I’ve long been in charge of what happens at our family table, and as Nina and Pinta’s ages have climbed (and my eyesight has worsened), what happens around it has started to advance, too. We started with breast feeding and bottles, moved onto mashed up bits of sweet potato, and onto more or less adult food. I would feel that my work is done, but there’s always another dinner to cook. And that’s what I live for.
But if cooking is what I live for, I realized last night that there’s even more that can happen around the table. I had set Santa Maria up with my new favorite roast chicken (one of the things I have learned is to do the prep work in the morning, so the after-work cooking is easy) and roast potatoes, and I had chopped and washed broccoli rabe, so I thought things would be calm and easy when I got home.
But Santa Maria was at the end of her rope. Forty-five minutes of homework with the eldest and a recalcitrant younger one had worn her out. Pinta was supposed to draw a picture for school, but she wouldn’t do it. She didn’t think she could draw anything good. So Santa Maria got out her “Janson’s History of Art” from her undergraduate days, and started showing her a variety of eras, during which non representative paintings were considered quite great, and they don’t look like what they purport to be about (My favorite, which is above, was Chaim Soutine’s “Dead Fowl,” because that’s what we were having for dinner).
But no one was happy. Everyone was suffering from a blood-sugar deficit, and it was up to me to restore equanimity to the house. Having long ago learned Never to Come Home Hungry Myself, I was in good shape to help out. (These days I’ve been eating an orange on the way home; why is it that they are so filling?)
I finished off the broccoli rabe, carved the chicken, plated the potatoes, and put the ketchup on the table. Dinner was served. But the atmosphere was tense. Everyone was still cranky. What could be done?
I thought quickly, and started a game. I told everyone I was thinking of something, and that they had to guess what it was. They asked me questions, and I answered yes or no. The game captivated the children, got a smile out of Santa Maria, and then we couldn’t stop playing it. We played it through dinner, and we started again at breakfast this morning.
And what was that original thing I was thinking of? An apple crisp, of course. It’s my favorite dessert, but desserts aren’t something I have time for. Maybe someday.
- 1 head of broccoli rabe, washed, stems peeled if necessary, and diced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped (or to taste)
- crushed red peppert, to taste
- olive oil
Sauté the garlic in a large pan.
Add the crushed pepper.
Add the rabe, and cook until the stems are tender (usually about 5-10 minutes; pull one out and take a bite to see how the are doing).