As long as there is a microwave oven and a freezer with frozen meals of some kind, Jean and I have done a pretty decent job of raising sons who are self-sufficient in the kitchen.
I think, but am not sure, that they could at least grill meat if they were trying to survive a zombie apocalypse or something. But they are not chefs nor bakers. Ramen Noodles and Kool-Aid test their mastery of cooking.
I know this because of the number of times they’ve left the Kool-Aid pitcher empty or hollered at me from the couch, “Hey, Dad, would you make me some Ramen Noodles?”
Other chores in the kitchen, particularly those that involve cleaning the kitchen, are completely beyond them. Sometimes Jean will ask them to empty the dishwasher, but I would prefer she does not. They don’t stack plates or bowls, they are indifferent about which cabinet the glasses go in versus which cabinet the plates go in. They put coffee cups on the wrong shelf, and half of everything they pull from the dishwasher they leave on the counter with the claim, “I don’t know where that goes.”
So last night I was flabbergasted when Nate walked into the kitchen after dinner and I heard Jean say to him, “Oh! You’re going to put the leftovers away? Thanks!”
Nathan is 16-years-old and he did not offer to put the leftovers away. He was just walking into the kitchen to get something to drink.
“Are you serious?” I asked Jean.
“Sure,” she said. “Why not?”
“Because he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
“He’s capable,” she said. “He can figure it out.”
Nate, hearing our conversation, was on my side.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said.
We’d had steak salad for dinner. I’m not a huge fan of salad, but when Jean grills a steak and puts it on salad, I can be made to enjoy it. There was a large piece of steak that didn’t make it into the salad (whenever we have steak salad, Jean always makes sure there is a large piece that doesn’t go into the salad so that I can have it for lunch the next day – and that is the secret to a happy marriage).
“Just put everything into separate Tupperware containers and put them in the refrigerator,” Jean instructed. “Put the caps on the salad dressings and put them back in the refrigerator. And wrap the meat in aluminum foil and put that in the refrigerator. It’ll take you two seconds and it will help me.”
A moment later, we could hear Nathan in the kitchen making noise, and so we assumed he had it under control.
He did not, and it was not long before we understood just how out of control things were.
Harrison’s 10-week-old Labrador Willow was following our 4-year-old mutt Dixie around the house.
Willow plays with Dixie’s brother Courage, but Willow understands that she should leave Dixie alone. Dixie doesn’t like to play. Dixie doesn’t like to wrestle. Dixie doesn’t like tugging on a rope. Dixie doesn’t like running around in the back yard. And most of all, Dixie doesn’t like 10-week-old Labrador puppies.
Dixie hates anything that is cute and steals attention from her.
Dixie has made all of this clear to Willow over and over again. Anytime cute little Willow jumps on Dixie, her response is to growl and snap. Anytime cute little Willow playfully barks at Dixie, her response is to growl and snap. Anytime cute little Willow breathes or walks or sleeps or eats, Dixie’s response is to growl and snap.
As a result of all the growling and snapping, Willow has pretty well learned to play with us and to play with Courage and to leave Dixie alone.
But after Nathan cleaned up the kitchen, Willow was all over Dixie, and Dixie was growling and snapping like a pack of wolves. After one particularly vicious growl and snap, I called Dixie over to me where I could keep Willow back. I started petting Dixie to try to get her to chill out, but her back was soaking wet.
My assumption was that Willow must have been drinking water before jumping on Dixie’s back. Willow has a serious drinking problem in that she sloshes water everywhere.
Willow came over to us and jumped on Dixie who growled. I pushed Willow off, and Dixie retreated to her safe place – the couch. Willow’s rapidly growing but still stubby little legs don’t allow her to invade Dixie’s safe place, at least for now.
As soon as Dixie was out of reach, Willow started licking my hand like I had cooked it in bacon grease. This is the hand I’d been petting Dixie with. At 10-weeks-old, Willow usually bites and gnaws but doesn’t lick, so this behavior was just as strange as Willow jumping on Dixie.
“Did you cook your hand in bacon grease?” Jean asked, watching the puppy lick my hand.
“I don’t know what’s up with her,” I said.
Jean reached out to pet Dixie and pulled her hand away. “She’s soaking wet,” Jean said.
Then Jean did the thing that only a mom would do, she sniffed her hand. When the boys were little and Jean put her hand in something wet, she would always sniff it to determine if it was orange juice, milk, Kool-Aid, water or something much, much worse. Only moms do that sort of thing. Dads don’t sniff their hands. Dads wash their hands. And if it’s wet and sticky, dads wash their hands in fire to sterilize them.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed, sniffing her hand. “Dixie smells like a steak!”
We looked mystified at each other, both of us perplexed at why the dog smelled like a steak. Then I saw the realization dawn across Jean’s face.
“When you put up the steak, did you drip steak juice on the dog?”
Silence. Then, after a long pause, “Oh, is that what that was? I guess some of the juice on the plate spilled on Dixie. I was wondering what happened.”
Rather than wrapping the steak in aluminum foil like his mother asked, Nate just put a piece of aluminum foil over the plate the steak was on, and he toted it to the refrigerator, and along the way spilled a gallon of steak juice on one of the dogs. You and I both know that Nathan knew perfectly well what happened, but because he’s 16-years-old he figured the puppy would lick Dixie clean and everything would be just fine, and he went upstairs to his bedroom to not do his homework.
In a huff, Jean got up and went into the kitchen, opened up the refrigerator and extracted the plate covered in aluminum foil. As she did, she spilled the other gallon of steak juice on herself and on the floor, immediately becoming the dogs’ best friend.
After wrapping the steak, rinsing the plate, bathing the dog, and changing clothes, Jean returned to the living room and sat on the couch across from me.
“Are you going to ask Nate to put up the leftovers again?” I asked her.
“Never again,” she said.
Rob Peecher is author of the book “Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings,” and when he sticks his hand in something wet he does not sniff it.