Early evening call from spouse:
“I had to go to Target, so I bought some brownie mix and some soft drinks, and I also got you two green peppers on sale.” Sooooooooo many questions. Why, exactly, green peppers? And were just the two peppers “on sale”? Was it a scratch-and-dent? Did they have little red markdown labels on them? I was finally able to confirm that:
1) Green peppers (all of them, not just the ones that followed my spouse home) were on special at Target.
2) He bought them because, the other day, I mentioned that I preferred fresh vegetable side dishes.
Ummmm . . . not sure that I would call green peppers side dish vegetables, but points for trying. Spouse apparently clued in on the fact that peppers, in isolation, did not a side dish make, and in an unsure voice asked what we could do with them. I knew that we had some tilapia filets on hand, so I proposed fish tacos and offered to stop at the store on the way home for tortillas. Spouse replied that he hated to make me take a detour, so it was agreed that I would make some Mexican-y fish dish, sans tortillas.
Several hours later (and about an hour later than I’d planned on departing from the office), I walked in, already a bit frazzled, to a typical scene of quasi-destruction – multiple pairs of shoes and an odd number of socks (always an odd number – why, oh, why?) scattered across the living room floor, mail strewn all over the dining room table. Had I been less frazzled, I might have taken note of the fact that I didn’t trip over a backpack or a dog on my way in the front door, so, in retrospect, I made a surprisingly clean entry – but all I managed to focus on were the abandoned shoes, dirty unmatched socks, etc., etc., ad nauseam.
Made it to the kitchen and hit the ground running – started slicing green peppers, and was on my third pepper strip when the dinner show began. Act 1: “Mom-Can.” Featured performer: Son #1. “Mom-can-I-pick-the-movie-for-tonight? Can-we-watch-Sherlock-Holmes? Please? PLEASE? I-don’t-care-if-it’s-PG-13,- I-can-handle-it. Can-I-try-one-of-the-pranks-in-my-new-prank-book? Please? Dad-said-I-could,-if-you-said-yes. I-want-to-put-army-men-on-the-blades-of-my-ceiling-fan,-so-when-someone-flips-the-light-switch,-they-will-fly-off-of-the-fan.” (Great – mini humanoid shrapnel wielding plastic bayonets. And, yes, you read that correctly: his new PRANK BOOK. Two guesses which parent authorized that little purchase.) “Please? PLEASE? We-have-time-before-dinner.”
By now, fish filets are in one skillet, green pepper slices are in another. Fish has been seasoned with chile rub. Precooked quinoa and brown rice has been selected as a side dish and is warming in the micro. So far, so good. I am having trouble finding non-flavored cooking oil in the pantry – a couple of cans take swan dives off of the crowded shelves and nearly miss my feet – so I decide to cut my losses (and save my toes) and settle on some basil olive oil, being the least non-Mexican oil in my repertoire. Skirting around Son #1, who has planted himself firmly between pantry and stove, I mumble that he can try the Great Army Man Experiment if and when his dad is available to help.
Distracted by the “Mom-Can” monologue, I dump the remnants of a bottle of Salt Lick mesquite BBQ sauce in with the fish – and discover that the Salt Lick mesquite BBQ sauce bottle does not contain Salt Lick mesquite BBQ sauce. Fish is now covered with something . . . honey-mustard-y. Drat. I beg Son #1 to put “Mom-Can” to bed, at least until dinner is over. He wanders off, and I set to scraping the decidedly non-Mexican sauce off of the fish. However . . . in the time it takes me to run off Son #1, the now moistened fish begins to flake – into said sauce. Making it dad-blamed difficult to siphon off the honey-mustard without losing the fish in the process.
Considering dumping the fish mixture into a pasta strainer when Act 2 commences: “Mom-Watch.” Featured performer: Son #2, who has positioned himself just outside of the kitchen door. “Mom. Mom. MOM. Mom, watch. Mom, watch the Shrek toy that I got at McDonald’s. Mom, are you watching? You have to WATCH. WATCH, MOM. Are you still watching?” I really do try to watch, and as I am watching (“Mom, MOM, keep watching”), I dump some actual, factual mesquite BBQ sauce into the chile-rubbed, basil-oiled, honey-mustard-drenched fish gloop, in an attempt to tip the flavor balance in my favor. I succeed . . . but now the fish gloop is REALLY gloopy. Not an inappropriate consistency for fish tacos, though . . . but, oh, yeah [forehead slap], no tortillas. Double drat. Remembering the side dish in the micro, I make the executive decision: Mexican rice bowls, it is. I dump the quinoa/rice mixture in with the fish, achieving the proper sauce-to-other-stuff ratio, and then remember the damned green pepper strips. Which made sense in the context of tacos, but – due to lack of tortillas – um, yeah. So I dice the now appropriately blistered green peppers into the rice mixture, and head to the fridge for toppings.
