Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why I stopped making big family dinners

The thing about my In-Laws is they are from another country. And they are everything that means. They talk funny & eat strange foods & most of all know 1,000 people who all talk like they do & get sentimental about that food.

Food is often a stumbling block for us. It is not that they keep kosher, they do not. I have a suspicion I know the food laws better than they do. If they did wake up one morning & decide to keep kosher, that would be probably easier than the system currently in place.

The first time I made dinner for A's parents & aunt & uncle, I learned his uncle was a diet-controlled diabetic about three hours before they showed up. Apparently it was a secret so no one was permitted to discuss it. Everyone knew, of course, but it did not occur to them that I might not.

When they arrived, I had just returned from the grocery store & was only starting to prepare a second dinner. It turned out not to matter much: I had mentioned in passing that I needed the oil changed on my car & A, being action man, decided that dinner-delay was a perfect opportunity to do that chore. I was just glad I was able to get to the store & back before he began to pull out the filter & oil pan. Sometimes I toy with the idea of telling him some chore that needs doing during sex (telling him during sex, not the other thing), but I am too afraid.

The 2nd-to-last-time I made Thanksgiving dinner, I culled through the menu, eliminating anything that had caused offense previously (sweet potatoes), added what had been demanded when it was missing (bread; I had thought stuffing would be an adequate 'bread course'. It was not) & the only comment on the food I can recall is my father-in-law extolling at length about how much sweet potatoes revolted him. Those of you reading closely might have caught that I did not actually serve sweet potatoes. Their absence though, was not enough. They had been there the previous year & the memory lingered...?

I am sure everyone said thank you. I do not remember it, but they must have; they are not cave-dwellers, after all. They just have no idea how much their complaining makes me want to send them to a soup kitchen next time.

Some of their complaints start innocently enough: A's mother was on a strict heart-healthy for years & unlike his uncle, everyone was allowed to know. This meant, however that a separate portion of many dishes had to be made just for her (it really was that strict). I am still not sure how, but when they saw this, other family members decided that they would have preferred to have been offered a choice as well. Now we take them to restaurants.

In fairness, some of their food completely grosses me out as well. Not just veal (the idea of which repels me, although I did avoid talking about it, I just declined a serving). But also other traditional dishes, like mămăligă. I accept that thousands of people love this dish; I think it looks & tastes like hot vomit. A's mother has a special variation: she stirs in feta making vomit with cheese. I know A misses it & would love to have some; he can go to his mother's for that. Although, they tend to take us to restaurants as well...

//I have been reading quite a bit of Eudora Welty lately. Does it show?

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