WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

What’s for dinner? It’s the age-old question that continues to torment American households, practically every day of the week.

Of course, the answer is usually provided by the person cooking the meal, and, typically, there is little room for discussion. In other words, you get what you get, or you get it yourself.

But when other family members are informed of the particular menu choice for that evening, the responses can vary from a less than enthusiastic “Okay. It’s not my favorite, but I guess I can eat it.” to a horrified “Oh my God! We’re not having that again are we?”

When I was child it was often a battle of wills between me and my mom over whether or not I would finish whatever revolting, nauseating (translate to healthy) food item was left on my plate. You can probably guess who always won that parental struggle.

But as an adult, I have the right to avoid any foods I don’t like – at least in theory. However, refusing to eat what my wife has lovingly prepared does, unfortunately, come with its own unpleasant repercussions.

Although, I must say in my wife’s defense, her ability to consistently create enjoyable meals is severely hampered by the various dietary restrictions she is forced to contend with. I have mild hypertension, so I’m on a low sodium diet. I have elevated cholesterol, so I require a heart-healthy diet. And, most challenging of all, I am a vegetarian who does not particularly care for vegetables.

So, add it up. Nothing fried, no salt, no fats, no beef, no pork, no chicken, and an extremely limited tolerance for veggies. What would you fix for dinner?

But despite the dietary restrictions that so many of us live with, we are still obsessed with food. It even influences what we watch on TV. Cooking shows are an amazingly popular form of entertainment, although sometimes they seem excessively cruel with lots of yelling and swearing. (Not unlike our kitchen at home.)

I’m talking about the kind of show where the tattooed covered contestant tears up when the judges cut him from the show because his nose ring fell into the guacamole he was preparing.

Backstage the camera zooms in for a closeup as he huffs, “They didn’t even give me a chance! After my guacamole was strained, they would have found it delectable!” (I’m sure that my wife would want me to pause right here and make it perfectly clear that she has no piercings, and I have never found anything in her guacamole that could chip a tooth.)

Now, at this point, you might be wondering about my role in the kitchen. Sadly, because of my lovely bride’s continual urging (well, actually her surprisingly sinister threats), I don’t cook that often, but, fortunately, for both of us, she is incredibly talented in that department.

I, on the other hand, am utterly useless around a stove. I possess no culinary skills whatsoever. In fact, on the rare occasions when I do try to cook, the only way I can tell the food is done is when the smoke alarm goes off.

Recently, one of my typically disastrous attempts at whipping up something that could possibly be considered consumable predictably concluded with the inevitable ear-piercing wail of the smoke detector, which sent the cat hurtling through the pet door at a speed she cannot otherwise attain.  

After making her way through the chaos and calmly shutting off the alarm, my wife dryly pointed out, “Sweetie, (she calls me Sweetie when she’s trying to keep from killing me) there are other ways to tell when the food is ready, and they won’t scare the kitty.”

Of course, she is subtly trying to convey the fact that when a meal has reached the smoke alarm stage it has passed beyond being “dinner” and into the realm of, “Don’t feed that to the dog, it would be animal cruelty.” I can only assume that the only reason she allows me to occasionally step into the kitchen is because she finds me irresistibly attractive in an apron and flip flops. 

As I said, my wife is an amazingly talented cook, but there is one thing that even she cannot overcome. In my opinion, one of the most disturbing phrases in the English language consists of just two words; NEW RECIPE.

There is nothing that drains the life out of me more than entering the kitchen and asking my wife what’s for dinner and hearing her happily chirp, “I’m trying a new recipe.” (Bear in mind that this will be a recipe without beef, pork, or chicken – and as few vegetables as possible.)

I’m sorry, but I firmly believe with all my heart that all of the good recipes have already been created. After all, human beings have been eating on a regular basis for quite some time. Therefore, it should be obvious to any reasonably intelligent person that a new recipe is nothing more than a futile attempt to improve what was already a totally acceptable form of food.

A perfect example is the horrendous practice of defiling pizza with pineapple. What is the point of that? Why on earth would you take one of the greatest gastric gourmet foods of all time and purposely ruin the velvety melted cheese by garnishing it with questionable fruits and vegetables? Now, I know that geography can be a tricky subject for some people, but how many actually believe that pineapples are raised in Italy? For God’s sake, finish the pizza and then have a fruit cup.

A second, even more diabolical reason new recipes are created is in the desperate hope of disguising something disgusting. Each person has their own list of foods that repulse them. However, some items seem to make the list more often than others including: liver, brussels sprouts, calamari, turnips, oysters on the half shell (they look like they’ve already been eaten once), squash, rhubarb, beef tongue (fun to look at in the grocery store but not to eat), eggplant, beets, spinach (a land-based form of seaweed), artichokes, lima beans, and sweet potatoes. (Some people insist on calling them yams, but that sounds like something you get a cramp in if you don’t warm-up properly. “My aching yams are killing me today.”

I’m sure each of you can add your own loathsome choices to this list, but the point is that no matter how you prepare it, cook it or serve it, you cannot hide the gruesome fact that underneath that sauce, glaze, or layer of breadcrumbs lurks something so appalling, so foul, so sickening that no sane human being would be able to eat it and, more importantly, be able to keep it down.

I am certain that new recipes are second only to drug overdoses when it comes to reasons to have your stomach pumped.

However, on the nights when I’m spared a new take on an old favorite, the meals are usually spectacular. On these occasions, I like to shower my wife with compliments.

An example of this involves dental work.

Many years ago, as the result of a small accident, I had oral surgery which resulted in extensive bridgework. So, if I come into the kitchen and the aroma is intoxicating, I like to praise my wife by exclaiming, “Dinner smells so good I’m going to go put in my teeth!” This never fails to elicit sheer joy on her part. (Who doesn’t appreciate a sincere compliment?)

When we sit down to eat, I like to look out over the feast and unleash the flattery by lovingly whispering, “I don’t think we’re going to need the phone number for the POISON HOTLINE tonight.” This instantly turns my wife into a quivering mass of gratitude.

But the real compliment comes at the end of the meal. After consuming enough calories to be able to hibernate through the winter, I like to undo my belt and let loose with a thunderous window-rattling belch that makes the cat levitate off the curio cabinet like a hairy helicopter.

At that moment, I know life is good, and I’m sure my wife realizes what a lucky woman she is to have married such an appreciative husband.

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