There’s a lot of talk about how families should eat supper together. It’s good for you and all that. I don’t know about our health. I know that I write down a lot of things I hear while we eat.
Just yesterday, this happened.
Scene: At the supper table, discussing trying to be the best in the world at something.
Me: Well, if you wanted to be an Olympic gold medalist, we’d support you. But a lot of times in history, when you look at somebody who’s the best in the world, they tend to be…
Me: Yeah. I think living a well-rounded life is also admirable. Like, look at me for example. I’m above average at everything. [Bad choice of words; Like Ron Burgundy, I immediately regretted this]
The Chef: Not above average at modesty.
Son: You’re above average in weight.
They’re vicious hyenas, but they’re mine.
We sit together to eat pretty often. The Chef likes cooking. I believe she sees food as love. Whenever we sit at the big table, she has us light some candles, even if it’s just Tuesday. Makes a production out of it. We scarf stuff down in five minutes that took her hours to make. The boy usually asks, “May I be excused?” at about the time The Chef sits down to start eating. We force him to stay there for a bit. And, eventually, somebody says something worth remembering.
It’s usually even funnier at the tiny kitchen nook we have. It’s like a miniature picnic table where you have to slide in from the side. Two of us, facing the other two. Just big enough for all four plates. No sudden movements, or you’ll hit somebody in the ribs with your elbow.
It’s a lot like one of the kitchen tables I remember when I was a kid. At one point, we lived in Harrisville, Michigan, a little town on the shore of Lake Huron. We had a little kitchen corner. We had a little round table, just big enough for all four plates. My parents sat across the circle from each other in chairs. My sister and I sat on tall wooden stools. Or maybe they were all wooden stools. I’ve recently been told that I remember everything incorrectly. It may be that we never lived in Michigan.
The little kitchen where we ate supper was bathed in a brown-yellow light, kind of like all flashbacks are in the movies. Especially when the movie is about the 70’s. I remember listening to Paul Harvey and Chickenman (“He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!”) on the radio while I helped dry dishes after we ate. But the real good stuff was right at the table.
My mom used to make this stuff she called “finger Jello.” It was Jello, but made with less water so it was very firm. She made it in a tray and you could cut it into shapes. Like a wiggly cookie. Being a Maine Yankee, she chose the fun shape of squares. One night, I picked up a piece of the dessert and started holding it up close to my face and shaking it.
“Mom. This reminds me of that time you were wearing a bathing suit and you were mowing the lawn on Grampie’s riding lawnmower.”
My mom’s got quite an arm. If you accelerate Jello to about 60 mph, it stings.
This was all when I was in about 5th grade. Ten or eleven years old. My sister wasn’t too rebellious yet, but I was trying to stretch my wings a little bit. One night at the supper table, I ate everything on my plate. Everything except for that cherry tomato. Yes, we were one of those houses where you had to clean your plate.
I believe that cherry tomatoes are tiny, encapsulated balls of vomit. My opinion on this matter has not changed in forty years. I decided to play some poker.
“May I be excused, please?”
“No, you may not,” said the parents. “You need to clean your plate.”
I looked down at my plate. I looked at my dad. I smirked. “I’m not eating that cherry tomato.”
My dad’s eyebrows went up and he looked at me, putting down his utensils. “No, huh?”
I shook my head. (For the record, I have no idea if I shook my head. I’ll ask my parents later if they have any recollection of this incident. I’ll probably find out I saw this scene in a movie. A movie with a brown-yellow flashback.)
My dad said, “You will eat that cherry tomato or I’ll shove it in your ear.”
I nodded with kind of a Robert DeNiro amused frown look.
I opened my mouth and started, “I’m not go–”
He reached over to my plate, grabbed the tomato and smushed it in my ear.
Well, I guess we know where the fenceposts are. We smiled at each other.
My plate was clean. “May I be excused, please?”
“Yes you may,” he said.
I highly recommend eating supper together. You never know what might happen. If you’re one of those people that can’t stand to hear it called supper instead of dinner, too bad. You probably didn’t have baked beans, hot dogs, and cornbread for suppah every Saturday night your whole childhood. You can insist on calling it dinner, if you want. You’re wrong, but fine. I’m not going to shove anything in your ear about it.