On Naming (and on Eating Vegetables)

I have been working, a subject so eye-glazingly dull I cannot bear to even discuss it. And so I won’t. Instead, I would like to share with you a piece of family news and a small recipe, one that everyone should have.

I can only begin the family news, though, by reflecting for a second on the names we use when we write about our families. (The names I use, I mean.) Although my sons love the idea of being known all over the world by their real names, I have long had a superstition about using those names, as though to say their first names might somehow be bad for them.

But I have just this moment realized that is silly. They don’t care in the least if I use their names. And they know better than to go to a stranger who happens to know their name. The world, it seems to me, is not so dangerous that writing their actual names on my blog will put them at risk. (Except the risk that they might be deeply embarrassed by me, but that is a risk they will have to learn to Deal With.) In the end, I’m not sure why I ever thought — in that back of the mind, unexamined place all our fears live — there was any danger in using their names.

I’m quite proud of their names, in fact, because I chose them. My husband (he’d prefer to be referred to simply as my wonderful husband whom I was lucky to marry rather than one of the superbly unreliable men I dated throughout my career) and I agreed, before our children were born, that if they were girls I would choose their last name and he would choose their first names. And if they were boys, I would choose their first names and he would choose their last names.

As things turned out, I got to choose six names — a first and a middle for each of our three boys. He, on the other hand, simply had to get the spelling of his last name correct on their birth certificates, a simple enough matter, I’m sure you’ll all agree, compared to naming not just three boys, but two who are twins and, thus, need names that mesh, but do not actually rhyme.  (We have moved forward from the time when twins were named things like Colin and Rollin and Jessie and Bessie.)

I named then Charlie, Jack, and William, dear reader. (Charles, John, and William, in fact.) My inspirations were as follows: English kings, American guys, Shakespeare, my father, my brother, my husband’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather, his best friend, and my husband. I went this way because I felt it was important that they have a decent explanation for my decisions. You are named after several really fine men, including the man who wrote As You Like It struck me as preferable to, you are named after an actor who played the unreliable doctor in The Days of Our Lives.

The family news is that Jack, who is a singer, performed this weekend with the San Francisco Symphony. He had a solo — a brief piece in which he had to rise up and sing many very high notes — and he acquitted himself admirably. In fact, today in our local newspaper he is described as “excelling in his small assignment.” He’ll like that phrase because it seems so adult and professional.

This phrase, in addition to being part of my family news, has made me think about the aim of hard work. In the last week of grinding work, I’ve forgotten that in addition to actually just finishing my job I might consider how I could excel at some small part of it. Not the whole, long involved thing, but just a piece of it. As is often the case with the young ‘uns, we learn things from reading their press.

And now for the recipe, a little value-added week beginning thing for you.

Every single person who eats — which would include every one of us — should have a nice recipe for vinaigrette. I know I’ve described this before, but I’m going to do it again. And I’m also going to suggest that you consider making it in this enormous quantity. That’s because if you have lovely vinaigrette on hand, you’re far more likely to eat vegetables. Here it is:

Macerate together these things:

2 shallots diced small
2 cloves garlic — diced small
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2/3 cup vinegar (red wine, champagne, balsamic)
–let sit at least 30 minutes

add 1 cup olive oil
4 Tablespoons dijon — shake and drizzle

I’m going to suggest that you begin the week by (a) excelling in at least one thing you’ve been assigned to do and; (b) drizzling some nice vinaigrette on your favorite steamed vegetable.

And later in the week, after I’ve excelled in at least one small thing, or at least eaten quite a number of green vegetables, I’ll be posting the BlogLily Annual Report . It has actually been an entire year, shockingly enough, of telling you exactly what’s on my mind and it is now time to account for how that’s gone.


19 thoughts on “On Naming (and on Eating Vegetables)

  1. BL–
    I must say first that I’m very amused and intrigued by any blog that is tagged for both vegetables and singing. My mind goes in so many directions with this (singing vegetables, singing with my mouth full, singing about vegetables…) that i’m admirably distracted.

