Monday, July 27, 2009

If You Are Ever Invited To Dinner At The Dept., You May Want To Read This First

Research on the benefits of the Family Dinner is exhaustive and well-known. I don't need the facts, thank you. I live them. I've always insisted on all of us eating together; even now, when everyone's work schedules permit, my boys are seated with us at the table for food and chatter.

Dinner at the Dept. is a family affair and the topics discussed are...well, depending upon the events of the day and the moods of the attendees, wide-ranging. If wine is served, there is a good chance that, as the conviviality increases, so does the absurdity or the grandiosity of the discourse. The veracity of The Baked Potato Incident may or may not be examined. Again.

It is not uncommon for us to hammer out the NBA's mid-level exception and how it applies to the Cleveland Cavaliers this season (or whose Bird rights we have) and then switch to our favorite Agree To Disagreement over the Merits Of The Semicolon.

Perhaps fueled by our academic differences, Jared will fire his second-favorite salvo which has become this:
Jared: American History is boring and stupid.
Me: How can you say that? You are an idiot.
Jared: Mom. Look at the American Revolution.
Me: What about it? What a stupid, broad, idiotic statement that says absolutely nothing.
Jared: Mom. In the French Revolution, people lost their fucking HEADS! In the American Revolution, some tea got wet.
Me: Jared, now you're just picking a fight, and you know it. Way more than that happened. Look at--
Jared: Mom. Take Vlad the Impaler in 15th century Romania. He impaled 20,000 people. That's some serious shit right there.
Me: Oh shut up. Give me a napkin. Rick?
Rick: Jared, shut up and give your mother a napkin.
Sam: I bet I can fit the end of the pepper grinder in my nose-hole.
Me: Okay, go ahead! Just make sure you wipe it off.

Sadly, that last part is one of the more intriguing little diversions we have at the Dept. Dinner Table. None of us is entirely sure when Sam started testing the boundaries and flexibility of his nostrils or why it was that he decided to do it at dinner, but it makes for some pretty impressive entertainment. Usually, Jared prompts it, either by talking about something that bores Sam or by spying something he thinks will or will not fit in Sam's "nose-hole." Yes, it's borderline gross; yes, it's pretty inappropriate for Most People At The Dinner Table. But, no, he's never gotten anything stuck "in there" and no, we are not Most People.

Not too long ago, Jared offered up this topic for discussion: If you could have dinner with 3 people, who would they be? We all had a few minutes to think, and Rick went first. He promptly stole two of my three people, and I wanted to smack him really, really hard. He chose President Bill Clinton, Tom Brokaw and Warren Buffett. I did what any other sore loser would do in that situation. I changed the rules. I said, "Okay. What three people now dead would you choose? Me first!" I immediately chose President Lincoln, Mary Lincoln...and then I was temporarily stumped. Jared and Rick started jeering at me, but I kept my face immobile and inscrutable as I gave the appearance of merely pausing for a coup de grace. I took a deep breath and delivered it: "Edgar Allan Poe." And then I waited for the Laurels Of Admiration to flutter upon me.

"Wow. Solid pick," said Jared admiringly. As well he should. When will he--all of them, really--learn Not To Screw With Me?


  1. Here is the typical banter when no one at our house can decide what to eat for dinner:

    E (daughter): What do we have to eat?
    Me: Food.
    E: What kind of food?
    Me: Edible food.
    E: What kind of edible food?
    Me: Tasty edible food.
    E: I'm gonna hurt you.
    Me: Make your own decision. I'm not the maid.

    We should get some sort of Guinness record for the number of times we've had this conversation, although she has now learned enough to first ask "what kind of tasty edible food" we might have in the house. I have no sympathy as she is actually there when we grocery shop and knows what's in the pantry.

    Our less-than-appropriate dinner conversation centers around dead, injured, or diseased people. We love all the real-life coroner and hospital shows, so we routinely discuss Y-incisions, compound fractures, or purple urine during dinner. It doesn't get better than that.

  2. Poe would take the art of dinner conversation to a whole other level wouldn't he?

  3. I love this post. It makes me feel More Normal. I thought we had invented the art of dysfunctional dining, but apparently others suffer the same suppers.

    "What are we having for dinner?"
    "What food?"
    [I explain]
    "But I don't like [whatever it is, any night of the week]!"
    "This is not a restaurant, we do not have a menu, and I am not a short-order cook catering to your whims!"

    Good bet, Anali. "The Meal of the Red Death;" "The [Carven] Raven."

  4. sputnik--if you have kids, and if you encourage a healthy discourse, you probably are My Kind Of Normal. and do NOT get me started on our now-defunct discussions of What To Make/Have For Dinner which are fruitless and epic.

    anali--i always fantasize about the Now-Dead Dinner Guests being more than willing to answer my eleventy million questions about their true lives. poe's misunderstood life/personality has been one of my pet peeves, along with Mary Lincoln's (which i addressed in a huge post here before), and i am just horrified by the misinformation that still exists about him. actually, now that i think about it, i sort of posted about EAP here, too. sigh. anyway, i will never stop championing for either of them, and i like to think about being able to have them as captive guests to ask them about things directly, once and for all!

    Life @ Funny--Oh, the dreaded "Whaddya Wanna Eat" convo. How I detest and loathe it. That's Totally Over Now here at the Dept. because it became as worthwhile as hanging Jell-O on the wall. Now, when I cannot decide what to make, I just say, "There is no formal dinner plan. Everyone is on his own." Then I forage all the foldy chips out of the bag of Original Lays, grab a spoon and the Nutella, and watch Brian Williams on the Nightly. Certainly 21-, 24-, and 50-year old men can find something for themselves every now and again. As for the medical conversations...we rarely cover those topics, but I do, every now and again, refer to my Feminine Issues just so that the boys are sympathetic to a Future Wife. I keep telling them that they will thank me later, or that "she" will, amidst their groans.

