For months now, we’ve been feeding Mama J. and Papa T. dinner every night. By “we” I mean Hula comes home from work, cooks dinner, slaps food onto two plates and sends it down the street via Hubby. Sometimes he drives the truck. Sometimes he uses the golf cart. And these nifty plastic deviled egg carriers from Wal-Mart that perfectly hold foil wrapped plates. It’s usually a race to get dinner finished in a timely fashion, so those two don’t die of starvation. Old folks like to eat early, ya’ know. And Hula doesn’t get home from work until 5pm or so, so it’s run, run, run from the minute I hit the door. When the food hits the plates I often throw my hands in the air al la rodeo cowboy and yell, “Time!” Or sometimes I channel my old Rocky Horror Picture Show days and sing out, “Masta’, dinner is prepared!” Teen Angel laughs. Hubby doesn’t. Sigh. Smart aleck humor is so unappreciated in my house.
One of the biggest obstacles we’ve had to overcome is Papa T.’s palate. The man grew up on a farm in rural Tennessee during the depression. Dinner to him is a piece of pork, two starches and a piece of cornbread. Period. He is not an adventurous eater. Wild and crazy to him is leaving the bacon grease out of the green beans. Now, the rest of us are foodies. We enjoy all kinds of foods. We like to try new things. Hubby wasn’t always that way. He takes after his dad. When we first married he ate meat and vegetables. End of story. No spaghetti. No lasagna. No enchiladas. No seasonings. It’s the way Mama J. cooked when Hubby was growing up. It took a while, but eventually I forced him to try new things, and now he eats all kinds of stuff. Except for fish. If it’s not cod or salmon, he skips the fish.
Teen Angel and I are always experimenting with new meals. Our pantry is full of interesting stuff. Nothing makes us happier than visiting Whole Foods. The closest one is two hours away from us, so when we venture to Nashville, we take a cooler for a Whole Foods stop. Other women shop for shoes. The Hula-gen gals shop for organic pasta made from corn, pasta colored with squid ink and blood oranges. And cheeses. All kinds of cheeses. When we whip up something new, Mama J. dives in, Teen Angel and I happily chew away and Hubby sniffs it warily and then cleans his plate. Well, except for that potato pizza fiasco I had last month. I don’t know what happened, but instead of crispy golden potatoes on my homemade crust, I had underdone mush. It was not good. We all scraped off the potatoes and ate the crust. Man CAN live by bread alone. At least until the next morning. We are proof.
Papa T. just doesn’t care for anything but the mundane, and I’m not making more than one kind of meal each night. As mama used to say, “I ain’t runnin’ a truck stop,” so we have to compromise. I make my fair share of pork seasoned vegetables and homemade biscuits and cornbread. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good homemade biscuit. It’s one of my favorite food groups. But the rest of us can stand only so much of that fare. We like lighter, healthier stuff and more fun stuff, so I have resorted to a tactic I used with Teen Angel when she was much younger and much pickier. I lie. I know it’s shameful to do that to a blind man with dementia, but we all do what we must to get by. If a kid thinks a talapia fillet is a chicken nugget, and he’ll eat a chicken nugget, you tell him it’s a chicken nugget and everyone eats in peace. If Papa T. wants country cookin’ we simply tell him what he wants to hear before he digs in. When I send Hubby down the street with plates of out of the ordinary, I give Hubby the “lie”. For example: Sunday night I made homemade pizza with caramelized red onions and prosciutto. It was delicious, if I do say so myself. It’s a recipe from The Pioneer Woman, and let me just tell you that homemade pizza crust recipe of hers is great. Now Papa T.’s idea of pizza is thin crust cheese pizza. If he could get rid of the sauce and eat just the crust and cheese, I think he would, so when Hubby asked was on the menu, I told him, “Homemade pizza with caramelized onions and prosciutto, but tell your daddy it’s plain pizza and country ham.” “Aye-aye,” my partner in crime said, and down the street he went. A half hour later he returned. Papa T. had gobbled up every bit of his pizza and country ham and declared it “mighty tasty”. And there was peace all over the land.
This technique seems to work well as long as we stick somewhat close to the truth. I’m just not sure he’s going to believe the gnocchi is tiny biscuits.
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