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Filtering by Tag: ideas

I Heard You Twice the First Time

Suzanne Pollak

When it comes to managing uncommunicative teenagers, your home is the ideal place to get this surly age group to start talking to you. The second most ideal place is your car, essentially the family home on wheels.

A well-known fact is that everyone feels comfortable in anyone's kitchen, even young adults. So set up an environment that puts teens at ease around a kitchen island or countertop, and organize a project making gnocchi together.  Making and forming gnocchi will be a learning experience, no matter how expert you are already. (If you are frightened by the prospect then get the Academy to do the teaching.)

Here's what happens when you are creating something with your hands and concentration is needed: brains are 75% occupied with task at hand, which makes the other 25% of motor functions relax. Don't ask the Dean why but she knows this is a proven fact after raising four of her own children. Talking subjects can be about the steps to making the gnocchi, a completely non-threatening topic which offers lots of areas for delving into -- food, culture, nutrition, taste. Not to mention that a hands-on experience is always more fun to do with someone else, because you become pals in a project instead of adversaries.

If you can get into a routine (maybe once a month) a one-on-one tradition may start and memories will be made, believe us! Once a skill becomes more familiar and less scary, there is always opportunity for laughing at mistakes which will definitely occur, being proud of the final product, and creating a delicious dinner. With patience, the space will arise for talking about other, more personal subjects...maybe not on the first try but eventually. Number one key: don't ask penetrating questions, which moms can be expert at doing.

Nightly dinners are the time and place to become an active listener. Ask questions that need more than a yes or no response, but remember, not too personal! The big mistake is to do all the talking or give too many opinions. Allow these teenagers of yours time to answer a question so they can formulate what they want to say and how. Let these guys be the smartest ones in the room. Every person needs that. 

Flash Party in Review

Suzanne Pollak

No One Hour Party ever left anyone feeling quite like this...at least not of its own accord. 

No One Hour Party ever left anyone feeling quite like this...at least not of its own accord. 

The reason why the penultimate night of the year is ideal for a One Hour Party is because the following night always starts too early, goes on for too long and ends up a little snooze-y by the time the Ball drops. Not to mention, the OHP must be given in cities or neighborhoods where guests can easily get to the party by foot or by a short taxi ride, without a long travel commitment. Sixty minutes of fun isn’t worth a thirty minute commute.

People arrive knowing they do not have a lot of time, sort of like Henry the VIII with his wives. Get right to it! Find the person you most want to talk to, dispense with wasted words and wasted time, delve into a real conversation. The clicking time clock remains on guests minds in an exciting way.

The infamous Ice Cube Trick worked wonders, saved time and even impressed the Academy’s Dean of Drinkery. The hostess discovered that it only takes a moment to separate ice from water balloons when you run under the faucet to melt slightly. The orbs were placed in waiting Old Fashioned glasses and lined up on the bar for guests to ladle their punch into upon arrival. This functioned as a way to get hands involved immediately -- a tiny but genius trick. (Anybody would rather pour a cocktail than wash a dish.)

As for hors d'ouevres, the hostess made ‘cocktail' instead of ‘breakfast' biscuits, which required a healthy grinding of fresh pepper into the dough. Then, the host filled biscuits with very generous servings of speck and lardo. He announced that the lardo replaced the cheese with its creamy texture. There was enough black pepper plus slices of speck to excite every taste bud and satisfy each stomach until guests enjoyed their dinner at some other place later on in the evening.

Don’t be fooled as to the workload of an OHP. It's hardly different than a regular cocktail party except for the fact that you offer one and only one appetizer + cocktail. The host went with the season and made a citrus & tequila punch. For those who didn’t want hard alcohol or would have rather had wine…too bad! They made due with Pellegrino for sixty minutes.

People policed themselves and really did manage to leave at the one hour mark, except for the couple who stayed and stayed and thank goodness they did! How else would we have discovered our Goose Guest, a financial man with a Ph.D. in goose and all it’s culinary charms? Which brings us to the final secret to any successful party, whether a quickie or an all-nighter: Invite the widest range of guests possible in ages, professions, interests. The Dean herself was honored to be included in the eclectic One Hour Party mix. 

SALAD DAYS & SALAD NIGHTS

Suzanne Pollak

Salads are a life staple, so that means salad accoutrements are too.

Dean Pollak has lived long enough to know she has constructed over 25,000 salads. We will not divulge how we arrived at that number -- math is not our strong suit -- but it is absolutely accurate and means you should pay attention.

There are many reasons we insist that you take note of your salad bowls, salad servers, pepper grinders and salt cellars. Foremost, all the paraphernalia is essential in making salads addictive, beautiful, fun to construct, and will get your family on the daily salad wagon without rebuttal. Health concerns are the least of the reasons our lunchroom serves a big bowl everyday. We like fattening salads. We like thinning salads. We like beautiful salads. We like bread salads, also known as panzanella. But we like playing with wooden bowls, like the ones at The-Commons, around the corner on Broad Street, most of all!

Who doesn’t long to fill a gorgeous handmade bowl? Even kids do and will. A big wooden bowl is a thing of beauty. In fact, the only thing more beautiful is several wooden bowls nesting in each other, letting you choose how many people will eat your salad.

Collections are fun to start. We suggest that if you haven’t collected anything yet, you begin with salad bowls. Let us be your guides. As with any collection, done carefully over years, a collection swells and takes up real estate, so the objects might as well be useful to use and beautiful to look at. Handmade bowls will make your kitchen feel more grounded, your knowledge of wood expand, your waistline shrink, your menu decisions easier. Plus, the number of guests eating salad can start at one or grow to twenty -- three full 18-inch bowls will easily feed a crowd.

You can never go wrong serving a salad, whether it's a simple green one or a confetti of colors and surprises. They always delight.

A few suggested themes:

  • Color, e.g. Yellow - yellow beets (roasted early in the day or even a day before, sliced thickly or cubed), wedges of yellow heirloom tomatoes, croutons count as yellow, slices of pear.
  • Simple Green – sliced endive and watercress tossed with blue cheese.
  • Seasonal, e.g. Fall - roasted root vegetables tossed with escarole, radicchio, red cabbage, topped with rare cold steak.

Ancient Wisdom: Get your kids on the job of helping in the kitchen and a green leaf just might make it past their lips.

  • Toddlers can toss the salad. The utensils pictured above are especially easy and fun for little kids to use.
  • Elementary school-aged children can become proficient in washing lettuce in a salad spinner.
  • Middle schoolers can try their hand with knives -- chopping, peeling, and slicing.
  • High schoolers can and should be in charge of dinner at least once a week. Let them dream up their own salad...even if it ends up being popcorn salad, do not judge!

Finally, here are a few Academy salads from the vault...

Happy Healthy!