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Food for Friends

5/10/2014
Two pots of chili are simmering on the stove right now. Chili for 45. Chili for 45 teenage boys, all members of their high school crew team. Will there be enough or will we be eating chili for months to come? Ten pounds of ground beef, pounds of chopped onions and red bell peppers, cumin, coriander, chili powder, tomato puree and diced tomatoes. Dark red kidney beans. Tomorrow I’ll make ten times the cornbread recipe.
 
This may be you some day. Your child volunteers you for something that feels “too much.”
 
What I hope for with this “chili for 45” is what many of us have learned as parents. Food made elsewhere, in someone else’s house, is the gold standard.
 
“Mom, Ben’s mom makes the best macaroni and cheese.”
 
“I don’t usually like eggplant Parmesan, but Ethan’s mom, well, I had seconds and thirds.”
 
“Rene’s mom makes amazing steak. I don’t know, it has seasonings and, well, it’s just amazing.”
 
So, a few years ago, I figured I would show my boys what I could do: lasagna for five pre-teen boys. They went off to play hoops. It was 5:00, and I had the lasagna noodles and could just drop by the Armenian market down the street for the cheese and the tomato sauce.
 
Except that the Armenian market does not have Italian cheese. Kefir and feta. Maybe. Tomato sauce in a can, the label was in Turkish (I know 50 words of Turkish, but can’t read it). Time is becoming an issue.
 
At home, I mix up the cheese and kefir, ladle the sauce and make the layers, and none of it looks right. Runny and the wrong color. Boys are back from playing basketball. ‘When’s dinner?”
 
Half an hour (I guess). I am doing things fast to make it be over.
 
An hour later, five hungry boys are at the table. We had bread in the freezer that was now warm in a basket. Good filler. I served the lasagna in front of them. It was still runny and the wrong color. Sort of smelled like lasagna. The boys were telling jokes (I am invisible). They have their plates of “lasagna.” I go to pretend to be busy in the kitchen.
 
Still telling jokes.
 
Laughing.
 
Clanking forks.
 
I pour myself a glass of wine.
 
They parade into the kitchen with empty plates. Empty plates.
 
“Thanks, Aline.”  
 
“Yeah, thanks.”
 
“Thanks, Mom, that was great lasagna.”
 
Ben’s mom a few days later asks for the recipe because Ben loved the lasagna I made. And we laugh, because I have no idea the recipe.
 
Thank you to the many moms and dads who have fed my children as they grow up. Thank you for making the “best food ever” so that I, too, could be a good cook to your children.
 
And I assume that the parents of the crew team will say the same, no matter how it comes out.