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My Grandmother’s Green Bowl

One of my most favorite shows is Mo Rocca’s “My Grandmother’s Ravioli”.  If you haven’t seen the show, Mo visits other people’s grandmothers, where they share stories, recipes, and delicious food.  I laugh during the show sometimes, but just as often, I tear up, thinking of my own grandmoms.

Both of my grandmothers were Irish, and as you might imagine, boiled potatoes were about as creative as either of them got in the kitchen.  But everything that came out of their kitchens was simple, comforting, and always tasted like they were made with a grandmother’s love.

My Grandmom Bilbrough had a green glass bowl.  I remember seeing that bowl often through the years.  Sometimes, there would be a salad in the bowl, but more often than not, there was something wonderful being made in there.  Grandmom would mix her famous Irish soda bread in that bowl.  The bread – with a few small tweaks from my stepmom – went on to win awards, appreciated by family and culinary judges alike.  She would mix peaches or apples in that bowl with sugar and vanilla, on their way to becoming the most delicious peach or apple pandowdy.


But then there was her signature dish.  For every birthday in our family, my grandmother would make a pudding cake.  Back before cake mixes had pudding in the box already, my grandmother was making pudding cake – moist, delicious cakes that she made in a tube pan.  They were boxed cake mixes, boxed pudding mix, and even icing from a can, but I so looked forward to the birthday parties my grandmom would have so that we could have that cake.

Somehow, I acquired that bowl.  I don’t use it much anymore to mix cakes, both out of fear of something happening to the bowl and because of the stand mixer I now own.  But I love the bowl.  I love that some of my best childhood memories originated in that green bowl in my grandmother’s kitchen.

Grandmom B 2

Let’s Put Doc McStuffins in Charge of Peace Talks

The Sunday New York Times published an article describing how Doc McStuffins was a financially successful “crossover” toy – popular equally with minority children and non-Hispanic white children.  The article talked about how “minority” children make up just over 50% of children in this country, and this growing demographic is influencing the sale of merchandise on a wide scale.

It wasn’t always like that.  African American children had their dolls, white kids had their dolls, and never the twain shall meet.

I remember when Christie was introduced as the first African American Barbie doll.  Christie was actually the second in the line of minority Barbie dolls, as a year prior, Mattel manufactured Colored Francie (yep, you read that right).  The problem with Colored Francie is that she was basically tan Francie (Jersey Shore spray tan color), complete with top knot pony tail and slightly darkened Caucasian features.  But I digress.  None of my white friends had Christie dolls.  I was about five when she came out, fully into Barbies, Barbie cases, Barbie houses – the whole ordeal.  But I didn’t have a Christie doll.  Because she was African American.

When the Julia doll came out, I wanted one.  I saw the show on TV, and I wanted the nurse Julia doll, especially because this was back in the day before Barbie had real jobs – like astronaut and doctor.  Julia had professionalism.  She was a working woman, a strong female role model, raising her child alone and succeeding.  But I didn’t dare ask for one.  I knew my parents wouldn’t buy Julia because she was also an African American doll.  I don’t know where the perception came from, but white kids played with white dolls, and the African American dolls belonged to African American girls.  Even my own kids played with white dolls until Dora the Explorer hit big.

Doc mcstuffins

Doc McStuffins, though, has really crossed the line.  She transcends race and gender.  This little girl who plays doctor to her stuffed animals is not a doll for African American children, although the appeal to African American children, who see a doll in the store that looks like them, is unquestionable.  Doc is everyone’s doll.  White kids don’t see her color, they see Doc McStuffins, the beloved character from TV.  Little girls see a strong role model, even in Doc’s pretend world, and even little boys are wearing Doc’s lab coats and checking out their animals.

Doc McStuffins is single-handedly changing the perception of the buying public – the public at large.  Gone are the moms from my parents’ generation who believed a doll of color wasn’t for “us”.  And going are the moms who think their boys can’t play with toys from a “girls'” TV show.  The borders this character is crossing are farther reaching even than the borders crossed by Dora and Diego.

There are some African Americans who see this as a victory purely for African Americans.  It’s not.  Doc is a victory for all of us.  As Margaret Atwood said, I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one ‘race’ – the human race – and that we are all members of it.” 

Doc McStuffins has gone further to bring together people of all races than any politician or any government.  Imagine if we could take a page from her book and apply it across the board.