The question itself doesn't unnerve me. I enjoy cooking, I plan ahead, and I'm confident that, in a pinch, I can pull together a passable, and usually tasty, meal in less than 20 minutes. No, the question doesn't bother me, because I have a response. It's the response to the response that I dread.
It's gotten to the point that I've told my children not to raise "the question" -- not to even think about raising it -- unless they are prepared to reply either 1) "That sounds good," or 2) "Yum," or 3) something of that ilk. To no avail. To some degree, they get it, but not entirely. Since they know I'll promptly downshift into "lecture-mode" should they respond the way some classmates do (one routinely tells his mom, "That's disgusting"), my kids now choose not to respond at all. Which. Drives. Me. Insane.
Them: What's for dinner? Me: Grilled salmon with asparagus. Them: (anybody else hear crickets chirping?)
"That's rude!" I shriek. "Why ask the question if you don't want the answer?" Whereupon they blandly regard me as if we've not yet been introduced. As if the dog is the one who asked the ridiculous question. As if they've never heard my banshee-like response before. Or more likely, as if they've heard it a few thousand times and are now inured to it.
It's exhausting. But kids can surprise you. A few evenings ago, my normally reserved daughter dared to pose "the question." (Do they never learn?) I braced myself. I considered giving her a simple, but silent, smile. Knowing, but not telling. Kind of like the Mona Lisa. After all, I didn't have to respond. I'm an adult. But my ego got the better of me. I knew the answer and had to blurt it out -- "Shrimp bog!"
Perhaps the planets were in line. Maybe she'd been able to sit with the "right" friend at lunch. Maybe that cute boy on the bus had smiled at her. I truly don't know the reason she coolly responded, "I was hoping you'd say that."
OK. Add that to the list of acceptable responses. In fact, make "I was hoping you'd say that" number one.
6-8 slices of bacon, diced, fried crisp, grease reserved
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped (optional, because it's "gross")
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (optional, because it's "disgusting")
1 cup raw rice
2 cups chicken broth
generous splash of Worcestershire
generous splash of lemon juice
1/2 of one (14 oz) can of diced tomatoes
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
pinch of nutmeg
salt & pepper
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
In a large, lidded skillet, saute garlic (and onions and bell pepper, if you choose) in reserved bacon grease. When tender, stir in rice and saute for a few minutes. Stir in broth, worcestershire, lemon juice, diced tomatoes and seasonings. Cook on low, with lid on, for 10-12 minutes (rice will not be done). Put shrimp on top, return lid, and continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until shrimp is done. When done, fluff rice and serve mounded in bowls, with reserved bacon sprinkled on top.