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Nailed It! Tales of Woe From a Literary Kitchen

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Nicole Mulhausen

Staff Writer

After a childhood spent traveling around the country, Nicole Mulhausen landed in the maritime Pacific Northwest for college; finding it to be God’s Country, she never left. By day (and night) she manages a performance venue at a small liberal arts college, where she regularly rubs elbows with talented writers and musicians. Alongside the chickens, Artemis and Athena, she holds the fort at home while her two dashing sons galavant around the planet, flying airplanes in Montana and deep sea diving in Southeast Asia. With a nest now empty (aside from the chickens), she has more time to follow her sons' lead, exploring hitherto unknown wonders — like reading the works of authors-not-yet-dead. Twitter: @nicolemulhausen

During my dystopian jag, one night I stayed up way past my bedtime reading The Hunger Games. The next morning, driving my son to school at the crack of doom, I was making guesses about the fates of various characters. Like you do.

“Pretty sure that guy is gonna die.”

Muttering: “I’m not giving you any spoilers.”

I tried again. “I noticed she swapped up the gender roles. Katniss is more like a typical male character, and whatshisname is more like a typical….”

He interrupted with a snort. “I know, Mother. Your other son noticed the same thing and lectured me about it.”

This conversation was going nowhere fast.

We were silent awhile.

And then I made a fatal error.

“I was thinking about making lamb stew with plums.”

“No. Just no. You want to EAT a little baby lamby?! THEY ARE TOO CUTE TO EAT.”

“But I already bought the dried plums! And the lamb stew is the whole reason I even started reading the book!”

I guess it was bad enough that I was trying to make conversation before 7am, but this was too far.

“Please just let me out of the car.”

I should have known better, because going-nowhere-fast is about how all of our literary-culinary adventures have gone.

And it’s been this way from the start. When the boys were small and we were reading the Little House books, I remember my son standing on a stool at the counter, helping with dinner.

“Maybe I should sweeten the cornbread with a handprint, like Ma.”

“No.” And he slid the sugar canister toward me.

“But that was such an adorable scene, the cornbread….!”

“Mommy. That’s disgusting.”

Same with the Turkish Delight I picked up one Christmas when we were reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Disgusting. (But the package was really pretty. So there’s that.)

Surprisingly not disgusting was the furmity I made when we were listening to The Mayor of Casterbridge.

“That looks gross, Mother.”

“I know. But it’s delicious.”

“Why would you eat that? That dude sold his wife! Who does that, SELLS HIS WIFE? He has some mental problems.”

“He was an alcoholic, honey.”

“Wait. You put rum in that? For breakfast?”

“Of course not. Try it!”

He gave me a hard Paddington stare.

And, speaking of dear Paddington from Darkest Peru, even the marmalade didn’t go over well. I had bought it as a surprise. The boys were in their jammies at the breakfast table, hair standing on end, number two son examining the jar, reading the label, in his brand new glasses that made his eyes seem even bigger.

“This has oranges in it. You know oranges give me diarrhea.”

The only success, really, was the “chowdah,” when we were reading Moby-Dick. But we eat clam chowder all the time, so that didn’t really count.

Still. All these years later, every time I read a food scene, I still want to share it with the boys. But I found the dried plums in the pantry the other day—really, really dried. Like, golf-ball-hard kinda dried.

That was sad.

But all those pretty blogs and books!

Maybe one more try.

“You’re really into Game of Thrones….”


“But, buddy. Isn’t the show just all about the boobies?”

“Well. Yes. But it’s about more than just boobies. What do boobies have to do with anything?”

“Hmm. Okay. Well. So today I found a recipe for rabbit stew….”


“Maybe I could set a trap for that bunny that’s been hopping in the garden, eating my seedlings.”

“That cute little bunny?!”

“You mean that wee beastie!”

“Mother. Stop.”

“Or! We could put ‘im in pie, like Mr. McGregor!”



“Are you done now?”

“Only if you make dinner tonight.”

“I really think that would be best.”