Permissiveness is in the eye of the beholder.
And perspective on permissiveness subject to sudden change.
You know that classic pot-roast dish? Hunks of meat, chunks of potatoes and big, old, honking carrots, all huddled together on the same platter?
Yeah, well, I have a vivid memory of same and will tell the pitiful tale in a sort of tribute for Mother’s Day. It won’t sound like a tribute at first, but wait for it.
Basically, my Mom is an exceptional cook — I’ve said it before and say it again: Even toast tastes better at her house — but, man, did I detest, deplore, despise, de-everything-else that petrifying pot roast. The meat was actually pretty good, and the potatoes not bad either. The overarching problem was the carrots.
And the fact that the boys — a father who regularly bestowed an E.I.S. Award on the mother for “Excellence in Supper” and brothers who not only tolerated those carrots but went zoo-monkey crazy over them — were so appreciative of this dish that it showed up fairly regularly in the family rotation.
Naturally, having not come of age in the “household restaurant” era, you know, when children dictate individual dinners and Mom makes them all to order, I felt downright dread each time the mere scent of pot roast wafted through our kitchen.
Understand, I was a kid and had magnificent kid problems. The biggest of them when it came to pot roast was not only that those carrots were king-size and cooked — to this day I prefer my beta-carotene raw and matchsticked — but that they touched the potatoes and the meat!
I’d wail and rail, and Mom was pretty accepting of my “issues,” textural and otherwise, making sure the boys left me the end pieces of meat and potatoes that got nowhere near the carrots. Until one fine day …
Yes, one fine day, Mama decided to throw down. Enough was enough, she said; I could still have my outskirts-of-town meat and spuds, but I was going to have to at least try the carrots. Because how else would I ever know or grow?
Essentially, I could not leave the table until I took a bite, one measly bite. Dinner was roundabout 5 p.m. then, and on this my memory is clear: 5 turned to 6 turned to 7 turned to 8 … The sun was in bed, the kitchen all shined up, and there I still sat, sunken shoulders, crossed arms and pouting lips.
No carrots, no way, no how. NOT happening.
Perhaps it was, eventually, one menacing, running-out-of-patience-here, 9-o’clockish look that told me I was not going to win this one, but ultimately I capitulated. OK, OK, Mom, here I go: One bite. With tears and trembling hands ….
I vanquished my enemy with a single blow.
I mean bite. The instant result, all over the table, chair and freshly swept floor, is why I did not become a nurse. (Grateful shout-out to all who did.)
My poor, poor Mom. Tried so hard. Now, saddened, she merely surveyed the mess our showdown at high-9 had wrought and said barely five words to me: You can leave the table.
Defeated, she had to rescrub her kitchen. Meanwhile, away to the bedroom I galloped, there to announce the harrowing consequences of parental misbehavior quietly to my sister.
So, yeah, when I said last week that Mom never made us eat the blankets, a.k.a., cabbage, on the piggies, she gently reminded me of a day long ago and how sometimes battles just aren’t worth it, and you really do have to pick them.
A very mom-ly lesson if ever there were one. She’s taught it to us throughout this test-filled life, applying it skillfully to so much more than dinner.
I think I finally have this one down now, Mom. And, hey listen, your daughter-in-law tells me she’s making Mississippi pot roast for our Mother’s Day buffet. In your honor, I may request she add some carrots. I wish to make that one, and so many more, up to you.