stir—no, there’s so much advice-giving already, especially at the holidays, that I’m banning myself from the whole, sordid enterprise.

But before I do, I have a couple of nuggets that it would simply be selfish of me not to share. Both are selected for their usefulness at this hopeful merry unavoidable time of year. I hope you’ll accept them in the spirit in which they are meant, which is the spirit of absolute and irrefutable truth.

You may be sensing, by now, that Rhapsody’s editorial bent is rather biased? That this isn’t exactly fair and balanced reporting? As far as that goes, I will say only this: I live with children and am hectored daily about what is “fair,” what is “unfair,” and the fact that we are always out of somebody’s preferred brand of pull-ups. Ten times before breakfast, I’m accused of not listening to the other side. Truth be told, I am rarely listening to either side, but the point is this:

I’m here to have a good time and say exactly what I please. I hope you are too. But if it’s balance you want, go take a Pilates class.

Now, then. The advice.

1. Giving Advice to Parents—A Thing You Must Never, Ever, Do.

Listen, I don’t know why the caged bird sings, but I do know why an agitated mother grizzly is the most dangerous thing in nature. If you threaten my kids or, worse, presume to tell me how to discipline, feed or educate them, you’d better be sure you can climb that tree faster than I can claw you out of it, sister, because I am not having it.

This is especially important to remember right now, when many parents are lumbering from their caves to do holiday shopping, often with cubs in tow. Trust me when I say there is no more dangerous time to approach a female grizzly with helpful hints than when she is loading groceries into a car full of screaming young.

Being a parent yourself does not exempt you from this ban, and neither does the fact that you know children, have children in your extended family, or have been a child yourself. And if you are, as Rhapsody once was, full of untested ideas about how to get children to speak up and dress and hold a utensil properly, consider what Rhapsody has learned:

I’ve learned that mothering is less like being a Montessori teacher than I’d imagined, and more like being an underpaid IHOP waitress who, after pulling her third double shift without a potty break, finally snaps and tells all the customers to stuff their pigs up their blankets, before storming out the door.

So please, take all the advice you had for me, and every other parent you will meet in your entire life, shove it deep inside that Thanksgiving turkey and sew it up tight. I’m telling you this because I care about you, and we must all do our part to keep the bonds of society strong. Those who want to keep their friends will learn how and when to communicate their ideas. Those who cannot will use list-serves.

No, I am not poo-pooing list-serves! My own community has an informative and lively list, and every dingbat in a ten-mile radius is there now, expressing herself.

But where was I? Oh, yes—my second bit of advice.

2. Do Not Make Loaf-Shaped Foods: Advice on Vegan Cuisine

Vegans are wonderful, aren’t they? Their ethics and their actions actually match, and I admire that. I love my vegan friends, I like to try vegan dishes, and I often love to break bread at my table with vegans, but not always, and I’ll tell you why: lentil loaf.

Natural Foods Cookbook cover

My mother’s 1971 edition of “The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook” includes some 32 “loaf” recipes—a wonder when you consider that even one such recipe would have been superfluous. There’s carrot loaf, lima bean loaf, wheat germ loaf (two kinds!!), and yes, even some meaty loaves. But those were more innocent times. Eventually everyone (including my mom) realized that just because you can make a loaf out of buckwheat groats, that doesn’t mean you should. Health food, vegetarian cooking and yes, vegan cuisine, have grown up, and vegans: you should too.

Stop making meat-free loaf things and bringing them to other peoples’ homes.

It’s no use pretending that legumes are just like tasty meats. And why should we try? I can find you a hundred—at least!—delicious preparations for lentils and none of them involving squeezing the poor things into a brick. If you have to make a shaped thing—and I realize that Jell-o salads are off the table—then make a lentil pâté. There’s a lovely one right here.

I’m afraid I have to issue a few citations on this: one for you, you and especially you, dear lady. We need to bring vegan cuisine out of the shadows and into the light! And how is serving something that looks like a plated turd doing to accomplish that? There is a time and a place for lentil loaves. The place is the garbage can and the time is right now.

(Mom, you can stop hollering: I acknowledge that you never made any of those regrettable loaves. But I am still upset about the Carob Chip Cookies.)

 * * * *

That’s about enough for Rhapsody’s pre-Thanksgiving post. Those cylinders of cranberry sauce aren’t just going to slop from the cans all by themselves, are they? Let’s get to it!

You don’t need advice from Rhapsody, anyway—on life, love or cooking. All that need be said on the problem of other people and what to do about them has been offered already, quite beautifully and economically by Lorrie Moore, in her story “How to Be A Writer”:

“In your dorm you meet many nice people. Some are smarter than you. And some, you notice, are dumber than you. You will continue, unfortunately, to view the world in exactly these terms for the rest of your life.”

Well, precisely.  I think we can all go home now, don’t you?

Wait, wait! We can’t go yet. I haven’t thanked Gwyneth Paltrow for her appearance in Rhapsody’s inaugural post! G.P., you were as gracious and glowingly lifelike on our blog as you are in your films. It’s why many have called you “one of the finest actresses in a generation.”

Actually no one has ever said that, but I thought there might be a junior reporter out there, trawling for quotes about you and not really doing his homework.

You’re welcome!

Top photo: By Tamorlan (Photo taken by Tamorlan) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. The other photo is the cover of Rhapsody’s mother’s book, in the kitchen right now. Being ignored.


4 thoughts on “Why I Never Give Advice, and You Shouldn’t Either: A Basket of Holiday Wisdoms

  1. I had a really good loaf recipe that had a lot of ground walnuts and a lot of cheese in it. Want it? HaHaHa!!! just kidding! Love your blog!

  2. Fantastic! Thanks for the much needed laugh as I wait for a crowd to descend upon my house for vegetarian Thanksgiving. Thankfully, there is nothing in the form of a loaf on the menu! Great blog. I am now following you…in a good way. 🙂

  3. Remind me again of why you aren’t writing full time? (oh yeah, the job, the little people.) Ok, ok, well, just let me know when I can pre-order the book.

  4. Would anyone happen to have the NYT Vegetarian Cookbook recipe for Lima Bean loaf at hand? It is decidedly NOT turd colored, is far from healthy with the amount of butter and milk fat, and has become a family holiday favorite since I introduced it some 25+ years ago, and the call went out today, I’m shopping, but my dog eared NYT Cookbook is at home. Thanks!

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