Breadcrumb pasta and fuck you, United

Breadcrumb pasta

Oh, summer.

I’ve been to Evanston and back to visit Rose and Dave. SJ and I took the kids camping over Fourth of July. We had Gargantubaby’s second birthday party over the weekend YES HE’S TWO TOMORROW MORE ON THAT LATER.

Gargantubaby, holding a plastic dinosaur: “Hi, di-o-saurrr. I name [Gargantubaby’s name]. I eat you!”

Then he does a hilarious impression of Cookie Monster.

GB: Mommy, milk!
Jenny: Milk what?
GB: Milk what!
Jenny: Milk what?
GB (pauses, then smiles): Milk, please!

He over-pronounces his R’s (“Draw a birrrrrd”), says “T” for “C” (“Tlose da door, Mommy!”), and can’t pronounce “S” yet (“Top, Mommy! No kiss!”). He wakes up thinking about Elmo (“Where Elmo?”). And after weeks of thinking he was saying “puppet show,” I realized he’s saying “Paw Patrol,” which is how I know what’s happening at daycare.

He’s using verbs now, so he can make more commands and announcements: “I take shoes off!” “Mommy hold hand!” “I want cookie!” “Listen Baby Aluga!”

Recently he’s taken to calling me “Jenny” when “Mommy” doesn’t seem to be working. He draws a circle and says proudly and with wonder, “I draw a circle!” He often, for no reason that I can see, points to a character in a book or a shape he’s drawn or a figurine and announces, “That’s-ah boy-ah!” in an Italian accent.

He demands, “More bluebabies!” instead of “blueberries” and cries that he wants to “play Bobby” with his sister (his sister taught him how to “play Barbies,” but she dresses them in outfits she’s designed whereas he pounds their heads against the dollhouse, as he should).

The camping was grand. We camped with five other families, and the older kids had fun wrapping GB in a hammock and swinging him until he screamed and teaching him to shoot a squirt gun (he was a terror, all two feet of him patrolling the campground with both chubby hands wrapped around the trigger, the butt end against his chin, an evil smile on his face).

When I wasn’t around, he broke a stick in two, handed it to his father, and cried, “Repair it!” SJ and I watched him walk across our site, unzip the tent, fall inside in a tumble so we could see the bottoms of his sandals, and zip up the tent from the inside. Then a second later the sandy blond top of his head appeared and disappeared and appeared again as he stoically bounced on the air mattress, doing the work of a toddler.

On the last day, as SJ and I packed up our site, I installed Gargantubaby in the van to keep him from running into the road. He promptly laid on the horn, one long, continuous bird-scattering honk until I ran to the van and put him in the passenger seat, since that is obviously enough distance from the driver’s seat for a mobile, curious toddler. When I checked on him a few minutes later, I found him sitting elbows deep in a bag of toffee peanuts with A BAG OF CHEEZ-ITS UNDER ONE ARM JUST IN CASE HE RAN OUT OF PEANUTS I GUESS singing the alphabet song to himself.

SJ (putting GB to bed, opening book to first page, then pausing): I find these books with flaps exhausting.

But really I just want to bitch about United.

I have a United credit card. It turns out they’re great for international miles (which I wouldn’t know yet) but shitty for domestic miles, which means I’ve been amassing miles but haven’t been able to book a ticket for three fucking years. So already I was annoyed with them.

Then, a month ago, I flew United from SFO to O’Hare. On the first flight, one of the flight attendants was pissy with everyone. She was so rude that when I got off the flight I didn’t make eye contact with her AND I LOVE MAKING EYE CONTACT WITH PEOPLE IT’S HOW YOU FIGURE OUT WHO YOU’RE GOING TO SLEEP WITH NEXT.

Then on the return flight, in the first five minutes while I was settling into my seat, a flight attendant appeared next to me.

“Do you need anything?” he asked, not smiling.

“No,” I said, flushed, thinking he was offering help since I was obviously trying to get Gargantubaby situated in the seat next to me. The flight attendant reached across me and pushed the call button for GB’s seat.

“He pushed the call button,” the attendant said. “Maybe you could let him know.”

Which would have been hilarious — Mom, 42, Explains Airplane Call Button to 1-Year-Old, Who Perceives Error and Expresses Regret — except he WASN’T KIDDING and HE WAS MAD AT ME.

