Food For Thought


I tried to make a nice Thai dinner last Sunday. My son was coming home and I wanted to try a recipe from the Thai cookbook he bought me last Christmas. It’s a coffee table book, meaning it’s as big as a coffee table. It doesn’t fit on any shelf in my kitchen, so after 11 months, I thought I better start thinking beyond where I’m going to store it and start cooking from it.

I bought some shrimp, some red peppers, green peppers, and some stringy things in a plastic pack that had the words “bean threads” on it. I have no idea what that means. Later I learned I was supposed to place the threads into a pot of hot oil. I’m kind of afraid of it now. I put it in the bag to donate to the Christmas food drive. This is where I put the foods I’m fearful of.  Things like coconut milk, those Pillsbury tubes that when opened sound like I’ve been shot with a silencer (before putting the biscuits on a pan, I pat myself and check for blood), and a can of something I found in the Brit section of the grocery store called “Spotted Dick.” I had to buy it, I couldn’t help it, but now I’m afraid. I’m very afraid.

My Thai dinner didn’t get off the ground because my son couldn’t stay long enough to eat. It’s probably just as well. My daughter won’t eat shrimp because they have a face . . . or a mother . . . or their mothers have faces, I forget . . . and Jack hates shrimp. So I would have had to make side dishes of macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles for the two party poopers.

My kids rarely all like the same things. Now that my daughter a vegetarian, my middle son is King Carnivore. It’s okay, though. It will pass, just like all the other food phases my family has gone through.

We’ve been through phases banning bologna, hot dogs and all pinkish-gray foods; phases of no pork except the spicy Italian sausage from one specific grocery store; and a sudden switch when tuna casserole went from being my son’s favorite food in the world, to being his number one gag inducer.

There was a week in 2000 when none of my three kids liked any of the same foods. Not one overlap. I would wander the aisles of the grocery store sobbing and throwing paper products and cleaning supplies into my cart.

My daughter’s vegetarian phase is our family’s second time around. Our first was when my oldest son was in high school and had a crazy French teacher who would sneak PETA brochures into his backpack during quizzes. I’d go through his papers from school and ask, “Why is there a picture of a chicken with his beak chewed off stapled to your French II homework?”

We adapted, though. At dinner, I would make him a piece of flounder or a veggie burger. Eventually, when I could get the pictures out of my head, I stopped gagging when I fixed poultry for the rest of us.

My daughter’s veg phase is serious. Her heart is not only in it, its beating can be heard throughout the rain forests.  She’ll eat dairy, but it has to be organic. So she’ll drink milk, but it must have come from happy cows that have voluntarily wandered into the dairy farm, smiling and asking to be milked. And of course, she’s got that mother’s face rule, whatever it is.

Tonight for dinner we’re having water and lightly salted air. With a side dish of ramen noodles.