Saturday, January 17, 2009

send in the barbarians

Our good friends Doug and Sharri used to tell us about a family that instituted a custom of eating one meal each month "barbarian style". They dispensed with utensils and ate with their hands. The idea, I guess, was to provide a little release and comic relief surrounding the dinner table every once in awhile. According to them, it was a great success in terms of providing the family with a memorable and fun ritual they could share, and it also had the effect of highligting just how different genuine table manners were from "barbarian customs".

Last week we sat down to eat at the end of what had been a rather long day for me. The kids too seemed to be at the end of their ropes and were sniping at each other and whining to us. There came a point, after having laid down a couple of ultimatums to them about all this, that I snapped and hollered in a very loud voice for everyone to stop shouting. The effect was startling to the kids, particularly Colm who began to whimper that I shouldn't say mean things. Needless to say, I was chagrined, and I immediately went to Colm and tried to clarify my intentions in a much softer tone of voice.

Beth, to her credit, did not aim any withering looks in my direction. More and more we seem to share a sense that when things head south for either one of us - there but for the grace of God go I. Instead she set about trying to rally everyone to the dinner table for spaghetti.

We came together round the table, a rather somber and dispirited group. I wished that somehow we could regain our good feeling, but it seemed a plaintive hope. Beth looked at the table and noticed that the silverware had not been put out. She got up to get some, and as she placed forks next to plates she said, "I guess we need forks to eat our spaghetti." Then she added whimsically, "Although, some people we know sometimes eat their spaghetti without forks. They use their hands. We could do that too, I guess."

Both kids looked up curious. "No hands?" said Colm.
"No forks," said Beth.
"What if we ate it with no hands?" said Tess.
Colm smiled. My heart warmed at the sight of it.
"Let's do it," I said.
"You want to?" said Beth.
Everybody was smiling now. Before us lay steaming plates of spaghetti covered in meat sauce and paramesan cheese. I put my head down and tried to get a nibble. It wasn't easy. Everybody else did likewise. Each of us managed a strand of pasta or two but we seemed constrained a little. Finally, I just went for it and put my face down into the pile of paste. I came up with a red nose and a mouthful of food. Before long we were all at it with our hands in our laps and our goofy, smiling faces smeared with red sauce. I looked at my barbarian family and was grateful to that the blues had been driven from our home.

It was a great meal. Don't when we'll do it again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay for the Barbarian Family! You guys never cease to amaze and amuse me:)
Love, Erin

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth Howard Larvik said...

Tucking this one away for Parenting 101 when Evan is older. Thanks for the inspiration.

8:53 AM  
Blogger adam jk gallardo said...

Rescuing an evening with your family from certain disaster -- that's a kind of miracle, don't you think?

10:25 PM  

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