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I Have a Favorite Child . . . At Mealtime

Photograph by Getty Images

I've got four daughters. I am reluctant to admit it, but I have a favorite. Actually, I have two favorites. Although none of my daughters are my favorites, it's my two dogs that I favor. Miniature, long-haired dachshunds—they garner most of my attention and virtually all of my unconditional adoration.

There are many things to love about my soft, floppy canine friends, but number one on my list is that they are ecstatic with literally anything I feed them. They enthusiastically jump up and down and run in circles for their morning bowl of dry kibble. They sit at my feet, looking at me adoringly, waiting patiently, as I prepare anything in the kitchen. If they occasionally get a slice of cucumber or a sliver of carrot, they are over-the-moon grateful. A small piece of meat? Forget about it—they can hardly contain their appreciation.

My daughters on the other hand, require weeks in advance planning to feed. Painstakingly taking into account who's eating what (vegan, vegetarian, extra cheesy, hold the cheese, no beans, double steak), I try and come up with something that everyone will eat, possibly like, even. So far, in 15 years that has only ever occurred three times. No kidding.

Here's how last night's pre-dinner conversations went:

(As I am unloading the dishwasher, making dinner, and clearing backpacks off the kitchen table.)

8-year-old: What's for dinner?

Me: Grilled chicken, hash browns and broccoli!

8-year-old: Oh. I don't really like chicken. It makes me gassy.

Me: You're eight, not 78. How do you even recognize what makes you gassy? Anyway, wouldn't it be the broccoli that gives you gas?

8-year-old: No. It's chicken.

Me: (sigh) I'll poach an egg to put on top of the hash browns. You can have that and the broccoli.

(30 seconds later)

8-year-old #2 (identical twins): Whats for dinner?

Who hates hash browns? You are a kid, you are genetically programmed to LOVE all things fried.

Me: Grilled chicken, hash browns, poached eggs and broccoli!

8-year-old #2: I hate hash browns.

Me: Who hates hash browns? You are a kid, you are genetically programmed to LOVE all things fried. How about if I melt some cheese on the top of them?

8-year-old #2: Yes!

(47 seconds later, as the kitchen begins to feel crowded)

15-year-old: Hey. What’s for dinner?

Me: Sweet Jesus!

15-year-old: Sweet Jesus? Is that Spanish?

Me: No. Grilled chicken, poached eggs, hash browns with melty cheese and broccoli.

15-year-old: Hello? You know I don't eat cheese.

Me: Crap. Yes, no, you do not. I won't melt cheese on your hash browns.

(0.2 seconds later, the 13-year-old enters)

Me: Here we go . . .

13-year-old: What's for—

Me: GRILLED CHICKEN, HASH BROWNS WITH OR WITHOUT POACHED EGG AND MELTY CHEESE AND BROCCOLI!

13-year-old: I'm vegan now.

Me: Then, broccoli.

I pour a glass of wine (from the box I keep in the fridge), drink half of it in one gulp then glance down to see my furry friends, their tails quietly thumping on the floor, sweet eyes looking up at me. I fill their bowl with dry kibble and they dig in—devouring it, unconditionally.

Here's how to grill a perfect chicken, as long as you're not feeding vegans.

Perfect Grilled Chicken

Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes + marinating time

Ingredients

2 large shallots, peeled and quartered

2 fat garlic cloves, peeled

1 stalk lemon grass, roughly chopped

Leaves from 1/2 bunch mint

One bunch cilantro, stems discarded

Juice of one lime

¼ cup sambal oelek

½ cup vegetable oil (or more)

2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Pulse the shallot, garlic and lemon grass in a food processor until minced then add the mint and cilantro and pulse until chopped.

2. Add lime juice and sambal oelek and process, then while the motor is still running, drizzle in the oil until a loose paste forms. Add in the agave nectar and soy sauce and pulse.

3. Marinate chicken for as long as possible, you can do this up to 24 hours.

4. Season chicken with salt before grilling.

Makes: 8 servings

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