It was a mistake to try to make dinner tonight.
It’s not like I cook often. And we’d just gotten back from the beach, so surely I had an excuse. But Ray’d clearly gotten into the habit, over the last week, of eating more than Ritz crackers and Lorna Doones in the evening span Americans call the “dinner hour”.
He even offered to grill. OK, it’s like 117 degrees out, and humid. No way. I might let him vacuum the house and I don’t hesitate to dump his dry laundry on his half of the bed (hey, he does the same thing to me!) but I can’t bear the thought of him standing over the hot BBQ. Particularly after he’s mowed the lawn.
(In my own defense, I’m all in favor of a lawn guy. Or gal. Ray refuses. His parents actually made him do chores, growing up, and the ethic stuck. Sort of.)
Back to dinner. Ray made a long shopping list, then split for the rock gym with the girls before I got home with the loot. I dragged $260 worth of groceries into the house (the Safeway clerk stared at me when it was time to pay, then volunteered that he personally shops at Fry’s because it’s cheaper — I am not making that up, I swear someone is taping me for some fucked up reality show where they see how long it takes to drive a middle aged mom over the edge) and put them away, pre-heated the oven, then tossed a flank steak into one Pyrex pan and some potatoes and onion (hey, at least I cut the onion and washed the potatoes) in the other.
Now, normally I marinate the flank steak in some balsamic vinegar and orange juice, but it was already past 6 (did I forget to mention that I snuck out for a pedicure, before Safeway?) so there was no time. Getting the groceries put away was a garganutuan feat. Really, I should have just driven through El Pollo Loco. I sprinkled on some salt, pepper and minced garlic and left it at that. Of course I then overcooked the steak. I don’t want to get anyone sick, you know.
I called to Ray that dinner was ready, but he couldn’t hear me over the din of the vacuum. He’s not OCD, he just happens to own cats that bring things into the house. While we were at the beach, the inventory included at least three geckos and a large bird, and also the mangled baby bird Annabelle spotted under the kitchen table after we’d been home for several hours.
I served the girls. They were focused on Elmo’s World.
YES, I break the cardinal rule. I let my kids watch TV while they eat. I know. I suck. There’s nothing worse. Call CPS. Please.
I thought I cut the meat into bite-sized pieces, but I guess not, because I noticed both girls were sort of gnawing at hunks of the flank steak. OK, so it wasn’t my finest effort, I thought, as I sawed into my own piece. But at least it tasted pretty good. Then Ray sat down with his plate, and started chewing.
“Istheresomethingwrongwiththismeat?” he asked, letting a chewed piece dangle from his lips. I looked up. Truly, it takes a lot to disgust me. But that did it.
“It’s THAT bad?” I responded. “It’s so bad you have to spit it back out? I watched the butcher cut the meat! It’s good!”
He sucked the bite in.
“I’m sorry! Realy I am!” he said, sensing a catastrophe — or a lifetime of hummus and pita chips for dinner. “My sense of taste is screwed up from my allergies. I can’t taste a thing, after mowing the lawn.”
He sniffed convincingly.
“It’s not the best flank steak I’ve ever made, OK?” I admitted. “I’m sorry. I didn’t have time to marinate it.”
Somewhere along the way, Ray slipped away from the dinner table. “I’m on the phone with my mom! I’ll be right back!” he called from another room, when I accused him of abandoning his plate.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Annabelle quietly getting up from her seat and running to the garbage can. She leaned over and spit.
“I couldn’t chew it,” she said, looking sad.
“It’s all right, sweetie,” I said. I looked at Sophie.
She was staring at Elmo, and she was chewing. And chewing. And chewing. At one point, she actually took a piece out of her mouth and looked at it, then put it back in and kept chewing.
“Can I be done?” Annabelle asked. “I want to watch something else in the living room.”
She left a plateful of meat, minus the two pieces she spit out in the garbage.
“Yes, of course,” I said. “Sophie, how is it?”
“AWESOME!” she said, chewing.
We both cleaned our plates.
As we were getting up from the table, I noticed a tiny ant making its way across Sophie’s yellow tee shirt.
TO BE CONTINUED.