No sour cream. Cottage cheese, whipped cream cheese, cherry cobbler yogurt – you name a gelatinous dairy product in a tub, we have it. Except for sour cream.
Weird rice bowls with a sprinkling of grated cheese it is.
Now, there’s no way the kids are eating this mess – although the dogs and one of the cats (the one who thinks he’s a dog) are circling, which may or may not be a good sign. Gourmet eaters, they are not, as evidenced by the fact that, when the Sheltie was having some intestinal distress, she eagerly gobbled up every last morsel of the Pepto-Bismol/Immodium/Alpo/Fiber One cereal mixture that my spouse made for her. (The vet actually prescribed the Pepto, Immodium and Fiber One; whether he intended that they be served together, bound with Alpo – way different story. But the relish with which she attacked this “tasty” treat did help to explain how she found herself with intestinal issues in the first place.)
So I go into short-order cook mode, making, roughly simultaneously (with an assist from Dad): chicken for Son #2 (the self-proclaimed “King of Chicken”); an alternative protein source for Son #1, who “had-chicken-for-lunch-and-Mom-are-you-really-going-to-make-me-eat-chicken-twice-in-one-DAY?” (Son #1: not any kind of chicken royalty, not even a low-level bureaucratic chicken official); vegetables for the both of them; and Easy Mac for Son #1. Son #1 could be the “King of Mac and Cheese,” and generally asks for, and gets, the good stuff, but truth be told, he likes the instant kind just as much, and since I’m in a tizzy, Easy Mac it is. I fill the cup to the fill line with water, I nuke it precisely per package directions – and it comes out on the watery side. Act 3: “Mom, You’re So Incompetent.” “Mom, that’s too watery. Did you fill it EXACTLY to the fill line? You have to fill it EXACTLY to the fill line.”
Act 3 is interrupted by the start of Act 4: “Mom, Dad, I’M BLEEDING!” (Like his father and older brother before him, Son #2 gets nosebleeds. Always at highly inopportune times. How come kids never get nosebleeds in the bathtub? Or when they are wearing grubby clothes? I’m just sayin’.) Five year-old runs into the kitchen, blood dripping down his (cute, boutique) t-shirt. Dad whips the shirt over the child’s head (let me tell you, Dad is blazingly FAST in the nosebleed response department) and lunges for the paper towels while reminding child to hold his head back. Armed with a paper towel, child pinches his nose for a split second, then removes the paper towel, looks down to observe fresh flow of blood now dripping onto the kitchen floor: “Mom, Dad, I’m STILL bleeding!” Mom is not as blazingly fast as the canines, one of which opts to lick up a drip of blood, the other of which makes a concerted effort to walk THROUGH the blood and track it all over the house.
Dogs dispatched to another room . . . . Bloody Nose Boy dispatched to lie down on the easily cleaned leather sofa . . . . Kitchen floor cleaned, and Mom starts to put dinner on the table – then hears Bloody Nose Boy BLOW HIS NOSE WITH A LOUD HONK in the other room. You have a bloody nose, and – seriously? Dinner gets delayed a bit longer. (Laundry-obsessed) Dad is obsessed with getting blood out of (cute, boutique) t-shirt RIGHT NOW. The family finally sits down to eat, and I guess all’s well that ends well, because the nosebleed did not return, Tragic Rice Bowls were not half bad, the Easy Mac was pronounced surprisingly edible, and the dinner table conversation was stimulating as always. The highlight – a monologue by Boy with the Formerly Bloody Nose (Act 5?), that went roughly like this: “Do you know what I would do if I got stuck inside a baby? I would crawl into the baby’s head and put a grenade on top of the baby’s brain, and I would light the grenade, and when the grenade went off, it would blow a hole in the top of the baby’s head, and I would walk RIGHT. OUT. OF. THE. HOLE. And then I would have to take a shower, because I would be covered in baby brains and blood and stuff from the grenade.”
I’m telling ya – it’s always dinner and a show around here.