Saturday, January 28, 2012

Past Deadline: Six O'clock Seating

I do a terrible thing.

Yes, just one. (Shhh.)

Every night, almost without fail, I have supper on the table for the family at six o’clock.

I know! It’s ridiculous!

Allow me to explain.

Regular readers have probably heard me mention before that I am rather Type A. I am a creature of habit. I like things to be just so. I like to think I am not a control freak (ahem), but I readily admit I like routines.

My kids are still young and at school they eat lunch pretty early, so 6 p.m. is about as late as I like to push it otherwise they end up grazing on snacks.

Also, eating at six allows time to finish homework, play, have sibling screaming fights, wage light sabre battles or do whatever else needs to be done before bedtime.

Because I have been cooking meals for what feels like a millennium, I have it down pat. I know how to time things so we are sitting at the table by six.

I just can’t help it.

Maybe that’s another reason I was attracted to journalism: I am deadline oriented. If the story wasn’t filed by a certain time, it would miss the press. If the student newscast wasn’t ready by six, we had dead air. And an F.

Don’t worry. I know I won’t flunk if I don’t have food on the table by a certain time. I do think, though, that good timing is a rather important part of good cooking. (This would be an excellent argument if the food critics in the household always gave good reviews.)

Anyway, if I were charged with this horrible crime of having a six o’clock seating, I would feel compelled to plead not guilty by reason of insanity because I have been cooking meals for a millennium. No...wait...I mean because I honestly didn’t realize there was anything wrong with it.

Apparently, however, I am odd. I have been called “inflexible,” too, although I am perfectly capable of adjusting mealtimes to accommodate various activities.

Groom-boy and I have had this discussion a few times, even though he is usually not home in time for supper anymore now that he commutes. (No, I am not waiting until 7:30 to sit down with the kids at the table to eat.)

I will admit that I have been known to get a little high strung when, on the occasions that he is home, he decides to “run to the store” at 5:40 to get some little extra thing for the meal, and doesn’t manage to return until 6:15, even though he knows the meal will be ready at six.

“Oh, I got talking to someone,” he’ll say, referencing my inflexibility as I peel overdone pasta out of a pot.

Sigh. He went to journalism school, too. Perhaps they had a rotating deadline at his school.

Maybe this whole issue/problem/crime/weirdness stretches right back to my childhood. I remember when my brother and I were little that we ate sometime between five and six. It was consistent. Later, I know we were all around the table by 6 because my dad liked to have the news on in the background while we ate. I remember we were always being shushed when it was time to hear the weather.

The thing is we almost always ate together. Sometimes my dad would be working shifts and, later, my brother and I had part-time jobs after school, but for the most part we had supper as a family. It was a nice ritual. We always knew what time we would be eating, so we knew when to be home. Simple.

So I won’t apologize for this weirdness of mine, and I’ll keep doing it as often as we can, realizing kids’ activity schedules can interfere with this utopian supper timing.

If I get sent to jail for enforcing consistent family time, so be it. After all, I bet they have pretty rigid mealtime schedules in jail, not to mention someone else does the cooking.

With my luck I’d be put on kitchen duty, to cook meals for millennia. At least they would be on time.

Published in The Perth Courier, Jan. 26/12

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