Those of you who have been reading for a while will remember the au pair chronicles—a serial about how it is that I ended up in Germany and what it was like spending 10 months au pairing for a insanely rich family in Frankfurt am Main. Well, I’ve been busy writing new installments to share with you during operation whirlwind baby. But since a hell of a lot of new readers have become regulars since I first began the series a year ago, I thought I would start by re-publishing the series thus far—both to buy me baby time and to get everyone caught up before continuing the saga. You can find an index of the entire series here. This segment was originally published on January 19, 2010.
Once she got over the shock of the “I’m going vegan” announcement, Janet alternately interrogated (“And you really don’t miss cheese?”) and taunted. She seemed to love to eat, but she didn’t have a particularly healthy relationship with the food on her plate. Every few weeks she would announce—over a bowl of broth and a glass of water—that she was going on another diet. First it was the cabbage diet, then Weight Watchers, then starvation. She would give up in hunger after a few days of each and eventually cycle back through the list after several months.
She wasn’t supermodel skinny, but I thought she looked good. She wasn’t as thin as her daughter (and as she, presumably, once was), but who is after giving birth to five children? There was even a treadmill on the fourth floor, and it sat silent and unused while she fought her way through bowls of cabbage soup. But I was the one with the strange eating habits. Me, the crazy vegan.
In December holiday cookies began appearing around the house. A rare fit of motherly feeling and a promise to bake cookies with the twins got me an afternoon off. In the kitchen again the next afternoon I was trying to decipher a German newspaper when Janet came in to snack on the previous afternoon’s results. She picked up a butter cookie and took a big bite. “Ha ha ha! You can’t eat any of the Christmas cookies!” I have a vague memory of her holding a handful of cookies toward my face while doing a little hopping dance and chuckling. She took another handful and left the room. On the days when she wasn’t taunting me, she would ask me how it was I stayed so thin.