I dedicate this post to Her Majesty and not because she is my daughter but because she is that person in my life who pushes me to step out of my comfort zone and experience situations that otherwise I would never put myself in.
Hope you are ready for another chapter of my “awkward motherhood saga”! 😉 Oh well! Here we go.
Last year a mother from Her Majesty’s school approached me at dismissal. She is Japanese – Her Majesty and her daughters are very good friends and we ended up becoming friends too. She explained that she was putting together a group of mothers coming from different countries in order to be able to offer an international language program as an after-school activity. I knew immediately I was about to enter dangerous territory and then – of course – it hit me … inevitably and very hard: she asked me if I would be willing to join them and teach a class about Italian culture and language. Bam! Needless to say, the Evil Queen immediately showed her true self. I simply and firmly said … thank you, but no thank you! Just the thought of me in a classroom teaching a bunch of kids from first grade to fifth grade made me hyperventilate. I knew it was for a good cause but I could clearly feel my temple veins start bulging and pulsing like crazy and my natural instincts telling me to get out of that situation and … get out fast. And so I did! Another mother would have gotten offended by my abrupt refusal but not my friend. I think it is because of the culture she was raised in. Haven’t you noticed that Japanese people are among the most gracious and kind human beings on earth? She sure is. She told me not to worry but gently invited me to think it over. She was going to ask me again the following year hoping I would change my mind. End of the story … or so I thought.
The new year started and there we were again at dismissal. Only this time I wasn’t by myself. Her Majesty was by my side talking with my friend’s daughters. When the fearful question was asked again, my brain was just in the process of looking for the right words of refusal but those few seconds of hesitation kind of stole my moment. The only thing that I could hear was Her Majesty’s voice saying that, yes, of course we were going to do it, that she would be my helper and we were so excited to be part in this program. Yay!!! My wonderfully social daughter! More mature than her mother in so many instances, always entusiastic of socializing and spending time with others!!! What was I supposed to say? There are moments in life when even the Evil Queen must recognize that she has been defeated and that was one of those moments!
I thought about how to teach that class for quite a while. I knew I wanted to cover all the Italian basics (history, art, food and language) but the most difficult thing for me was to come up with a plan to catch and keep the attention span of younger kids for
the whole duration of the class. As always, the solution came to me in my favorite place: lying in bed with a book in my hands. Kids love fairy tales and stories. I just had to connect any subject I wanted to talk about to a legend or an anecdote and only God knows if Italian
history and culture aren’t full of them. My next step was the public library. In my “office career” days, research and due diligence were an essential part of my job. Still today, whatever I’m doing, my first thing is research. It’s just my modus operandi and I wish I could do the same when it comes to human beings! 😉 Anyway, I made an outline of my talking points, I created handouts for the kids, I let Her Majesty pick the subjects she wanted to cover and prepped her and I asked Stefano to buy a few memorabilia during his latest trip to Italy to be given to the children at the end of class. I also considered some slides but – on second thought – I realized I would have gone a bit overboard.
Eventually, my teaching day came. I’m not new to meetings and presentations. Back in the old days, I used to spend countless hours in conference rooms talking with people that would have done pretty much anything just to close a deal. So what was all the fuss about? I don’t know but I sure was a nervous wreck. Thank goodness, Her Majesty was by my side giving me the talk and telling me that everything was going to be fine. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around?
How did it go? Oh well, only time will tell! All I know is that Her Majesty did a great job, I survived and, most importantly, the children got out of that classroom unharmed and – hopefully – with a few notions about another culture! Sounds pretty good to me for a
first time, total amateur teacher! 😉
As a way to thank my daughter, I made one of her favorite treats: cat’s tongue cookies. These little tongues are pretty popular in Europe and Italians serve them either as cookies accompanying an afternoon tea or as a final touch for fruit salads, creamy desserts and
ice creams. Made with very few basic ingredients (powdered sugar, butter, flour and egg whites), they are super easy to make and you can unleash your creativity in terms of flavor combinations and/or dip them in chocolate ganache for a very decadent effect! The best thing about these babies? There is no magical recipe. You are just required to own a scale and follow a very simple rule: the weight of the egg whites must exactly match the weight of each of the other ingredients. In this case, I used 3 eggs whose whites weighed 98 grams.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?
98 grams, powdered sugar
98 grams, softened butter (at room temperature)
98 grams, flour
98 grams, egg whites
half vanilla bean (optional)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven at 325 F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the sugar and the butter and mix until they are perfectly blended. Split the vanilla bean down its length using a knife. With the help of the same knife, scrape out the seed on both halves and add the scraped seeds to the butter mixture. Add the flour and beat until the flour is completely blended. Add the egg white and mix until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Stop and scrape the bowl.
Place some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Prepare a pastry bag with a medium start tip and fill it with the mixture. Create cookies long about 6/7 cm (they must be as thick as a pinkie). Make sure to leave some space between each cookie (they will grow). Cook for about 10 minutes or until the edges get lightly brown. Remove from the oven, let them cool completely on a wire rack and dust them with some powdered sugar before serving them.
I wish all of you who celebrate it a very Happy Easter!
PS: I think everybody should have a person in their life that encourages them to be a little more adventurous and try out something different, maybe something they are a bit afraid of because it is new to them and out of their comfort zone. As a very wise woman once
said: if you do something, something good can happen or something bad can happen but if you don’t do anything, nothing is going to happen! 🙂