Four uncertain eyes gazed at me inquisitively, trying desperately to find a comfortable balance between trust and that gnawing guttural reaction begging disbelief.
“Don’t do it,” a voice pleaded in my two children’s tiny yet potently precise psyches.
“Her smile is not quite right and the rapid eye blinking screams deception.”
Although only 9 and 6 years old, these kids are well-versed in the art of body language. Casting aside requests to watch popular children shows, they demand a daily fix of the CBS Evening News.
Every night, at 6:30 sharp, they greedily absorb the nightly offerings of their favored news anchor, Katie Couric, who appears to be their vehicle for, not only current events but also the nuances of communication.
“See how she had to ask him that question twice, mom?” my oldest, and very insightful child asks while watching Katie Couric in an interview.
“That means the person is hiding something”, she concurs proudly (and, as fate would have it, correctly).
My first-grader picks up additional details of interest: “Katie changed her hairstyle, mom. She looked better before.” I let it slide (and Katie would too) as those who know Jonathan, know he hates for anything to change, especially hair.
Instead, I focus on the fact that he continues being an avid listener; sprawled on the floor playing with his Bakugan toys, he never misses a newsworthy beat.
I never imagined Katie Couric would play such a prominent role in my family life.
Given the slew of anti-Katie blogs, it is obvious she is not as loved by others.
But in this household she is revered and I have come to look forward to watching her, not so much for her news coverage, but for the questions and discussions that arise among my children as a result.
Katie has easily been incorporated into my family curriculum, molding herself as an empowering female role model for both my children, no matter what the critics or the ratings say.
It leads me all back to the eyes staring at me cautiously.
They scrutinize my body language for clues just like they do while watching Katie interview someone on the evening news. “Is mom being genuine or does she have a secret agenda”, they think to themselves as I offer up pasta for dinner with a ‘special tomato sauce.’
“What happened to our old sauce?” my mini-reporter questions, screening me for the slightest jerk in my response.
“Yes, where is the tomaaaaato sauce?’ Don’t-Change-It demands.
I knew I needed to turn the tables around from interviewee to interviewer in order to stand a chance with these two, so I hoped for some Couric karma to come my way. I remain calm, even under the line of fire (for that is what Katie would do). I smile (she always does), carefully divide my gaze between Camera 1 and Camera 2, and say in my most cheerful tone (there’s no way I can ever be as perky as Katie, but by golly I try):
“This IS tomato sauce!
Just a new tomato sauce!
You’ll really loooove it!”
I attempt to make unwavering eye contact in the hopes of not revealing the secret ingredient, which is chicken liver.
As adventurous and open-minded eaters as these two are, I have a hunch the idea of chicken liver would be a hard sell.
They both paused and looked at each other for an unspoken huddle.
With a quick nod it was over and they agreed to try the sauce. As they dug into the spaghetti there was complete silence followed by ecstatic oohs and ahhs.
“Mom, this is soooo good”, one finally managed to squeak after half the bowl was empty. “What’s your secret ingredient?”
My forced smiled had now softened with the verdict of the meal, but my Katie Couric poise remained as I reminded them of a crucial lesson in reporting:”Sorry guys, but I can never reveal my sources.”They both appeared slightly fazed by this response, and yet it’s journalistic integrity seemed to speak to them nevertheless.
That, or the aroma of the meal distracted them.
Either way, they quickly resumed to their slurping success as my karmic cameras faded to black.
Chicken Liver Pasta
(adapted from The New Basics Cookbook, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins)
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed, rinsed, and patted dry
½ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
4 fresh ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup chicken stock
¼ cup red wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
8 ounces penne or tagliatelle
Cut the chicken livers in half. Combine flour, paprika, salt and ½ teaspoons of the pepper in a bowl.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Dredge the livers in the flour mixture, and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes.
Raise the heat slightly and add the tomatoes, vinegar, chicken stock, wine, and rosemary.
Simmer until slightly thick, 5 minutes.
While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add the pasta, and cook at a rolling boil just until tender.
Drain, and toss with the sauce.
Add the remaining 1 teaspoon pepper and serve immediately.