Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's on the Menu?

An oldie but a goodie re-run for today.

Each week I post a menu, including Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snack, plus notes of who has hot lunch and if there are any specials –like a team Pizza Night or some such. When I first started the Menu, there were of course, complaints.

“I …DON’T…LIKE...CHICKEN!” Ignoring the fact that pasta was also listed for that evening, such that he didn’t have to eat the chicken, he howled at the injustice of it all. Having chicken simply available was tantamount to a poisoning of the dining experience in my seven year old’s mind.

Similarly, my oldest groaned when he saw pasta without meatballs listed, and another day where eggs were the primary source of protein. He lives on red meat and potatoes, or would if the budget allowed. When the nine year old stamped her foot in protest of seeing beans as the selected vegetable for a night with hamburgers, I instituted two new rules regarding meal time.

Complaints equals Kitchen Patrol.

Reaching back into family lore, I took a tip from my Granddaddy’s days as a herder in Southeast Texas. Cowboys had a simple rule about meal time. If you complained, you got to do the dishes. Granddaddy had made it a point of honor to never get stuck with KP duty. One evening, so the story goes, his fellow cowboys and field hands plotted to get “Green” to do clean up. They laced his scrambled eggs with enough Tabasco to kill a Bull.

Granddaddy sat down to his eggs and took a bite. His eyes popped and he stood up quickly, “Boy That’s HOT!” he gasped.

Everyone’s eyes were on him as he stood. The he smiled, “But it’s just the way I like it.”

Granddaddy never did have to do dishes.

My children are inspired by his wit and such a devotion to avoiding unnecessary and unpleasant tasks, and thus have learned not to make such announcements in the presence of their Mother.

The second rule is a concession on my part to the legitimacy of not agreeing with the menu planner’s choices. It also eliminates sullen faces at the table. If a child objects strongly to the dinner on tap, they may request the option of cold cereal, provided they make the request before the meal is actually served. This also prevents my getting overly frustrated at having fixed a meal which no one eats or fretting over the fact that someone did not eat at all.

Special Orders Upset Us.

I admit, the mistake was ours to begin with, we wanted to raise strong minded individuals. We now must cope with their individualized opinions about how food should be prepared and augmented. We have learned that the transitive property that works so well with algebra (if a=b and b=c then a=c) does not work with children and food.

Take hotdogs as a prime example. All of my children will happily scarf down up to three hot dogs a piece, or as many as money and parental patience will allow, sans condiments or any special preparation techniques, if we are at a ball park.

At home however, their appetites become a bit more selective. The oldest likes his grilled with the buns toasted and then adds ketchup or mustard, depending upon his mood.

The second prefers hers sans bun with ketchup or chili on the side for dipping.

My third wants her dogs boiled and in a soft bun, no condiments.

The forth likes two in soft not crunchy buns and will accept boiled or grilled if the grilled have no black. He also uses ketchup excessively.

The fifth likes hers to be obliterated by ketchup but for the bun to be absolutely “clean” but toasted. I don’t know how this is possible physically.

The sixth howls for a bun but eats his dog cut up, dipping it in ketchup and usually rips the bun into shreds and molds it into a gooey inedible red ball of dough before asking for seconds.

In the interest of self preservation, I haven’t introduced the toddlers to hot dogs yet.

The Trifecta List

Some of this knowledge has become so routine for me that it is institutional memory. As such, I forget that when visitors like grand parents show up, my frame of reference for meal time is radically skewed from most people’s reality. As such, I tried to create a list of meals entitled, Trifectas. For babysitters and grand-parents and any other friends and family who for some reason have to take on the task of cooking for my horde, these meals were guaranteed successes.

Upon examining my first three choices, Pancakes and Bacon, Spaghetti and Meatballs and Fietas with Beans and Rice, I found each involved a level of complexity that rivaled the Hot Dog senario.

Looking at the list, my in-laws opted to run the kitchen like short order chefs, cooking each child’s meals separately and my parents when they visit, just order out.

I revised the menu for babysitters and Grandparents: Cold cereal, it’s what’s for dinner.


suburbancorrespondent said...

Hi! I saw you on the humor writers group. When I read that you had 8 kids, I just had to come on over. Unfortunately, this post strikes too close to home for me to consider it funny. Probably those who don't suffer these situations every single day will find it hilarious.

Drop by my place - I only have 6, but the age spread (16 on down to 2) sounds similar to yours. Come commiserate with me!

Oh, and your links to past publications should be more specific. You need the website for the actual article to make it easy for people to click and read. I was looking in particular for the Wash Post one and the catholic ed one. E-mail me if you have the links.

Anonymous said...

That was hiliarous!! It's true with my 3 and so I can only imagine what it must be like with all of your kids.


Rose said...

When I make fried eggs, my kids ask for eggs "with a yolk." It still confuses me. It somehow means--to them--runny or not runny, but I never can remember which. With 8 still at home, I do have trouble who likes what which way, and so we often get dinner MY way. I like the idea of complainers getting cleanup. Haven't tried that one. Around here, kids who come out after lights out get to fold laundry. :)

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