    I do also like “(Except the risk that they might be deeply embarrassed by me, but that is a risk they will have to learn to Deal With.)” E is just now starting the “mah’ommmm!” of almost-teenage male outrage at adult female behavior (like wanting to hug or kiss, or even worse, tell something soft and wonderful abou the boy in question.)

    I notice I use “E.” Hmmmm. Have to ponder, while I macerate (oh good word) some mental garlic for tonight’s mashed potatoes and chard with vineagrete — op

  2. I’m glad to hear about the distraction, OP, it matches my own feelings these days. Mashed potatoes & chard, mmm.

    Dorothy, I’ll pass that on to J(ack)!

    Hey Debbie, I’ve been thinking about my next podcast. A musical interlude might be a good idea, because I’ve been thinking about doing, “dear podlily” questions and answers, with the questions read dramatically by members of the household and the answers improvised by ms. podlily. In between, selections from Mendelssohn’s Elijah might helpefully suggest the prophetic nature of the podcast.

  3. Congrats to Jack on his singing debut. What an outstanding comment to be published — from that article one could assume that critic doesn’t give away compliments to anyone!

    Your post made me a little nostalgic for my own little boy soprano (now grown). He went from soprano to bass quicker than you can say ‘sheet music’. While he was so proud the day he came home from a lesson to state that he had rehearsed the wrong music because “Now I’m singing alto”, I mourned for weeks that I would never hear that angelic boy soprano voice again. I can still imagine it though! 🙂

    Loved reading about the names. I’ll have to try your vinagrette recipe. How can one not eat fresh veggies & vinagrette now that the milder weather has arrived, at least for those of us who have lived under snow and ice and grey, dreary skies for the last several months?

  4. About the names: now I know what to write with chicken blood on the little puppets I made, and start real business.

    About the vinaigrette: you are lucky grandma’s recipe is open-source, otherwise I might have asked for royalties. For a nice colorful addition, you could consider chives or parsley.

    I am really looking forward to the annual report.

  5. Your comment about whether or not to use your sons’ real names reminded me of an incident when I was writing my Masters thesis. My thesis was based on the stories that the ten and eleven year old children in my class were writing for me every week. They knew exactly what was happening, indeed they referred to it as ‘our book’. Conventionally, you don’t give the names of any subjects, but when I explained to them that I was supposed to use made up names or even numbers there was a near riot. “This is our book, they are our stories and we want people to know that we wrote them.” What are conventions for if not to break!

  6. I love your sons’ regal names, and well done, Jack. I loved the comment about him in the article.

    Kiko is not Kiko’s birth certificate name, although that’s what we call him all the time. I named him after my brother and my granddad, a good strong Irish name, which will show his Irish heritage – even if he does look nothing like me! His middle name is his Dad’s first name. We had already planned his middle name to be something quite different but after the problems at his birth we wanted him to have a big strong role model to look to for support and his Daddy fitted the bill for that. Strong names are very important, I think.

  7. I also love your boys’ names: very masculine and also very romantic. Congratulations to Jack on his solo. You must be very proud.

    I have used my children’s names in my blog, but I’ve chosen not to post their photographs. Other people make up names for their children, but post photographs of them. We all have our different ways of protecting our beloveds, even if it is just a small-scale effort.

    Thanks for the vinaigrette. I always dress my salads but leave my veggies naked. Now that you’ve posted that, I might have to spare their shame.

  8. Publishing names…what a topic. There is so much debate on both sides on that one. I really never hesitated and introduced both of my daughters (via their real names) within days of their respective births. Perhaps I am a bit more trusting that I ought to be, but I have chosen that inclination intentionally (for all things in life).

    Thanks also for the recipe, I am cross-posting this to my wife and we will try it.

    Now (for me) back to trying to excel through my stacks of paper.

  9. Hi Cam, There are so many things that signal the transition from childhood to adulthood — but the new voice a boy acquires is such a public one. Fortunately, the boy soprano roles are nowhere nearly as fun as the adult tenor and bass and baritone.

    My dear Mandarine, I’ve heard that works for nasty co-workers, unpleasant bosses, and the guy across the street who never mows his lawn. (Oops, that’s us!)

