Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Name Game -- Fun For Kids And Adults Alike!

They call me “Mrs. Wiles.” 

Or “Ms. Wiles.”  Or “Cheri.”  And sometimes, “Miss Cheri.”

Turns out, the name game is pretty complicated -- and as I get older, increasingly so.

Expectant parents can spend three entire trimesters debating the merits of family names versus uncommon names, versus distinctive names versus flat-out convoluted, how-do-you-pronounce-that, how-did-you-come-up-with-that names.  Even after you narrow it down, you still have to take into account the “playground factor.”  Sorry, mommies- and daddies-to-be, but you should be aware that there are unflattering words that rhyme with “Bart.”  And “Rick.”  And “Belle.”  And “Cam.”  And although those words may not leap to the mind of a 36-year-old, they certainly do to a six-year-old.  Trust me.

Even pet names are controversial.  Local radio personality Sheri Lynch last week told the story of a dog with the unfortunate moniker, “Mommy.”  Really, I’ve got nowhere to go with that.  But I think my kids would agree that one “Mommy” per household ought to be the legal limit.  And there are days when even that seems excessive. 

Currently, the pet names Chez Wiles have musical roots.  Our rescue dog, Josie, is named for a blink-182 song.  Our cat Lionel, with the Mike Tyson personality, is actually the namesake of Lionel Richie, formerly of the Commodores.  Funny, too, that we’d choose tuneful names, when not one of us could carry a tune if it were handed to us in a gift-wrapped box.  In a shopping bag.  With a handle.

Post-divorce, the name game has only grown trickier.  Previously, the rules were pretty straightforward.  My children know to address adults by the appropriate title and the appropriate last name, e.g., Mr. and Mrs. Pitt.  The only exception would be for close family friends, whom the kids could call by their first name, as long as it was preceded by the appropriate title, e.g., Mr. Brad and Miss Angelina.

Problems crop up, though, as a single parent considers dating.  You’ve got to think short-term and long-term.  Several years after her divorce, my own mom was lucky enough to marry a wonderful man whom we’d known for years and I’d called “Uncle.”  But as my stepfather, could I call him “Uncle”?  Ewww.

And how should my own kids refer to someone I date?  "Mr. Damon"?  (Ahem.  It's my blog isn't it?)  If we married, they’d be stuck calling their stepfather by a needlessly formal name.  But "Mr. Matt" seems silly, too, right?  On the other, other hand, saying, “Hey Matt, where are y’all going tonight?” the first time they meet a Hollywood movie star seems presumptuous.  (Again, don’t judge me.  I’m just saying...)

And what about me?  Am I Cheri?  Am I Ms. Wiles?  I’ve been told I should be offended when someone calls me Mrs. Wiles, but I was Mrs. Wiles for so long that I don’t even notice it.  But to be called that by the kids of someone I’m dating?  Umm.  Awkward.

Maybe it would be best to go with the “call me whatever you want, but don’t call me late for dinner” approach.  As long as dinner is something as satisfying as this Chicken Chili.  Or is it White Chili?  Well, you can’t really call it “White,” because there are tomatoes in it.  Maybe “White Bean Chili" ...

Whatever.  Just call it dinner.

Chicken Chili With White Beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, minced

4-6 cups chicken broth (hold aside 2 cups to be used as needed)
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes (I prefer the “petite” dice)
1 12-ounce bottle beer (optional)

2 tablespoons chili powder (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

6 grilled chicken breasts, chopped (could also use thighs)

3 14-oz. cans cannellini beans

In a large pot (with lid) sauté onions over medium heat with olive oil.  When onions are translucent, stir in garlic and continue sautéing for about five minutes.

Stir in liquids, spices and chicken.  Don't taste it at this point.  It will taste like an culinary experiment gone bad.  You've got to be patient.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer (with lid) for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.  (It takes this long for flavors to meld.)  Stir in undrained cans of beans, and simmer another 30-40 minutes.  Add additional broth if needed.  Before serving, check seasoning.  Depending on the freshness of your spices and how “hot” you like it, you may need more of everything – including salt.  Serve hot.
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