Saturday, September 15, 2012

Family dinner, volume MDCLVIII


This will be short.

Thursday was back-to-school night at the august local high school where Isabel is a sophomore. A lot of the other parents seem to have aged dramatically since we met them in first grade. I feel bad for them. I'm so glad that hasn't happened to my husband and me.

During his 10-minute presentation, the history teacher, Mr. Chamberlin, told us he regularly posts "homework assignments" for parents on his web site. The homework consists of a question related to the curriculum that parents should ask at the dinner table to "help conversation sprout and spout."

His words. I thought, that's very charming and idealistic of him.

We came home and it was late.

Ordinarily I use back-to-school night as an excuse to go out to dinner, but after India, it's temporarily lost some of its luster. Earlier in the day I'd made beef and potato curry -- cubed chuck, onions, spices, tomatoes, potatoes -- from Suriani Kitchen and I reheated it, along with the leftover rice from the night before.

Here's what the four of us discussed in a very desultory fashion:

-the history teacher's buff suede shoes
-the English teacher's extensive tattoos
-the kindly science teacher's regrettable speech impediment
-what weapons the kids use in Lord of the Flies
-whether Isabel or Owen would get to take the first shower

It's a little embarrassing when I type it out. And the next morning I had to struggle to remember any of it.  I went to the history teacher's web site and the question for Thursday was:

"Are there any countries in the world today that are ripe for revolution?"

What do you think? Not in terms of answers, but about posing such a question at the dinner table? Anyway I'm going to try it. I can imagine the ways an interesting conversation might "sprout and spout" and we can hardly do worse.

About the curry. It was red and spicy, very delicious. I don't understand the nuances of curry, though, and I'm going to try to educate myself. I don't know what the balance of flavors is supposed to be, so I can't tell if it's heavy on the ginger or turmeric-dominant or even what is appropriate. I just know what I like and I liked this. I have a lot to learn about Indian cooking.

Again with the excess water, though. The recipe calls for 8 cups and I cut it down to 4 and cooked it for longer than indicated, but even so it was watery. Isabel doesn't like her foods to touch and the thin sauce ran across the plate, so she had to put up a dam of bread to keep it from touching the rice. Then she ate it all up, curry and rice and bread.

Unbelievably, I got on a plane again yesterday. More on that later. This morning we have a temple to tour.

21 comments:

  1. I think the history teacher is very idealistic, but I also think teachers are supposed to be. How refreshing! I think you should be very pleased that you have dinner conversation with your children. It is amazing how many people rarely have dinner with their children, and I think it is tragic. Who care what you discuss? While elevating the dialogue occasionally might be wise, it's the continuing dialogue that counts. My experience is that Indian food is generally watery, and I don't like watery food either. Another trip? You are a busy bee! As usual, I want to hear your impressions of the temple!

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  2. Michael Leuchtenburg9/15/12, 7:59 AM

    That sounds like a question we'd talk about at my family's dinner table. Politics and current events are also favorite topics. The other day we spent about 20 minutes talking about Libya and Egypt, the Brandenburg test, how the Obama administration was reacting, and how that would impact the elections.

    We also not infrequently play little parlor games, like "how many flights does the largest airline fly each day?" Various knowledge-based things in general. I don't know if my parents initiated this in order to teach us more, but it's always been something I've enjoyed.

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  3. Michael,
    We did the same thing when my girls were growing up. I used to initiate either the Capitals game or another one called "When". My girls can name most of the world's capitals to this day. For "When", I named some historic event (moon landing, fall of Roman empire, domestication of the horse), and they guessed when it took place. It was so great to just get a conversation started, and I had to learn the answers myself, of course ;)

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  4. Boy, I can remember some dinners in my family that were totally ruined by conversation, but that's how it goes in some families. I think it is age dependent , my kids almost couldn't eat for wanting to talk until they hit about 12. We then went into a deep freeze of sensitive topics (like almost everything) until they hit about 17 or so, and now at 22 & 24, they know everything and are glad to discuss it over dinner. Hang in there, it gets different and better.

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  5. Some of the dinners described in this string sound like Dinner with the Wittgensteins, or the McLaughlin Group, or Alex Trebek. Are you allowed to look up answers on your smart phone?
    That "Tam" Urban Dictionary link points to an interesting variety of definitions, not all of them fit for dinner-table conversation.

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  6. My dad has been cooking curries and Indian food since living in Malaysia during his stint in the peace corps in the 70's. He's all over the Indian curry situation and his most favorite book is Madhur Jaffery's '"An Invitation To Indian Cooking". I also have the book and her recipes don't disappoint.

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  7. I would love to bring that question up at the dinner table. I think I will do it tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I got your book this weekend. I have already ordered my vanilla and will be making the chocolate chip cookies tomorrow. They sound delicious.

    I don't remember what we talked about at the table when I was a kid, but I do know supper with my in-laws usually leads to tears for someone.

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  9. Kristin - we used to play the capitals game also, and my dad gave us words to spell. Interesting that when my dad passed away over 25 years ago, I heard from a childhood friend who commented about how she loved to come over for dinner because she enjoyed my dad's quizzes!

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  10. Since you cook from such a wide range of cuisines, necessitating a lot of ingredients, I'd love it if you commented on how your organize and keep up with them. I absolutely love your blog and wish you wrote everyday. I don't really care about what either. Thanks. You are terrific.

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