    Edwin, it is. As Mandarine says, it’s a very basic vinaigrette, which is why it’s seldom reduced to the actual measurements. And I agree with Mandarine on the important point that this is also wonderful with chopped herbs thrown in.

    Ann — Pride in authorship sometimes trumps the privacy you get through anonymity. I suppose if the subject agrees, then it’s fine to use his or her name — is that what happened with your book?

    Helen, William also has my husband’s (and my father in law’s) first name. It’s a wonderful name — Weyman — and I’m proud someone gets to keep it. My in-laws have lots of great, unusual family names, but because my husband and I both had somewhat unusual first names and were sort of shy about it, we felt it was a good thing to give our boys solid, basic names that they could inhabit themselves.

    Yes, Charlotte — I think names but not photographs. Not yet, anyway!
    As for the veggies and the salads, you are after all in the land of brazen topless sunbathers. I think undressed veggies are at home there!

    Hey Jerry — I think you are right to choose trust for all things in life. And I too am back to excelling in one small thing.

  10. We drizzle pure extra virgin olive oil on our vegetables, and save the vinaigrette for salad. We have splurged at times and purchased lemon olive oil, which is made by pressing lemons along with the olives. We liked that so much but the stuff is so costly we decided to experiment. I bought pure lemon oil from the baker’s catalog, and put 1/2 t of that in an 8 oz jar of extra virgin olive oil, and (as Emiril says) “Bam.”

    I have waffled back and forth about using real names in my posts. I gave up trying to remember to just use initials, etc. Now I just use the names unless there is a compelling reason to not identify people. Like there is today.

  11. I continue to be paranoid about real names, though that’s mostly out of demented worry that someone from my workplace will stumble across my blog. Utterly without foundation, I know (though some quirk of google one week brought me up on the first page of results when you typed in British Summer Time. Baffling).

    Anyway – the singing! Fantastic – he’ll treasure that success forever and I bet he’ll really catch the performance bug now. To sustain the vegetable theme, I’m currently awaiting turnip in left-over posh-but-packaged green curry sauce. Hmm!

  12. HMH — I have some lemon oil, from King Arthur Flour, in fact, and it never occurred to me to put it in olive oil, but now thanks to you, I’ll do that. MMMM.

    U-Dad (I like to think of you as uber-dad, truth be told), You are Mr. Britain, that’s why. I told everyone at my workplace about my blog (because I don’t ever write about my work) and the net result is that I can’t tell anybody anything new because every interesting thought I have is already written down over here. (Which is pathetic, really, when you consider my infrequent posting patterns.) Of course, maybe I can, because I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess they aren’t reading my blog. (And if you work with me and are reading this, let’s just see if you leave a comment and declare that you are, indeed, a loyal BlogLily reader — I’ll leave you some really nice chocolate if you do!)

  13. Thank you so much for the vinaigrette recipe! I will have a box of organic veggies delivered later this week and I’m sure the vinaigrette will help me deal with them!

    As for names — your boys have lovely, solid, manly names. I don’t use my kids’ names (or my own for that matter) on my blog due to my hubby’s paranoia. I do like my “yogamum” persona and the kids’ nicknames sum them up pretty well.

  14. Well, just so you know, if S. and I have a boy we will be naming him some variation of Will – either Theron William or William Theron, for the exact same reasons.

    Just so you don’t think I’m a copy-cat 🙂

    I stopped using S.’s real name when he became paranoid about law firms googling him and found out he burned the pea soup and sometimes snores, and such. But I have no qualms about my real name.

    The vinagrette recipe looks wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed this post, and I love the names you gave your boys. Looking forward to the annual report.

  15. Thank you for the delicious-sounding recipe, and I love all your children’s names. I’m most partial to Jack (for some reason), though, and always have been. Maybe because many years ago, I was a “nanny” for the summer to a four-year-old Jack. I’m not the least bit surprised that a child of yours is making a name for himself (pun intended ;-)!) in other ways. Congratulations to him!

  16. Yes, I used the children’s names. Well, If you were forced to choose between facing the wrath of the University Examiners and that of thirty-one sixth graders which would you choose?

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