Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Something for Everyone

I can't say enough how impressed I am by my 5-year-old niece's thoughtfulness. Take for example our daily conversations revolving around meal planning during her recent stay with us.

Me: Would you like french toast for breakfast?
Annabelle: Yes! I would love that, but what will Aunt Heidi have?

And so it went, as what took me several months of living with a Vegan to wrap my brain around became second nature for her in one day. Mac and cheese for lunch? You bet! But what about Aunt Heidi? Hamburgers for dinner? OK, but what can Aunt Heidi eat?

At this time of year, when we're cooking out a lot, the answer to the question What will Aunt Heidi have? is quite frequently, "A mushroom." We do veggie burgers and chik'n patties, but more often than not, a couple of grilled portabellos and an extra helping of salad will satisfy our resident vegan. It's definitely our fallback entree.

When my sister and brother and I were kids, we used to play a game that started like this, I'm going on a picnic, and I'm going to bring [fill in the blank]. What are YOU going to bring? The object was to have some pattern in mind, so that whenever it was your turn, you gave an example of an item that fit your pattern, and the other players had to figure it out by trial and error.

So, if my pattern was alphabetical order, I would say, I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing apples. What are you going to bring? If the next person said balloons, or anything else that started with a B, then I would benevolently reply, You can come.

But, when they guess something outside your pattern, "You can't come!" is the answer. The audacious rudeness of that reply makes me giggle to this day, as does the shock on the face of anyone who hears it for the first time. Their eyes widen in disbelief and quite often they say, as Annabelle did when I taught her and Richard the game, "That is not nice!"

Even after a week of playing, at five-and-a-half, Annabelle never really got the game (although she played it like a trooper, and coined a new term, "Boss of the Picnic"), but at almost eight? Richard was totally on it, working hard to decipher our patterns and creating some very complex ones of his own. This afternoon he listened closely as Heidi started. "I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing tomatoes. What are you bringing?" She turned to Richard.

"Lettuce?" he tried.

"You can come," she told him. She looked at me. "What are you bringing?"

"Bacon?" I offered, thinking BLTs, maybe.

"You can't come." There was something in her expression that made me realize the pattern immediately. "I'm bringing blueberries," she said. "What about you, Richard?"

He wasn't sure, so he looked around the table. "French fries?" he said.

"You can come," she said.

Annabelle was busy doing something with her mom, so it was just the three of us. "I'm bringing..." I paused and considered all the vegan options. There were so many, but I was feeling contrary. "...fried chicken!" I finished.

Heidi raised her eyebrows. "You can't come!" she said.

Richard was listening closely. "I'm bringing hamburgers!" he said.

I laughed.

"You can not come!" Heidi told him.

"I'm bringing hot dogs!" I said.


"Steak?" Richard asked.


By this time, Richard was collapsed in the restaurant booth, laughing hysterically. When his sister returned, he couldn't wait to explain the joke to her. "Annabelle!" he cried, "Aunt Heidi's picnic is vegan, but we're bringing things that aren't vegan!"

Annabelle frowned.

"What do you think? Can I bring chicken wings?" I asked her, suggesting one of her favorites.

"You can if you bring a mushroom, too," she said.

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