Chicken tenders for dinner

Jean had some kind of thing she was going to the other evening – some Christian motivational singer or a fundraiser for some kind of charitable thing or something.

After 21 years of marriage, I don’t always hear what she says to me.

What was important was not where she was going but what had to be done while she was gone.

Robert had to have a ride to work at 6 p.m. Nathan had to have a ride to soccer practice at 7:30 p.m. At some point, whenever he sent a text that he was done with work, Robert had to be picked up. And Nathan had to be picked up at 9 p.m.

“And I’m going to dinner before the thing I’m going to,” Jean said (although, she probably named the thing she was going to, but I don’t know what she said exactly).

“Wait,” I said. “You’re going to dinner?” I heard that.

“I’m going to dinner.”

I looked blankly at my wife of 21 years.

“But what are the boys and I going to do about eating?” I asked.

“You’ll have to fix dinner,” Jean said.

When it comes to helping my wife around the house, there’s one thing I do really well: I can drive the kids somewhere. If she’ll tell me what time they have to be wherever they have to be, and maybe send me a text to remind me, I’m really good at getting them there. Another text to remind me, and I’m really good at picking them up.

I know my way around town. I can follow maps and use the GPS on my phone. If Jean needs help with the Peecher Taxi Service, I’m the guy she can call on.

But the other stuff I’m not so good at.

I can, and sometimes do, fix a meal. But when I do it, I typically need several hours of prep time, lots of pots and pans and spatulas and bowls and dishes and a grill. Whenever I cook, I tend to make it a production, a big affair that needs planning and teamwork and lots of cleanup. As a result, I usually only fix dinner on the weekends, when there is plenty of time.

“But it’s on a weekday,” I said to Jean. “I don’t think I can fix dinner and drive the kids all the places they need to go on a weekday.”

“I’ll make it easy for you,” Jean said. “I bought some chicken tenders. Preheat the oven to blah blah blah, put the blah blah on this blah and put it in the oven for blah blah minutes. It’s easy. You can do it. I have faith in blah.”

I didn’t really listen.

The thing is, I hate frozen chicken tenders. Jean buys them because it makes for an easy dinner for her to fix on nights when there are soccer practices and work and we’re busy. But I won’t eat them. And because we still love each other even though our marriage is old enough to drink, Jean only ever fixes chicken tenders when she’s made something the night before and I can heat up the leftovers.

“I hate chicken tenders,” I said.

“I know,” Jean said, “but it’ll be easy. And there will be leftovers you can have so you don’t have to eat the chicken tenders.”

When Tuesday evening rolled around and Jean’s concert charity motivational speaker thing came up, Jean gave me final instructions.

“Robert has to be to work at 6 p.m.,” she said. “Nathan has to be to practice at 7:30. Hopefully, Robert will finish at work about 7:30 and you can do it all in one trip, but he’ll text you when he’s done. I don’t know if Harrison will be home for dinner, but there are plenty of blah blah for the blah blah to eat. Just heat the blah blah up in the blah blah and it will take blah blah minutes at blah blah temperature. And you can heat up some blah blah in the microwave to go with the blah blah.”

She could say all the words she wanted, but I’d already made up my mind that we weren’t having frozen chicken tenders. I considered telling the boys they had to fend for themselves and to just find some leftovers to heat up, but there weren’t that many leftovers in the refrigerator.

I drove Robert to work. I came home and got Nathan to take him to soccer practice. It was 7:30 and I’d still not made my mind up about how to feed our sons. And that’s when I made up my mind that if we were having chicken tenders, we were getting them from Zaxby’s.

Zaxby’s is my standby whenever I have to deal with dinner on a week night. Everyone in the house likes it, and it comes in easy to divvy-out Styrofoam containers.

So when I picked up Robert from work we swung past Zaxby’s and got dinner for me and the boys. I dropped Robert and the food off at the house and then went and got Nathan from practice.

The boys thought it was a real treat that they got unexpected Zaxby’s for dinner, and I was a hero to my sons.

And when Jean got home and saw black Styrofoam boxes and Zaxby’s cups littering the kitchen and said, “What did you have for dinner?” I could honestly reply, “I thought you told me to get them chicken.”


Rob Peecher is author of Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings, and when he makes dinner it often comes from the drive-thru.