I willingly admit I am no Iron Chef. Tin Can Chef is more appropriate. I have accepted the sad truth that my children, will not be coming home from college craving Mom’s home cooking. To be fair (to myself), the growth of my culinary skills has been impeded by the exquisitely sensitive tastes of my two persnickety eaters, First Born Son and Princess Commando. I have documented in a previous essay the battle we have fought for the past 13 years to infuse our Super Taster First Born Son with a balanced and varied diet. Princess Commando is in a neck and neck competition with her brother for the title of The Most Stubborn Eater at the Table. Often the stormiest tantrums, the most vocal protests occur when Princess Commando is confronted with foodstuff that appears unpalatable to her tastes. The Baby, so far, has been an eager eater, happy to sample the small offerings I share from our menu. The Mr. will quietly, willingly accept what has been placed before him, as long as there are no onions, avocados, mushrooms, mayonnaise or creamy sauces. I see him steal himself when assessing the plate before him with a look that says, “Well, if anything, it is at least sustenance.”
Each evening I face the dreaded struggle to both prepare a nourishing meal and to lure my dinner party into actually consuming it. Out of my own dinner table exasperation, I had, over the years, succumb to the pressure to prepare separate or simplified meals for the finicky ones- to ensure that they were getting essential nutrients. I am always careful that my spices aren’t too wild, my sauces don’t have texture, and that there are at least 2 items a picky eater can pluck from a casserole, stew or soup which will provide sustenance. It has proven to be a fruitless effort because the majority of the time, they still scoff at the dummied down meals I serve them. At least I can count on H to approach our dinners with a sense of adventure and a healthy dose of optimism. “Hmm, this looks like it is going to taste good.”
In honor of H’s sense of victual enterprise, I decided to allow myself one night per week to create a meal that I have not been afforded the opportunity to indulge in due to collective disapproval. Monday nights seemed the obvious choice since The Mr. and First Born Son are typically away at soccer training. The first week, we made linguine with white wine clam sauce, accompanied by lima beans, as per H’s request (where did this kid come from?). Princess Commando took her linguine plain with a pat of butter. The Baby happily noshed on her bite size pieces of pasta. And, H savored every bite of his dinner. It was so lovely and refreshing to share a meal with someone who appreciated the effort, however minimal, put into it.
H and I had been reading the young adult novel, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins before bed (yes, we like for our bedtime stories to leave us with graphic, nightmare inducing visions. Oh, but it is an enticing story. Please read it before it is turned into a movie). The characters had been given, in preparation for a battle of survival, a banquet of dishes which made our mouths water. Among the fare was a bowl of carrot soup. Carrot soup is, in my opinion, my mother’s most estimable dish. She rarely makes it though as the majority of the family passes on it when it is served. H was game to try it. So, I cooked it according to her recipe and it tasted as I remembered it, delicious and comforting. I served it with warmed, fresh bread and pumpkin cream cheese spread. H hummed his approval while slurping the first few spoonfuls. And, then he slowed down.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Doesn’t it taste good?”
Politely he replied, “Yes. It is good.” But, there was hesitation in his voice.
He paused, afraid to hurt my feelings, “It’s just that the texture is funny. I just can’t get past it.” It’s true that the texture is unusual- something of the consistency of grainy, pureed baby food.
My heart sank. I was so hopeful that carrot soup could become a regular meal.
“That’s okay,” I said, heartbroken. “You don’t have to finish it.”
“You aren’t mad?” he asked tenderly.
“No. Just a little disappointed. I was so looking forward to a future filled with pots of carrot soup that I could share with you. It is always better to share the food you enjoy with someone who also enjoys it.” I tried to change my tone- to sound more optimistic. “That’s okay. Now, I’ll just have to make it for myself and there will be more for me to enjoy-alone (I emphasized with mock sadness). Someday, when I’m even more old and crotchety than I am now, and you are away at college, you will call me up and you’ll ask me what I’m doing. I’ll answer, in a shaky old lady voice, ‘Your father and I are having dinner. I made a big pot of carrot soup which I am going to eat all by myself. And, your father is having a Pop Tart.’”
“Mom, you’re crazy!”
“What? Your father loves Pop Tarts.”
There are plenty more Mondays to try new recipes with H. I'm sure they will not all be winners. And, I've resigned to the realization that when I someday take the time to record my favorite recipes- to hand down to my children (who am I kidding?), I will have to change the title of my favorite soup recipe from Mom's Carrot Soup for a Crowd to Soup for One.
On a complete side note- I have been suffering from vertigo (my 3rd episode in 6 months) this week. I wanted, more than anything to be able to come up with a gem of a post and an even gem-mier illustration. But, my eyes and my hands are not working together. Hopefully tomorrow, when I meet the neurologist, I'll finally have an answer as to why this keeps happening. I've been to my general practitioner, a physical therapist, and an ENT. I've had a battery of tests and they all return normal. If anyone has a story to share about his or her experience with vertigo, I would love to hear it.
Update January 15, 2011 - I will warn you that I am feeling completely punchy and a bit stranded right now by this stupid vertigo situation. I saw the neurologist yesterday. Argghhh, I dislike doctors so very much especially when they make you wait 40 minutes to be put in a room and an additional 20 minutes to actually be seen. And they do not take the time to review the required 15 page health questionaire that you needed to complete (while your vision was impaired due to vertigo, mind you!), and they ask you the same dang questions that you already filled out, and they don't make any eye contact with you and they fill the room with their flatulence (yes, yes, yes, he was passing gas and did not apologize for it!) and after sitting with you for ten minutes, they tell you what you already know- you have basilar type migraines (which, to him is concerning because it indicates an sudden change in the pattern of the headaches) and they tell you they would like you to go on a medicine which will take approximately 4 months to produce results, and (this is the best part) to watch out for a rash that might develop which is severe to life-threatening and to also be mindful of sudden urges to commit suicide. Are you frickin kidding me?!! So, I might die from the medication; but, that solves my problem because I will no longer have the vertigo and migraines. Hmmm, it's a tough choice...