Hours passed. The sun set. GB drew, played, cried, laughed, wiggled, bounced, and eventually fell asleep in my arms, even though the fucking armrest wouldn’t fold up, so that I was crammed into a seat with a 32-pound child on my lap, arms akimbo so I could simultaneously hold my phone and watch a movie on the Wi-Fi, with earbuds in and the USB cord plugged in since my battery dies if you look at it sideways.

Which is when a different flight attendant appeared next to me. I was angled toward the window and didn’t see her in the dark, but she leaned down next to my head and screeched, “Do you have a question??”

“No!” I said, startled.

“You keep pressing the call button,” she said AND THEN TURNED ON HER HEEL AND STORMED TO THE BACK OF THE PLANE.

I sat in my seat for a few seconds, trying to process what had just happened. 1. One bitchy flight attendant from SFO to ORD. 2. Another bitchy flight attendant within five minutes of me sitting down from ORD to SFO. 3. This third bitch who just got in my face. ALL UNITED. And then OH HELL NO reared up. I arranged my 32-pound son in my arms and walked to the back of the plane. Fucking Asshole was sitting in a jump seat, recounting what had just happened to the other flight attendants. I leaned into her face.

“I appreciate that your job is difficult,” I said, “but you’re the second flight attendant on this plane to give me shit about pressing the call button on accident, and for the last three hours I’ve been trying to take care of a 1-year-old.”

Fucking Asshole gulped (I would like to think).

“I don’t know about that kind of language,” she said, looking past me, “but you need to return to your seat.”

I couldn’t yet. I glared at her for another few seconds, thinking of sentences that contained the words “attitude” and “you.”

Then I went back to my seat. The flight attendant switched aisles with another one and I didn’t see her for the rest of the flight, during which I pondered, Will the police be waiting for me in San Francisco?

Lo and behold when I got back to SFO, only SJ was at baggage claim, looking cute in a hoodie and jeans. Two days later I paid off my United credit card, researched whether my miles would stay active if I didn’t keep a balance on it (they would), cut up the card, and broke out my Frontier card. I told SJ we were never flying United again. Because they FUCKING SUCK AND I HATE THEM.

Final note: My mother has forbidden me from writing about her, but when I took Gargantubaby to stay with her and my father in Evanston, Mom informed me that one of her friends on Facebook had been forwarding her “mimes.”


This pasta is from a recipe in Bon Appétit called “Lemony Spaghetti with Sardines and Bread Crumbs,” and it’s a take on a classic dish. Folks used to use breadcrumbs because they were too poor for cheese. Now we call breadcrumbs “panko” and call this fancy fare. The world is crazy!

You need:

  • 5 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup panko
  • 1 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest plus 1 TB fresh juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced NOPE GARLIC PRESS
  • 1 4.35-oz. can boneless, skinless sardines in olive oil
  • Lemon wedges for serving

You need to:

  • Heat 3 TB oil in large skillet over medium. Add panko and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 2 mins. Transfer to a bowl and stir in parsley, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Wipe skillet clean.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, return to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 8 mins.
  • During the last few minutes of pasta cook time, add remaining 2 TB oil to skillet and heat over medium-high. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 2 mins. Add sardines and cook, stirring often, for 1 min.
  • Using tongs, transfer cooked pasta directly to skillet. Add 1 cup pasta water and cook, tossing constantly, until liquid reduces and coats pasta, 1 to 2 mins. Add lemon juice and half the panko mixture and toss to combine.
  • Top with remaining panko mixture, drizzle with oil, and serve with lemon wedges.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. dcpphotos says:

    Loved this.  Especially intrigued by the point where you were getting ready to knee the attendant in the groin while claiming the “almost-two and still new” was actually a “1-year old.”  This a new form of non-fiction poetic license?  I have failed to keep up on these literary techniqiues since I stopped teaching…. David C. Pritchett 2134 Maple Avenue Evanston,IL 60201


  2. Ds says:

    United airlines is staffed entirely by monsters. Also, this morning my 19 month old plucked out my earplugs and held them up for a second before touching the flat ends together, saying “kiss kiss! Mwaaaah!”

    Liked by 1 person

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