The 12-year-old took on his newest chore today, and now my wife and I have to replace the kitchen floor, restock the first aid kit and check whether the smoke alarm works anymore.
At least everyone safe’s and the house is still standing.
And, I have to say, I got a phenomenal dinner out of the ordeal.
The chain of events started to unfurl many years ago, about the time the boy started eating solid food. His pediatrician advised us that one of the best things we could do to make sure our first child got the nutrients he needed was to absolutely refuse to cook him anything other than what we were making for ourselves.
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Lemon-garlic chicken? Open wide. Salmon baked in parchment? Bon appétit, little guy!
No matter how hard the boy clamped his mouth shut and refused to eat, the doctor assured us, he’d never let himself starve.
“If you don’t want to eat it,” we told the kid plenty of times, “you’re going to have to cook your own dinner.”
And then one day he showed us that he was as hard-headed and determined as he was picky.
It started small, melting cheese over chips in the microwave for easy nachos, then graduating to scrambled eggs, beef burritos and grilled pork steak. None of it saved him from the veggies his mom and I made, but he’ll tell you it’s a whole lot easier to choke down lima beans when they’re chased with nachos instead of salmon.
The game changed the day he learned how to fry up fresh corn chips to go with his salsa. Teach the boy to brew beer, and I’m not sure I’ll ever need to buy packaged food again.
That’s why his mom and I added a new chore to his list this summer: Twice a week, he’ll be the chef with a hot dinner ready when we get home.
I was pretty excited about it until my phone rang at work.
Dinner was delayed, the boy said.
Why? Well, he needed a hot pan, but it started belching so much smoke that the smoke alarm wouldn’t stop going off. Clearly, the smartest call was to pull the alarm out of the ceiling.
Back at the stove, the smoke wasn’t letting up so he figured he ought to carefully carry his cast iron pan outside. Cast iron being so good at retaining heat, though, he singed his fingers on the hot pan and almost immediately had to put it down, where it melted the linoleum before he could find a potholder.
“And Dad,” the young chef’s little brother shouted from the background, “I made soup for a snack but the dog got it and spilled some on the white couch!”
Of course. What’s a circus without a sideshow?
Mom was almost home, so the boys held tight until she showed up to give a refresher on how to heat a pan without setting off any alarms.
By the time I got there, the burn was salved, the couch cleaned and dinner served.
And man, what a dinner — steak-frites! It was like coming home to my own private bistro, one that seriously needed a new floor and a better-trained dog.
The best part is that when you let a 12-year-old dictate the menu, greens get replaced with big chocolate shakes, complete with whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry. I have to admit that it goes down easier than lima beans.
The boy is on deck to cook again in a few days.
I don’t know what he’s planning for dinner, but I told him he can skip the show this time.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.