Some families have scintillating dinner conversation. They discuss the pros and cons of nuclear proliferation, like Jimmy Carter and his daughter, Amy. Or they debate the ramifications of gun control, like the Cheneys. And I’ll bet Paul McCartney and his kids have a field day with the “pitchiness” problems of American Idol contestants.
But we’re not the McCartneys. We’re not even close to that kind of sparkling banter. Just take a look at a recent actual dinner conversation from the Hall house:
John: These Cheese Nips are not as good as Cheez-Its.
Mom: They’re the same thing.
John: No, they’re not. What do you think, Dad?
Dad: Mmmmm. (Tasting a cheese cracker) Definitely different.
Mom: They’re the same. They’re CHEESE crackers.
Dad: Oh, no, no, no (licking cracker) no, no. Cheez-its go better with wine. Obviously.
I will spare you the details of dad extolling the virtues of the Cheez-it cracker with red wine. But suffice it to say that it all comes down to one word: Tart. Now once my husband starts using the word “tart” I know we’re in trouble. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to this dinner table conversation degenerating into something, well, degenerate. So I nip things in the bud. No offense to the Cheese Nips.
Mom: If I put the Cheese Nips and the Cheez-Its in a bowl, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
John: Bring on the taste test.
Dad: HOLD on. Remember what happened the last time you pulled this stunt? The stunt he is alluding to happened years ago when Joey (John’s brother) was 10 years old. Joey is about to graduate college. But every time we have these kinds of conversations (And believe me, comparing cheese crackers is just one of many food comparison conversations we’ve had over the years), it always comes back to the Lucky Charms Fiasco.
Ah yes, Lucky Charms, that “magically delicious” cereal that happened to be the only cereal that my precious pre-teen would eat. No other bowl of cereal would do. Captain Crunch? Throw him overboard! Rice Krispies? Get the snap, crackle, pop outta here!
There was something magical about Lucky Charms, all right. Maybe that’s what made them so expensive. Sure, I know all cereal is expensive. What I don’t know is why a box of cereal costs more than a six pack of beer. Or why a generic cereal is almost half the cost of the name brand stuff.
The whole cereal thing is one of my “hot button” issues. And one day, strolling down the cereal aisle, I snapped. I bought a generic box of sugary oats and pink marshmallow-y cereal called “Fortunate-O’s” or “Irish Knick-Knacks.” Whatever. I poured them into the empty Lucky Charms box while picky Joey toiled away at school.
The next morning, I placed the box on the table. So far, so good. Joey poured the fake cereal into his bowl. Spoon poised in his little hand, he stopped, mid-air.
“What?” I asked.
“These aren’t my Lucky Charms,” said Joey.
“Yes, they are.”
Like you’ve never lied to your kid.
“No, they’re not.” Joey is smarter than he looks.
“They were in the Lucky Charms box,” said I. “What else would they be?”
Technically, I did not lie. Lying twice in a row would be wrong. Joey took a bite. I suppose he was resigned to humoring me. But he didn’t chew.
Splat! Into the bowl went the “Stinky Oats and Mallo’s.” And into the trash went the rest of the fake cereal.
Now every time we have a “taste test” argument, the whole sordid story gets dragged out again. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. So I bought a box of Cheese Nips and Cheez-Its. John used a tube sock as a blindfold. FIVE times in a row, he answered correctly.
“Don’t test the taste buds, mom.”
That was John’s parting shot. But I got the last laugh. There were plenty of Cheese Nips left from the taste-testing. And they’re pretty darn good with Merlot. Downright tart.