Monday, July 27 2020

childrens programming, alone time, and flambé

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday. This morning, I hope you'll join me in shaking off all the weekend's debauchery in hopes of having some semblance of a productive day. Last night my vice was snacking. Leftover taco bell. Buttered bread. Mashed potatoes in mushroom creme sauce right out of the tupperware. A handful of goldfish crackers. The bouquet of late night impulse eating still swirls around in my mouth with my morning coffee.

Super hero Rodney, Haunty the crane, and I are holding down the fort. I've got music bumping out of our speaker in the kitchen and Rodney is taking in a nutritious mental breakfast of Ask the Story Bots. Lately, Rodney is really shaking up his TV choices.

"Dada," said Rodney unprompted at the dinner table. "I'm all done saying pound it, noggin', see ya - I don't wanna say it anymore." And just like that, Dude Perfect reruns were booted from Rodney's primetime TV watching slot. This morning, Blippi got the axe.

"Too much Blippi," said Rodney. His simple words that felt like music on my tired ears.

It's easy to see why people have such strong opinions about children's programming, isn't it? If the early exposure to lessons and values weren't important enough, it also indirectly becomes the show that parents watch and listen to in the background all day. I think that's why some shows try so hard with celebrity cameos, inside jokes, and tolerable music. And why shouldn't they be entertaining for adults too? If shows like Paw Patrol have shown us anything, it's that entertaining children is not very difficult.

"An article popped up on my news reader called Paw Patrol is the Worst TV Show Ever Made and My Kids Love It," said Marissa taking a sip of coffee.

"Ooh, that sounds spicy," I laughed.

"Paw Patrol has been getting destroyed in the news lately," she continued. "I think at first it was the copaganda stuff, but I think people are finally paying attention to all the other terrible things about the show. Like how it doesn't teach any lessons."

"I would jump on that bandwagon," I laughed. "Paw Patrol sucks. They're right, it's just designed to sell toys. I'm sure they'll bend over backwards to make the detractors happy just so they can keep doing it."

After our breakfast, Marissa and I headed out into the backyard. We were determined to finish the fence project before lunch, and that meant braving the swarms of mosquitos. If the heat weren't enough, this summer's mosquitos have made working outside incredibly difficult. We worked in short bursts, kneeling down by the base of the backyard fence to hold the wooden slats in place while Marissa drilled, then we'd retreat to the deck to re apply bug spray.

With energy zapped from swatting bugs in the heat, we crumpled on the couch, recovering with some delivered Taco Bell and our church's Sunday live stream. After the service had finished, Marissa rose to her feet and collected her things.

"Rod, want to go with me to the pet store?" she asked, putting Miles down for a nap.

I grinned. Miles was asleep. There was leftover taco bell in fridge. Marissa was taking Rodney on an errand. The stars were aligning for the perfect alone time.

"Woah," I said aloud. "Is this really happening right now?"

Marissa smiled and nodded. "Have fun, dada." She and Rodney headed out the door. I grabbed Rodney's unfinished chicken burrito, and like a modern day Caligula, enjoyed a solid hour of lazy, uninterrupted alone time on the couch. Taco bell. A new Run Pass Option YouTube video. Glorious.

Marissa and Rodney returned. Rodney ran into the living room, triumphantly brandishing a new Frisbee Marissa bought him at the pet store. Over stories of Target adventures and pet store turtle sightings, we played with it in the backyard for a few minutes before sending him to his room for quiet time. I joined Marissa in the dining room, where she got to work installing a new protein skimmer in the fish tank while I began dinner.

For dinner, we made our current standby favorite: seared pork tenderloin medallions, mashed potatoes, and mushroom sauce.

The weekly recipe sees plenty of variations, depending on what we have in stock. Sometimes I use shallots instead of garlic. Sometimes I have to use cold chunks of butter instead of cream.

My favorite part of the recipe is when I get to deglaze the pan with a small cup of brandy. When the small amount of liquor hits the hot pan, it sizzles, releasing a plume of fragrant smells in the air. The pan, previously brown and crusted from searing the meat, gives way to a swirling cloud of coffee colored liquid and suddenly becomes clean.

Yesterday, I had an impulse to flambé the mixture. For the initiated, a flambé is when you light the pan on fire while it's deglazing. The alcohol, quickly escaping as vapor, ignites in a brightly colored flame. Everything I've read and watched has made it perfectly clear that a flambé does absolutely nothing to the flavor, it's a bit dangerous, and it's only intended for showboating.

So last night in the kitchen, after dumping in a small glass of brandy, I dug a long lighter from the kitchen drawer. Standing far away, I cautiously brought the lighter to the pan and pulled the trigger. The pan ignited, and the bright orange flame sprung out and began to lick the bottom of my microwave. I nervously grabbed the handle and scooted it away. I breathed a sigh of relief as the flame cooled and retreated back into the pan. I added a cup of chicken broth and casually sauntered over to Marissa.

"Does it smell like smoke in here?" I asked. Marissa looked up from cleaning the fish tank and shook her head.

"Nothing burning?" I asked.

After a more conscious sniff, Marissa shook her head again.

"Good. I flambéd the sauce, and the fire was a lot bigger than I planned. But I think I got away with it," I laughed.

"I don't approve of it, but I appreciate how calmly you told me," said Marissa, nervously chuckling. "Please don't do it again."

"Oh don't worry," I replied. "It was cool, but it's out of my system. I just wanted to be able to say that I've done it."

"How big was the fire?" asked Marissa.

"It almost touched the microwave," I laughed.

Marissa's smile vanished, and she began to look panicked. "No it wasn't!"

"Nah, I'm over-exaggerating," I laughed.

"How big was it?" pressed Marissa.

I smirked. "That depends on how mad you are."

Thanks for stopping by today. If you're going to flambé something, ask your wife first and have a fire extinguisher on hand.