When my 6th-grader said, nonchalantly on a Monday night, “I have to bring in 24 millet cakes for reading class Thursday,” I tried to rally my inner nice-mommy cheerleader. “Millet cakes, you say? Okey-dokey! No clue what those are, but sure!”
My cookbooks and favorite recipe website yielded only a little basic info like the fact that millet is a grain that cooks sort of like rice and looks sort of like couscous, and a version with its indigestable hull remaining on is common in pre-packaged birdseed. Sounds yummy. Google finally had several sources of seemingly the only single millet cake recipe in existance.
The next day the sick baby, the 4-yr-old and I scoured the shelves of 2 grocery stores–including the health food section with its various odd seeds, grains and $12 flours–no millet. I told my son, and he whined then said he’d pick another project from the list. “Wait,” I said, “there’s a list?” Why did I spend 2 hrs searching for damn birdseed when he had a list?
So Wednesday he told his teacher and lo and behold a classmate–whose mother went to the only other store in our small town–had indeed procured millet and brought a bag to class and divied it up into baggies like a weed dealer, sending my son home with his own millet dime bag.
The teacher had instructed the class that they were to do this project THEMSELVES. My kid who CRIES if I tell him he’ll have to make his own PB&J because I’m IN THE SHOWER is supposed to mince onion and garlic and fry with hot oil? Right. He measured some parmesan, grated a carrot, said, “call me when it’s time to stir something,” and left the kitchen.
All told there was 10 min of prep, 40min of cooking, 30min of cooling, 20min of shaping the resultant glop into patties, 20min of chilling, then 40 min of frying–individual millet grains inexplicably bursting, airborne, like popcorn, splattering the stovetop my shirt and my arms with searing-hot oily schrapnel. The first batch stuck to the pan, so I scraped the hot gunk out, re-shaped it, switched to a non-stick pan (that’s 3 dirtied pans now, if you’re counting), and continued frying in batches.
Meanwhile my husband called from 1000 miles away to have me look-up a computer document for our home business, then berated me for not finding it. The 4-yr old shredded several sheets of paper all over the counter and floor. The baby crawled, whining, at my feet, dragged the contents of the lowest pantry shelf and the utensil drawer all over the kitchen, and shit in her diaper.
But I made them–my nice-Mommy-ness all nestled golden-brown in Tupperware. Then my son came in, said, “Oh, they’re done. What’s for dinner?” And the kicker was that the shit tasted GOOD! Like I would totally make those damn millet cakes for dinner some night if my millet dealer’d hook me up and if I didn’t fear the smell of them would trigger PTSD. It sticks in the teeth a little, but nothing a little Jack can’t wash down.
So thanks, teacher, for assigning me greasy, ridiculous homework. Thanks for putting my college degree to use. Thanks for teaching your class to waste time and money and ingredients on food when you know damn well they’re going to take one nibble, declare them “wierd,” and fling them in the trash. Teacher, take your freakin millet cakes and “get off my lawn!”