The early dinner bell

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

It’s 6 p.m. on a Monday, and my husband dares to muse:

“Oh my. How old ARE we?!”

The exclamation is because, as I said, it’s 6 o’clock on a Monday night, and we are finished with dinner and in our PJs.

There are lots of excuses we could give: getting comfy for the Alabama game, been a long day of helping a sick friend, late breakfast and no lunch, etc.

But there is no one here but us and the dog, so we know the truth: It’s not that unusual …

I swear it was only yesterday that 5 p.m. was the Witching Hour, not the dinner hour. We laughed at the Early-Bird Special folks, not being able to imagine eating before 7 or 8 p.m. Before kids, 5 p.m. was sometimes Happy Hour – stopping for a quick visit with friends after work, munching on an appetizer to hold the stomach until dinner.

After kids, 5 p.m. was the beginning of a marathon: picking up kids from daycare, homework, precious playtime, dinner, bath, PJs and bedtime before we collapsed on the couch and asked, “What are we going to eat for dinner?”

Later, there were sports practices and sometimes games to add to the mixture, which usually meant pizza, sandwiches or leftovers for all at 7 p.m., then the nightly marathon leading up to bedtime.

But the kids are gone, and grandkids miles and miles away. Neville is retired, and my workday is usually finished by 5 p.m.

So, at 5, we begin the dreaded Dinner Question: What do you want for supper? Where do you want to eat? In or Out? If Out, where?

All those questions are usually answered with an “I don’t know” or “I don’t care. What do you want?” and the marathon begins.

I jokingly told a friend that Neville and I enjoy cruise vacations because dinnertime and menu are set, as is the post-dinner entertainment. No irritating dinner discussion.

I’m not sure I was joking.

Part of the problem at our house is that, while we both enjoy eating at home and like to cook, cooking for one is difficult. Why one? Because he is a carnivore and seafood lover, and I eat very, very little meat and only a bit of fish. Cooking dinner comes with some serious challenges.

We love eating in restaurants, but even that can get old when you do a lot of it. And, there is the restaurant discussion, because, again, I am hard to please.

There is usually only one thing on either Mexican or Asian menus that I can handle, as anything spicy makes me miserable for days. I get tired of salads, no matter how wonderful they are, and I don’t care for the “new” salads, which are basically grass. I’m a dinosaur who likes iceberg.

We decide to console ourselves on this Monday by snuggling in with cups of hot tea and dessert as we prepare for kickoff of the College Championship Game.

“I prefer to think of us as Not Old but European,” I tell Neville. “When Michelle and I were in Spain last year, lunch was often at 4 p.m., and dinner service didn’t start until 8 p.m.”

“Sounds good,” he said. “We’re European and just finished a late lunch.”

Then he ruined it: “Hope I can stay awake for the whole game …”


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