Me: This is my Chinese five spice raman with tofu. (raise eyebrow) Why?
Hank: Because I love it, but with my two loose teeth it hurts to eat it.
Me: You need to rip those teeth out.
Hank: I know. I wiggle and wiggle, but they are stuck.
Pai: I can call the our dentist down stairs and see if he will take them out.
Me: It is very helpful to live above the dentist, especially because teeth are the groooosssest thing on the earth. Yuck. Hank, go and get a knife and I will cut your raman for you.
Pai: Are teeth really the grossest thing?
Me: I. Can’t. Even.
Hank: (returning, arms flailing, dancing with a butter knife point up)
Me: Stop right there. No dancing with knives. Ralphie, You’ll shoot your eye out!
Pai: Ralphie? Shoot?
Me: A Christmas Story?
Pai: Your reference is lost on me.
Me: You’ve never seen A Christmas Story?
Hank: What?!? Papa, I have seen at least 15 Christmas stories and I am only seven.
Me: This is a specific Christmas story movie, Hank. You mean to tell me that in our ten years together and I have failed to make you watch A Christmas Story!! I have truly failed you. You should divorce me, Alfredo.
Pai: Nope. Since our wedding was only $20 it wouldn’t be cost effective, too expensive to get divorced, (kissing my cheek) I need to get my return on my investment.
Me: Hank, can you go get me a fralda (burp cloth)?
Hank: Sure. (scampers away)
Me: Molly, where do you get all this baba (drool)? Do you make it or do you buy it? Is it imported or domestic? Is this baba from Russia? Greece? Is this Bavarian baba (drool)? Is this baba (drool) ghanoush? Hum?
Molly: (grinning and giggling and drooling)
Me: Is it medicinal? Is it good for the skin like baba de caracol (snail’s drool)?
Hank: (returning) Ewww, Baba de caracol (snail’s drool)!
Me: (cleaning Molly’s face) Sure, the sell cremes (creams) in the farmácia (pharmacy) made with baba de caracol (snail’s drool). Apparently it is good for the skin.
Me: Well, I haven’t bought those cremes (creams), but I can tell you that after I wash a net of caracois (snails) to cook I feel my hands are much softer. And your Tia Avó Alice (great aunt) I have seen her pull a caracol (snail) off her cabbage and rub it on her face before she fed it to her chickens.
Hank: NO WAY!
Me: Well, maybe only once, and it was totally to make fun of the fancy ladies who buy these kinds of cremes (creams).
Me: Riddle me this, Hank? Where do you really, really want to go on holiday?
Hank: New York.
Me: Besides New York.
Hank: Tokyo, Japan.
Me: Well, in honor of Tokyo I have made a Japanese meal: salmon teriyaki, wild mushroom brown rice and salad.
Pai: Wow. This looks great.
Hank: This is rice?
Me: Yes. It has a different texture and flavor than Portuguese rice, but it is so good.
Hank: (getting nervous) Um… I don’t know about the mushrooms.
Me: You like mushrooms.
Hank: I like mushroom soup.
Pai: Mushroom soup is made of mushrooms.
Hank: I know (getting antsy).
Me: Hank, listen, you know how this works. You need to taste the food.
Hank: (chugging his water)
Pai: This is really good. Where did you find teriyaki sauce?
Me: I made it.
Hank: (beginning to panic) What is teriyaki sauce?
Me: I have some extra right here on the side. This is what is on the salmon. Dip your fork in and taste it.
Hank: I don’t want to.
Me: Alright, but please get started on your food it is getting cold.
Hank: (getting upset, shaking his foot)
Pai: Hank, did you hear that your mother made this food for you?
Hank: (whining) I know. (picking at his salad)
Me: (getting upset) Come on, Hank. How am I ever going to take you to Tokyo if you can’t even try the food? You like salmon. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it.
Hank: (whining, fidgeting)
Me: (getting more upset)
Pai: Take a taste, please.
Hank: (whining, fidgeting)
Hank: (limply stabbing at his food with his fork, but not at all attempting to eat it)
Me: (angry) You are being so rude.
Hank: (fumbling and knocking half his food off of his plate)
Me: (screaming) YOU ARE SEVEN YEARS OLD! THIS IS FOOD! HOW ARE YOU AFRAID OF FOOD? DO YOU KNOW HOW TO USE A KNIFE AND FORK? TASTE THE FOOD.
Pai: (calm) Hank, please don’t ruin the dinner. Just take a bite.
Me: (furious, slamming my fist on the table) GO TO YOUR ROOM. GO NOW.
Hank: (leaving in floods of tears)
Me: (head in my hands, shaking)
Me: I need a minute.
Me: My hand hurts.
Pai: Better your hand than his face.
(15 minutes later after I calmed down and stopped seeing red)
Hank: Come in.
Me: (sitting on Hank’s bed)
Hank: I’m sorry.
Me: Why are you sorry?
Hank: Because I don’t know how to use a knife and fork?
Me: (eyebrow raised) Don’t be sassy.
Hank: I am sorry about the food.
Me: You know the rules.
Hank: I know.
Me: You simply have to taste the food. Do you know how long I worked to make that meal? You are rude because you don’t respect my time and effort. How do you expect to be an ambassador if you are afraid of food? IT IS FOOD. You aren’t going to like everything, but you have to be brave enough to try everything. What are you going to do when you are on a diplomatic trip to South Korea and you’re served baby octopus soup? Hum? You don’t like octopus, but you will need to taste it or you will offend your host.
Me: Of course, but there are tricks. You taste the caldo (broth) then you can say, “ President Park Geun-hye, I grew up in Portugal and we eat a lot of octopus there. Mostly grilled or slow roasted in garlic and wine…” And by the time you are done with your charming story you bowl will be cleared and it will be time for the next course without you eating more than a taste, BUT if you’re scared of food and won’t even taste it then you won’t go to that dinner and you’ll never become an ambassador and you can never travel the world.
Hank: (pause, thinking) I’m sorry.
Me: I’m sorry, too. I was getting so upset and then I was so angry, my eyes got hot and I started shaking. I had to hit the table or I would have hit your face. My hand hurts I hit the table so hard. I don’t like being like that. I needed a time-out too.
Hank: I am ready to try my food now. I don’t know why I got so nervous.
Me: You have got to cut that out. It needs to stop. I wouldn’t be mad if you tasted your food and then gave me your opinion, but to not even try… I can’t handle that and I don’t like to say you have to do something because of Molly, but as her big brother she is going to look up to you. If you continue this food fear she will also get it. Please, can we punch fear in the face?
Hank: Yes. I will do better. I want to try your salmon now.
Me: It’s cold.
Hank: Then it is like sushi. That is from Japan, too.
Me: (giggling) True. No one ever called you dumb.
Hank: (from a hug) Not one day. Is your hand ok?
Me: Better, my hand and my heart are much better after that hug.
Hank: Can we start over?
Me: Let’s do that.
Pai: (from the hall, having been listening) Hank, dinner, your mãe (mom) made Teriyaki!
Hank: (bouncing off his bed) I want to try it!
Me: (exhausted but smiling)
(Verdict: Hank loved the salmon, even cold, and said he would try the brown rice again. He ate no mushrooms but double salad instead.)