Saturday, April 20, 2013

Short Tempered Cook - Calgary Sun Column, April 4, 2013

By Stephen Lautens

Entertaining my son’s friends is getting complicated.

All of them are around eleven years old, and they are becoming quite the sophisticated men of the world.

In the past, when we had kids over to play, they were quite happy to have a couple of juice boxes and a cookie between wrestling bouts in the basement. If we had them over the lunch hour, we’d rustle up a banana and some chips.

When I was a kid, my mother used to dole out the peanut butter or baloney sandwiches to the assembled neighbourhood kids, and we ate them without question. If we were lucky, we got a couple of cheezies on the side.

Not so anymore.

Two of my son’s friends were recently over on a play date. They emerged from the basement hungry.

“What would you like?” I asked.

“Pancakes!” came the answer. Apparently my son had been extolling the many delights of my pancakes made for the weekend brunch around our house.

Reluctantly I agreed.

“Wait a minute,” one of the min-gourmets asked. “Are they gluten-free pancakes?”

I admitted I had no idea, even after looking at the box. I assumed that gluten, whatever it is, is what makes pancakes taste good.

“Are you allergic?” I asked.

“No, but my mom says I might be sensitive.”

No arguing with that assessment. So pancakes were out.

“Grilled cheese or hot dogs?” Those are my go-to kids’ food.

“Is the cheese Emmental or Gouda?”

I looked in the fridge. “It’s orange,” I reported. “Possibly cheddar.”

“I’ll have mine on ancient grains bread,” one of them piped up.

“I’ll have mine on rye, unless you have sourdough” said the other.

I’m going to have to start eating where they do. The food sounds a lot better.

“We only have white bread, and some old hot dog buns,” I said. Actually, the spots on the old hot dog buns made them look pretty ancient. For some reason our bread cupboard is right above the heating duct in the floor, which makes it go furry faster than you can say “penicillin”.

Ultimately, they decided on one grilled cheese on white and one hot dog on a bun I advertised as “organic” after I scraped off the worst spots. It meant making two different lunches for our under aged guests, but I’m nothing if not hospitable. Plus, if we discussed it much longer we’d be running into the dinner hour.

Don’t get me started on their condiment selections. When I was a kid there were two condiments: ketchup and mustard. Your choices were with or without. At family summer barbeques you might get some relish, but there wasn’t the whole aisle of exotic toppings and condiment variations we have now to choose from.

After a browse through our condiment cupboard they were soon settled with their mango chutney, chipotle barbeque sauce and horseradish dijonnaise.

I had a final treat in store for them. “And for dessert we still have a lot of Easter chocolate,” I announced.

“Is it 70% cacao?”

To heck with them. I’ll eat it myself.