Susan's Blog

Friday, February 3, 2006

Ungrateful Dread/Cooking with Sass

As I have said in previous posts, I am no hausfrau. Technically, however, aside from “rarely-paid writer,” my primary employment would be “housewife,” because I am married to my house. I hate that job, though. Even though I love my house, my husband, and my kids, sometimes I do not like any of them for the difficulties they impose on me. More than anything, I hate the 5:00 pm. hour. When 5:00 pm. strikes, I am cloaked in a black cloud of despair as I consider what the f*** I am going to make for dinner. This is because 1) I would much rather sit on my derriere and blog or write other columns that will most likely go nowhere; and 2) I hate cooking for people who hate my cooking.

Why do my children hate my cooking? I often consider, “which came first, the chicken, or the egg?” Well since eggs are for breakfast and chicken, dinner, I suppose the egg did. Also, because my children were once my eggs, I guess I have my answer: it is my fault that they don’t like my cooking, it is genetic. What I mean is, how did it start? Did I hate cooking meals that little kids eat, or did they hate eating the meals that I cooked for them?

I remember fourteen years ago, in early pregnancy with Max, cooking Nat’s little dinners in the toaster over and microwave: hot dog and frozen vegetables, and wanting to throw up from the smell of the salty red meat and the sickly sweet aroma of freezer-burned cooked carrots. Somehow, that scent memory remains, all these years later. No matter what I make for them, no matter how carefully I think about what they like and how to prepare it, one of them is guaranteed not to like it, and I am going to feel slightly nauseated by the sight of their plates, loaded as they are with three piles: protein entree, carbohydrate side dish, and vegetable. So predictable, so boring. Nothing may touch on these plates; it’s as if none of the food components can stand the other, and who could blame them?

Here is the piece de la resistance: Benji requested steak the other day. I was (foolishly) delighted. How adult, how interesting, and how Atkins-friendly! I asked him, “Why steak, Benj?” and he said, “Well, Obelix eats it in the Asterix books and it always looks so good. Plus, it has that white thing in the middle, which is really the bone that runs all the way through the middle of the animal” (which it turns out, was wild boar).

I should have seen the trap! But I did not. Hope springs eternal, after all, especially in this mother’s breast. So I bought two lovely steaks. I don’t really know how to cook them so I consulted two cookbooks (unfortunately the Brat Cookbook had not yet been written — see below), so I looked at Joy of Cooking and The New Settlement Cookbook. After that, I decided to pan-fry my steaks, which seemed thin enough.

While the meat browned in the pan, Ben took a peek. “That’s not steak!” he exclaimed. “Huh?” I mumbled. “Sure it is, Darling.” I was not yet alarmed. “No it isn’t,” he insisted. “Steak is red and has that white round thing in the middle.” “Well, this steak doesn’t,” I explained foolishly. “It’s steak, and you’re going to love it.” Well, maybe I didn’t say that, I may have said something slightly more threatening.

At around this time Max came into the kitchen, took a look in the pan, and wrinkled up his nose. My heart started to sink, but I valiantly persevered, flipping the leathery gray slabs and cutting them open, only to see red spurting out with every jab. By the time Ned came home, the steaks were in the broiler. About an hour later, I pronounced them e-coli free.

Nat did his usual, slathering it with half a bottle of barbecue sauce and then moving over to the french fries. Max avoided his steak for as long as possible, sneering as he chewed his bouncy half-thawed peas. Benji looked at his cut up steak bits and said, “This isn’t steak.” I looked at him and said, “I wouldn’t say that to me while I have this knife in my hand.” (I am not proud of it, I am just telling it like it was.) Ned said, “Put a lot of salt on it; that’ll make it good.” Ben complied, thankfully.

They all managed to choke down a lot of steak. In the end, my plate looked worse than anyone’s because of gristle and red pieces.

So, I have two things for you, dear readers: 1) Does anyone have any ideas of what I can cook for these ungrateful eaters? and 2) What do you think of my writing a Brat Cookbook?

At least if I did the latter, it would take me away from actually having to make dinner on time.


If Benji like Calvin and Hobbes, I suggest you make “green slime that will turn you into a mutant if you eat it.” AKA Spinach.

From :


Lunchtime and dinnertime find Calvin eager to share his thoughts about the food he (or anyone else) is eating. Calvin’s meals at home are generally depicted as a pile of unidentifiable green goop. Those eating with him are generally repulsed by his colorful descriptions of the cuisine, which is one of the reasons his parents seldom take him to restaurants. He also gives interesting commentary on his food during lunchtime at school, infuriating Susie (he once referred to his dish of beans ‘n’ franks as “cigar butts in a gallstone sauce”). Calvin’s mother occasionally coaxes him to eat his dinner by informing him that they are serving some outlandish or stomach-turning dish — e.g. toxic waste (which Calvin’s father informs him will “turn you into a mutant if you eat it”), monkey heads, spider pie, soup with maggots in it — which Calvin then eats with relish, though his father usually no longer has an appetite (in the first such comic, however, the parents’ roles are reversed). On occasion, his meals are also animate, usually resulting in a fight with said food and leaving a large mess that strains his mother’s patience.

— added by Andrew on Friday, February 3, 2006 at 8:35 pm

Get dad and your kids to cook for you! 🙂


— added by Estee Klar-Wolfond on Saturday, February 4, 2006 at 4:16 pm

Call out for pizza. And tell the kids to clean up the table afterwards, while you go back to the computer.

(Works for me.)

— added by Bonnie Ventura on Saturday, February 4, 2006 at 7:48 pm


— added by Kristen on Sunday, February 5, 2006 at 6:14 am

I have a couple of dishes for your “Brat CookBook”

1. Macaroni and Cheese
2. Hot dogs
3. Pizza
4. Chicken Nuggets
5. French Fries
6. Anything toxic and bad for you but quite tasty.

— added by not my blg on Sunday, February 5, 2006 at 9:53 am

I use a small Forman Grill to make steaks and it adds to the experience (at least for the kids.)

— added by Anonymous on Sunday, February 5, 2006 at 11:24 am

Fried wonton or spring rolls—anything fried, right? The folding part can be like arts and crafts….. My sister and I were world’s worst eaters as kids but anything that was small and in little packets we would try–also paper-wrapped chicken. I guess I am thinking about dim sum!

— added by kristina on Sunday, February 5, 2006 at 3:19 pm

Hi Susan, We me at a support group one evening in Brookline, I am Benjamin’s Mom, and I have soon to be 6 year old tripets. My advive, just give them a vitamin at the end of the day( gummy bears work for us), and they will be fine!!! and I love the idea of a cookbook, various types of pizza is the way to go.
Alison Fife

— added by Alison Fife on Monday, February 6, 2006 at 9:28 am

I’m not certain that you will necessarily even read this (being relatively new to your blog, I’ve been reading the past few months’ worth to catch up), but I’ll make a suggestion, anyway: every time I make breakfast food for dinner, it is a hit. I’m a good cook otherwise, but there’s just something about pancakes, waffles, sausage, corned beef hash, eggs and toast, oatmeal (with cinnamon and sliced bananas), etc. (though not all at the same meal 🙂 that we all really like; more comforting and/or flavorful, I think. Plus, it feels like a special treat, since we have “traditional” dinners most of the time. O.K., now I’m getting hungry… 🙂

— added by Patricia on Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 11:41 pm