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Family Dinner at the Sports Bar

IN THE KELLERS, OCTOBERFEST, MUNICH
Photograph by Getty Images

For dinner last night we ate brown rice, soy-glazed tofu, and raw kale massaged with organic olive oil; tomorrow night I’ll do something with the delicata squash from our farm share. I am the home-ground spelt-flour bread baker, the organic-arugula lady; I am probably most famous for a recipe I once published called “Crack Broccoli.” But tonight? Tonight we’re eating chicken wings at the local sports bar.

Is there a case to be made for it, beyond my lifelong love of chewing crispy, buffalo-sauced meat from the bones? “Do you think this is locally-sourced chicken?” my 9-year-old Birdy asks, like she’s either a spokesperson for sustainable agriculture or in an outtake from Portlandia. “Oh, honey, I seriously doubt it,” I have to say. But my beer arrives, the size of a barrel—like it has been filled from the very tap of Niagara itself—and, crammed in among the hard-drinking college students and happy-hour revelers, all my worries are washed away.

Here is where we all get to do what we like, eat what we want and be who we are.

But here’s the thing, really: I love that the kids are learning a certain kind of suppleness in how we move through the world. It’s a pretty basic lesson about flexibility: Usually things are this way, but not always; we are mostly that, but sometimes something different too. I know this has more to do, ultimately, with whether I can mix it up a little for my own pleasure—tear open a bag of Cheetos every once in awhile, say, instead of a packet of seaweed crisps—but it doesn’t make for a bad worldview, right? Not ambivalence, not uncertainty, just something more like an absence of dogma. We love salad, and it’s healthy, so we eat a lot of it; we love junk food, and it’s not healthy, so we eat it only sometimes.

“Let me guess,” our beloved, busty, college-student waitress says. “Wings, extra-crispy, extra side of celery, large onion rings.” She bends down a little to listen to the kids, whose orders change as they do. Ben, our 12-year-old, is in a tweenish chili-topped potato skins phase of life; Birdy is a vegetarian, and gets cheese fries. We are healthy, well-fed people; potato skins or cheese fries for dinner once a week is not going to permanently clog anybody’s arteries. Plus, the price is right.

While we wait for our food to arrive, we relax in our booth and play the dice game I keep in my bag, or we talk about math homework (Ben), writing projects (me), or global injustice (Birdy). I’m not cooking or serving or anticipating cleaning up, and so I am here, now, enjoying the good company of my family, even as my husband Michael eyeballs one or more of the dozen TVs that are showing a dozen games of baseball or football or hockey. I don’t care. Here is where we all get to do what we like, eat what we want and be who we are—unlabeled, unconstrained, smudged with sauce and smiling. In the big picture, that feels healthy enough.

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