when daddy does dinner

by bam

maybe it’s the cardboard box that serves as a trough. maybe it’s the papery napkins that dissolve into bits when you rub and you rub your greasy little mitts. hmm, maybe it’s simply the grease.
oh, excuse me, you caught me sitting here, wondering, what might it be that makes daddy dinners such a hit when mine are so, well, same, old and tired?
i do sprinkle with spices, really i do. but the little one, of course, would never know that, since he puts not a thing to his lips that’s not passed the committee.
the committee? you ask. oh, yes, that would be the international gathering of gustatory approval that meets under his sheets up there in the dark. takes on, at great length apparently, the virtues of, say, red sauce v. no sauce. and, dang, not once has the red stuff made it out of committee. the boy, er, the committee, distinctly has taste that tends toward the blanco.
their motto: if it ain’t white, don’t eat it.
which might in fact be part of the secret to last night’s daddy-brings-circus-to-dinner. that child inhaled those white-potato fries, yes, he did. and the bits of the chicken that were at least tending toward beige.
do not think that his fork moved anywhere near the RED beans and rice. nor the RED sauce that some at the table licked off their fingers. after dunking their chicken and all of their fries. and kept right on lickin’. didn’t mind one bit dangling the little sauce bucket off the ends of their tongues, as they proceeded to extract every last bit of circusy essence.
for the record, let me just mention: not in a whole year of chopping and dicing, and quickly defrosting, not in a whole year of chicken a la anything, have i noticed one of my dinners inspiring the wearing of sauce bucket at the tip of a tongue. mais non.
best i got was: good dinner, mom.
dang. so what is it with mr. i’ll-do-dinner-honey?
mister come-to-the-rescue sashays in two nights in a row, and two nights, bing bing bing, lights flash, bells ring, it’s a hit. it’s a hit. the children are eating.
so it goes in the meat-and-potatoes dept.
there’s moi–and maybe there’s you–going the distance. night after night, considering greens. trying out little grains that trace back to the aztecs, pack a powerful punch in the protein department. feeling all smug when i finally figure out how to plug in the crockpot.
and i get the same old, same old: gee mom, thanks. and the little one is squirming off of his chair. pretending he’s dropped all sorts of things (mostly his broccoli) under the table. and not a whole lot of tongues are licking the plate. or even a fork. and i wouldn’t know from a sauce bucket, so that’s hardly an option.
but it’s what we do. we are, for the most part, the dinner committee. we are the ones who, for whatever alignment of planets, come up with the chicken variations. we are sensible. we are dependable (mostly. as long as you don’t suspend us for once again burning the broccoli). we are there at the stove night after night.
and then there’s what i would label the big-daddy-o factor.
mister fun does it again: steaks on the grill. steaks so big he needed a wheelbarrow. chicken from a joint that kindly throws slices of white bread down at the pit of the red-checkered box that makes like a trough (ol’ slice soaks up the grease, we decided, not quite sure what to make of the wonder buried there under the mountain o’ fries).
maybe it’s only at our house where the division of labor is so, um, divided. and where the division of comic relief so, um, noticeable.
it is all, for the most part, the beauty of family, the original pastiche of so many roles. from adam, with his disinclination toward apples, and eve, with her insistence on trying, the family, it seems works at its semi-functional best when everyone comes to the table with, well, particular strengths and, yes, remarkable softspots.
it’s all of one tree, the apple with gleam hangs beside apple with bumblebee bruises. until you look at the tree from some other angle, and suddenly it’s all in reverse.
as long as the orchard is sweet, as long as the branches are dripping, it’s just the yin and the yang of the harvest. it’s jack sprat and his missus. it’s bo peep and her sheeps.
but still, sometimes i think, sometimes i can’t help but wonder: should i rattle the tree just a bit?
maybe i oughta shake up the table. show up with grand paper bags spilling with grease. try joints that toss in gallons of cheap paper napkins.
but naaahhh, in the end there’s this one little matter: what would come of the quinoa that lingers there on the shelf in the pantry?
i dare not risk stirring the wrath of the aztec spirits who depend on me to keep them in business.

we don’t often look at the world through a distinct gender split around here. but has anyone noticed the frivolity, the joie de something that comes with the Y chromosome? what might we learn from throwing a little what-the-heck into the running of our sweet little lives? i am thinking there are distinct advantages to having a fun committee off in the wings. and i only wish mine took days off from work a little more often. trust me, the last two days were spillover from the days he didn’t take off–when he was slotted to–the week of thanksgiving. and, boy, was it nice to launch back into the after-turkeyday crunch with one of us still on vacation mode. what madcap ideas have you tried of late to shake things up at the dinner table?