  5. My father always insisted that we eat dinner as a family (which almost prevailed throughout our teen years). He would begin the table conversation with: "Let's talk about a subject of general interest."

    When we were young, that statement was usually followed by his own suggestion for a topic of general interest. In later years, my sister would volunteer to open the conversation with the most embarrassing possible question aimed at one of her siblings. Some of the juiciest questions cannot be repeated here. One of the ones I never forgave her for was "C. (me) writes really interesting stuff in her diary." This was followed with a line by line, blow by blow repetition of a diary entry that my dear sister had memorized after picking the lock on my diary. It was also the last time I ever, ever wrote anything in a diary.

    Final note: the word-ver is "lablobs". Pronunciation: lah-BLOBS. Definition: objects which are small enough to fit in one's nose hole without protruding.

  6. Ortizzle--You poor thing. I had a diary ONCE, when I was probably about 11. My brother, then 14, also found it and picked the lock. He then taunted me by reciting key phrases every time he walked by me. And I was mortified. Like you, that was THE END of diaries. FOREVER. Also the germination of my Privacy Addiction.
    P.S.--nice def.

  7. Nance: I so identify with the "privacy addiction." It was years before I showed anyone anything I had written. (It was years before I even wrote, except for what I had to do for school.) And I was 12, close to your age. The age when you think you write fabulously, but in fact, are just at that stage where you write your most cringe-worthy stuff. :-)

  8. My daughter, today: What's for dinner.
    Me: Chicken.
    D: Chicken? Can we have something else?
    Me: No.

    I love that conversation.

    We once had a dinner conversation about meats we would and would not eat. Would eat: chicken. Would not eat: liver. Would eat: buffalo. Would not eat: Mr. Spock. See how it goes?

    I wonder who I'd want to have dinner with. It's probably on my blog in a stupid meme somewhere, but I can't be bothered to look. I'll say Carl Sagan, because I love him. David Bowie, because I love him. And Barack Obama, because I have a few things I want to talk to him about.

  9. PS, your linky wigets things at the bottom are adorable.

  10. I can't think of anyone famous I'd really want to have dinner with. There are certainly celebrities I'd be interested in getting to know, but in the scope of an hour or so at dinner, I don't think I'd get enough of a sense of what the person was really like. It's almost like an extended version of running into a celebrity on the street; you don't want to bother them because the questions you'd want to ask them are things they've heard over and over again.

    Oh, never mind. It just came to me. Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Rachel Dratch. And if I could grab a fourth, it would be Seth Meyers.

  11. Nance,

    Dinner? I've been to counseling over dinner.Here's why.

    Hubby invited the big boss to dinner when we were young and I wanted to make something really special for him and his wife.
    This is what I made.

    I bought a huge ham and baked it.
    The next day I cut it all up in cubes and borrowed my MIL's hand grinder and pushed all the meat through it.I refrigerated that overnight and began again the next day to create this most wonderful dinner.

    I took all the meat and added a variety of exotic spices to it before shaping it into a beautiful loaf.

    Only as I was serving my creation to them at the dining table did I realize that what I had spent three days making as a special meal to impress Mr. and Mrs.Boss was a giant.... SPAM.

  12. Your family and mine should dine together sometime, huh? About to go on a beach excursion with the extended family, where many hilarious dinner table convos will likely ensue. I keep you posted. In the meantime, what would you serve the Lincolns and Mr. Poe?

  13. Melissa B.--Enjoy the vacation. As far as the entrees, that would take some research, I think. But knowing how Mary and I love champagne, yet how Pres. Lincoln and EA Poe were at their best when more temperate, that would be my biggest issue.

    Nancy--Oh, LOL!!! Have to admit, though, I do have a fondness for Spam, and I bet homemade Spam would be lovely!

    Mikey--Do not tell me that you'd turn down an invite to dinner if it included Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, and Michael Symon. Those are my new three right now! And "for dinner" means several hours. C'mon!

    j.@jj--Carl Sagan was on my Dead List at one point when it had to be 20th century dead. Along with Tim Russert before Rick stole him, too. And I'm a lot like Andrew Zimmern on the travel channel's Bizarre Foods show: i'd eat almost anything once. as for the linky widget--you can get it, too. just click the name of the widget under the row of post pics (LinkWithin)and it will take you to the site to get it.

    Ortizzle--now you see why my profile pic is a cat with sunglasses...

  14. I'd rather mingle with Stephen Colbert. I made him laugh earlier this month :-)

  15. Dinner is a very good thing to share with your family. I read this post a while ago and cracked up and now I've cracked up again reading the comments, especially how you feel it is your duty to make the guys sensitive to feminine issues (great point!).

    Re: the dinner guests, I also like your post on your other blog with Jared on Stuff on Our List on which five cultural commentators to invite to dinner. I do always wonder if they'll be lively and interesting in that type of setting though. It would be ideal if you could aak everything you've always wanted to know and they would answer honestly.

    I thought of you on Sunday when I watched a segment on CBS Sunday Morning on poisons and heard that Abraham Lincoln's mother died from drinking milk from a cow that had eaten a poisonous plant. If I had known that detail previously, I had forgotten it. I remember she had died when he was young though.

    Now I'll be thinking of you watching BW eating chips and Nutella from time to time. Having a jar of Nutella in hand with a spoon can only lead to one thing at my house ...


  16. Shirley--I had recently read another bio of Mary Lincoln in which the poisoning fact was mentioned. It was, I believe, the first I had read/heard of this. Very interesting. And, Shirley, your last sentence is very, very provocative. Hee hee.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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