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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Turkey Dupas and Schlitz

For me, Thanksgiving has always meant driving over the river and through the woods (literally) to Grandma’s house for a wonderfully satisfying day of sloth and gluttony. The grownups would sit around the living room drinking beer, watching the Detroit Lions play some other team, while us kids would escape to the basement to play pool and sneak gulps of Schlitz from Grandma’s beer-meister.

Meanwhile, Grandma would be in the kitchen preparing the turkey. She would always save some of the less desirable parts – the heart, liver, gizzard, lungs, nostrils, toenails, brain – for Uncle Johnny, who would happily consume them like a starving Pilgrim. The only part he wouldn’t eat was what my Polish grandmother lovingly referred to as the turkey “dupa.” For this she had more sinister plans.

Then, while we sat around the living room in a Schlitz-induced haze, both kids and adults alike, Grandma would quietly emerge from the kitchen with the dupa hanging from a string. Before anyone knew what was happening, she’d pounce on the nearest grandchild, dangling the foul (pun intended) body part precariously close to his or her face. Total chaos would erupt as kids scattered in every direction, terrified. Meanwhile Grandma would giggle fiendishly as she reveled in her dupa-induced mayhem.

Nowadays, Thanksgiving means trying to eat two feasts, just hours apart, and trying to get my kids to sit through two sit-down meals in the same day. It’s a challenging day, to say the least.

First we head down to my in-laws around noon for the early meal, which my father-in-law and I wash down with a few glasses of homemade red wine. Then, once I emerge from my coma, we head out to my Grandma’s for Round #2. In preparation for this annual day of excess, I usually fast for a week, eating nothing but saltine crackers and water.

Grandma still chases the kids around the house with the turkey dupa. Only now it’s my kids and my niece and nephew who go running for the hills as the other adults and I watch on in delight. She doesn’t bother with me anymore, thank goodness; I’m too old to go clambering over furniture and sedentary relatives. Besides, I’m usually too busy to notice as I lie stretched out on the floor, belt unbuckled and eyes focused on the back of my eyelids, my body attempting to digest the 6,000 or so calories I consumed that day.

Thankfully it’s just once a year.

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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Battle of Dinnertime

“More thoy thauce, peas!” yells my son, the salty brown liquid running down his chin and dripping onto his plastic bib. Just moments before, he put the tiny dish of soy sauce up to his mouth and slurped it down as if it was leftover milk in a bowl of cereal. We had given it to him to use as dip for his stew – yes, stew – which he was refusing to eat. A bizarre combination of food and condiment, for sure, but it worked. And to us, that’s all that matters.

I used to look forward to dinnertime. It was a time to relax after a long day at work; a time to converse with my wife over a delicious meal. We’d eat slowly, savoring every bite as we talked about our day. Afterward, we’d enjoy a hot cup of coffee and maybe even some dessert.

Those days are long gone.

Now, from the moment I secure my son in his high chair and connect the Velcro ends of his bib strap, I can feel the anxiety rising within my chest. That’s because I know what’s coming. And it’s not going to be pretty.

Here’s a typical dinnertime for us:

After I set the table and get the kids in their seats, my wife brings out the meal, which she has so kindly prepared for us after putting in a long day of work herself. My ever-ravenous son squeals with excitement, while my daughter looks on, warily. Then my wife places the meal on the table, at which point my son’s squeals intensify. My daughter, on the other hand, inevitably falls back into her chair with disappointment, since the meal isn’t chocolate cake or ice cream. I blow on my son’s portion to cool it off, which makes me light-headed and nauseous. Then, when I place his food on his tray, his squealing stops as his appetite suddenly disappears. “NO LIKE IT!” he says, as he shoves the bowl precariously close to the edge. Realizing that the fuse has been lit, my wife and I quickly say grace and begin to fill our plates. I inhale my meal in a matter of seconds, fully expecting my son’s sippy cup to come flying at my temple at any moment. Between bites my wife wrangles with my daughter over exactly how much she has to eat before she can be excused. Ten minutes later I’m already in the kitchen cleaning up, i.e., escaping, as my wailing son throws his milk and thrashes around in his high chair. Meanwhile my wife is still trapped in a heated debate with a four-year-old.

So when we discovered by accident one day that giving my son soy sauce would entice him to eat, and, in turn, enable us to do the same, we didn’t ask questions. Soy sauce on pizza? Sure! For your spaghetti? Why not!

As for my daughter, at first she refuses to eat at all. Then, when she realizes her protest is cutting into her play time, she begins to bargain with us. “I know,” she says, “how about I eat three more bites, then I can be done?” We then submit a counter offer of five. “THREE!” she shoots back, sticking to her guns. This goes on and on until finally we give in, exhausted and browbeaten by a preschooler.

The Number of Bites method is just one of my daughter’s ways of getting out of eating. Sometimes she’s struck with a sudden stomachache, which inexplicably disappears once we mention we have ice cream for dessert. Other times she claims she’s “just not hungry,” even though she hasn’t eaten in three days. Most of the time, though, she just whines and cries until my wife and I, weary and desperate for a peaceful meal, admit defeat.

Of course, when it’s time to put her to bed, my daughter’s appetite miraculously reappears and she begs us for crackers or a bowl of cereal—anything to postpone going to sleep.

It’s not fair. When you’re a kid, you can eat and sleep as much as you want to, but you don’t want to. When you’re an adult, all you want to do is eat and sleep, but you can’t.

Somewhere up there God’s have a good laugh at our expense.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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