Around this time of year, you read all sorts of articles about romantic wine gifts, how to choose Champagne, which wine will get him to pop the question, and 10,000 variations on the hackneyed chocolate and wine pairing guide.
I’m going to get real with you. Do you know what Valentine’s Day looks like when you’re a severely exhausted, working parent of two small dictators?
Put it this way: My husband, Tim, *just* asked, at 9:36 PM the night before Valentine’s Day, “So, do you think we should go out tomorrow, or Wednesday?” As in, HE HADN’T THOUGHT ABOUT IT, LET ALONE ACTUALLY PLANNED SOMETHING. When I pressed him on this, he said, with more than a little indignation, “Isn’t Valentine’s Day for both of us?”
Um, let’s be real here, folks. Valentine’s Day is for wives and girlfriends. I’m allowed to say this because I’m a feminist. Who STILL had something made and ordered and delivered DAYS ago for her husband.
In reality, he’s (sort of) forgiven. For the last month, he has been taking a course that runs every Tuesday and Thursday night and all day Sunday, in addition to working full-time, traveling a lot for his job and being a truly phenomenal, very present father to our kids (Happy Valentine’s Day, babe!). That he hasn’t arranged for an elaborate V-Day celebration is understandable (but really it isn’t).
Most parents of little ones that I know are so happy to just collapse on the couch and binge-watch ANYTHING (in my case, Family Feud) after putting the kids to bed, that the idea of changing clothes (contrary to ancient folklore, dried baby vomit has zero aphrodisiac properties), getting in a car, and talking more doesn’t exactly get the, um, juices flowing quite as much as one would hope. At this point, I need a really good cry, a three-day vacation and a few long sessions of therapy leading up to date night to make it worth anyone’s while. I frequently kick-off and end date nights with a really good cry, but something tells me that’s not my husband’s idea of a great time.
I digress again…
The point in all of this is that I wanted to come up with a wine pairing guide that might be relevant to all you exhausted, hanging-on-by-a-thread parents out there who really just want to read something that may come close to some approximation of real life right now. In other words…
WHAT WINES TO PAIR WITH YOUR KID’S HALF-EATEN FOOD
I was inspired to write this because the other day, I was STARVING. And, the estimated time between that moment and my kids sleeping soundly so that I could finally feed the lowest person on the totem pole — myself — was ALL ETERNITY. So I did the obvious thing. I started eating the Gerber Graduates strawberry “Yogurt Melts” that I was offering to Luke, my almost-one-year-old. Have you guys ever tried these, by the way? For anyone who made buying “Astronaut Ice Cream” an absolutely mandatory part of any visit to the science center as a kid, these are a must-have (for yourself) around the house.
But I wasn’t just eating them. I was shoveling fistfuls into my piehole like they were Cheetos and I had just been smoked out by Snoop himself.
And, in between bouts of Luke munching happily on these little puffs and screeching at me to replenish his stash, I found some wine. It was a big, tannic red and the pairing was horrendous, but it got me thinking to the number of times my dinner has consisted of something I was trying to get my kid to eat. So obviously a pairing guide was the clear next step. Here we go:
Cold Grilled Cheese + Pinot Noir
Pick something soft and juicy, like a New World Pinot (think Cali, New Zealand, Chile) and savor how delightful the saltiness of the cheese is with the fruitiness of the wine. It’s like a cheddar scone with raspberry preserves. Only you’re not sipping tea at a quaint bed and breakfast in London. You’re having a stand-off with a toddhole who is refusing to eat his grilled cheese because you didn’t make the corners of it round enough.
Chicken Nuggets + Ketchup + Barbera
I love this pairing, mostly because Barbera is my go-to wine, and chicken nuggets are my guilty pleasure (confession: I have totally ordered chicken fingers off the kids menu “for my son”…AKA me). You could feasibly go with a crisp white here, but the Ketchup sort of complicates things and you want something that can hang with that sweet/salty/umami flavor — Barbera is your gal.
Champagne + Hotdogs
Need I say more? Probably not, but I will. Sparkling wine loves grease and salt. Valentine’s Day loves buns and wieners. And nothing makes you feel like less of a schlub than sipping tiny bubbles out of a delicate Champagne flute. And yes, you need to drink it out of a nice glass. You are forgiven for doing it in dirty clothes in your dirty kitchen while feeding your dirty children, but you will never be forgiven for having crappy stemware.
Cheerios + Chardonnay
Pick a slightly oaked version, perhaps from California, or, if you can find/afford it, a good quality Burgundy, like a Puligny-Montrachet. The toasty oak will play off the toasty oats and you will feel happier than you did eating Cheerios for dinner sober.
I could go on for days about this exact topic, because it is actually a big metaphor for my entire life. But for now, stop looking at the culinary situation in your home as sad, and look at it as a fantastic opportunity to get creative with food and wine pairings. It will give you an excuse to open that second — and third — bottle.
All in the name of research, right?