When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to figure out what the family is going to eat this coming week, so as to avoid the slings and arrows of having to order in every evening at horrendous cost and for mediocre food, then it’s time to gather the dear members of the family around the table to talk about the menus for the coming week.
I think I have mentioned before that when we involve the two sons in the planning, we have the increased possibility of two things occurring: one, someone out of the four will want to veto a possible meal choice – this happens at an incredibly high rate. We have a whole list of categories of not gonna – any casserole, any thing with mushrooms, and on and on. Sometimes it’s as simple as “not lovin’ it” to shut down an idea. The second thing that can, and often happens is that the younger members of the family decide this should be the week we follow Julia Child’s cookbook, and make beef bourguignon, or some dish from Morocco that is made of chickpeas and a goat’s head…
Tonight, by the way, we are planning to have chicken enchiladas, which is not a matter of going to the freezer and pulling out the ready to bake pan of Mexican pleasure – oh no. The one being created only has about 45 different ingredients, requiring 150 different steps, and using up most every pan in the kitchen. Yes, they are very good. Yes, they are a pain in the – kitchen to make, but for this one meal this week, we will go all out. “We” meaning the cook of the house, who right now is typing a column…
One meal that Cheri likes to cook, and is pretty good at, is macaroni and cheese. Now, I grew up with our friend Kraft, and enjoying tiny noodles, and a cheese-esque powder that you mixed up with milk and butter. In college, I could eat a box all by myself. Cheri follows a different recipe from scratch, and it is good. When that was proposed at the menu meeting, one of the sons requested that it be made with “wagon wheel” pasta – small, round wagon wheel looking things that probably are the product of playdough being squeezed through the Fun Factory, and chopped off with a plastic knife. Just as quickly, the other son requested that we buy some “dinosaur” pasta – again, little figures of T. Rex, created from North Dakota durum wheat, which by the way is the best in the world.
We agree to look for them, and we put the m and c on the menu. As we shopped on Saturday, we buzzed by the pasta aisle, ready to pick up the items, when suddenly it seemed that time drew to a close. We saw spaghetti, ziti, shells, vermicelli, rotini, rotelle, farfalle, manicotti, macaroni, rigatoni, and more – but apparently wagon wheels (which in Italian are route) and dinosaurs (which in Italian are dinosaurs) are not in season right now. They must be spring pastas or something like that. We spent ten minutes looking for them, and then went over to the boxes of the stuff, thinking we could buy those, and just dump the artificial cheese. No luck. Darn coronavirus probably infected the wagon wheel processing line and shut it down or something.
Still – no problem. The meal was scheduled for Wednesday, so plenty of time to look at other grocery stores. The only trouble is – you then have to go look in another grocery store. Did I mention I hate wearing a mask? And I also hate the idea that when I step through the doors of the grocery store, that I am entering a disease pit, not knowing which infected people have come and put their diseased fingers all over the food I plan to buy and take home and touch. It’s no longer fun, and it makes me want to race through the store holding my breath under the mask, and just get out of there asap.
Still, I went to the “other” grocery store on Monday. and to the pasta aisle. Apparently, wagon wheels and dinosaurs are being kept in the same huge warehouses as toilet paper and Clorox wipes. It’s an industry wide conspiracy, I guess, coming at precisely the time we need those wagon wheels. I spent ten minutes in that store – no luck. I reported home with the bad news. No problem, was the response. I could simply check at a THIRD grocery store, to see if wagon wheels and dinosaurs could be found.
At that point, I just shook my head – I couldn’t go into yet another store to find the precious commodity. The younger son then announced that he was freeing me from my shopping burden, like wandering the earth with a lantern looking for a wagon wheel. Instead, we were allowed to use – not macaroni or shells, which we had in the cupboard, but rotini. Another trip to the store.
I had to go back there anyway, since some of the ingredients in the chicken enchiladas were of course fresh, which meant I didn’t want to buy them on Saturday to use on Thursday. So, once again, I made the list, got the mask and headed back to the grocery store.
Do you remember I said that we saw both rotini and rotelle noodles in the pasta aisle? I have spent 63 years of life, and was never aware that they are close cousins, and look almost alike, except rotelle is a bigger twisted noodle. My mind began playing tricks on me. Was I expected to buy rotini as it was, or were they really wanting rotelle, and only thought it was rotini? It’s tough hyperventilating under a mask. Finally, in a bold move – courageous, really – I bought… both boxes, and let them sort it out when I got home.
The choice, of course, was rotini, although I think that was made in large part because that’s what he first said he wanted, and didn’t realize the rotelle was probably the real choice he had hoped for, but he misspoke. Darn the torpedoes – full speed ahead. We were going the rotini route.
Cheri fixed the entire box – using the large pot, and tons of Velveeta cheese for that creamy texture. When it was ready, we called the boys up out of the basement, said our prayer together, that God would bless this macaroni and cheese, which in essence was NOT macaroni, but at this point… and then everyone dished up, and supper was served.
When the dust settled last night, as I looked in the huge pot that held the meal – it was empty. No leftovers. Not a single rotini (by the way, there is no “rotini” in Italy – it’s called fusilli, but in America, since it’s spun in a rotating spiral, we gave it a different name) was left. I’m surprised no one asked to lick the pot clean.
So – this week we can mark down one success story of a meal. We’ll see how the enchiladas turn out…
There are times in our lives when we just want that “one thing.” We may know there are other options available, and we could make do with them, but we really want that one thing, whatever it is. I would contend, so long as it doesn’t become a selfish, narcissistic battle, that wanting a particular thing is not particularly bad. Especially in this season, it appears we are having to settle for lots of things, and now Thanksgiving is coming up and there are warnings about bringing families together and things like that. Sometimes, our life choices can be intentionally narrow, and it’s ok. Sometimes I will choose to do without than to have to choose something I really don’t want as my first choice. This isn’t always the case, but sometimes – just sometimes – it’s ok to dream of wagon wheels and dinosaurs, at least as we try to make that dream come true.
What one thing are you dreaming about today?
Word for the day: obganiate. Pronounced ub-GAN-ee-ate, it’s another Latin word. It comes from obgannire, which means “to yelp or growl at.” When we come across an animal that starts growling, it’s not a momentary “grrr” – it usually goes on for quite a while, or until we leave. Same as yelping – “why won’t that dog shut up?” we say, rather irritated. To “obganiate,” therefore, as humans, is to irritate another person by constantly repeating yourself. You see, it’s like you are always saying the same thing – you know, repeating what you are saying, and saying it over and over and over and… oh, I am irritating you? I was just obganiating…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.