Papa and I cook dinner most nights (most=all the nights we don't go out to eat). There are many specific procedures and guidelines we use in the kitchen.
1) We each have a special mug for our coffee. Papa's is of medium height, skinny and has colored squares all over it. Grammy's is taller than Papa's, skinny, and has flowers on it. Mine is tall and skinny like Grammy's, but has the UNC logo on it. One weekend when my mom came down to visit, I walked to the breakfast table and she was drinking out of my UNC cup! I just looked at her and told her "Papa knows that is my mug, don't you Papa?" He knew. She went and traded it out.
2) Papa has recently started cooking "easy" meals. This means, he buys lots of things in bags and boxes. Grammy doesn't like "those bag meals," but Papa always makes them anyway. They didn't used to eat things out of bags, but now Papa wants to do everything the easy way. When we were younger, we used to eat homemade meals for every meal, but Papa decided that he eats to live, not lives to eat, so we eat pre-made meals now.
3) There are special dishes and utensils for everything, and with those special dishes, each different food requires a certain amount of dedication. There is a special grapefruit knife that cuts the grapefruit into sections. When it is cut, we put it in the small, white bowls. In fact, we use these bowls for all types of fruit and we eat from these bowls with big spoons, NOT small spoons. These bowls also hold coleslaw when we make it. Salads require the white plates with the high edges; Papa doesn't like salad in a bowl. Papa's salad has lettuce, onions, tomatoes and a little feta cheese. Grammy's and my salads have lettuce, onions, feta cheese and croutons. We always use the big plates with the dark blue flower design for our main dish, even if it is only a grilled cheese sandwich. We always drink water out of the clear glasses; Grammy and I put lemon in our water. For every meal, Grammy has toast, which goes on a medium sized dark blue flower designed plate, and jelly, which is placed on the tray with a picture of a country house on it and taken out to the table. We eat soup with big spoons, but oatmeal with small spoons. Papa likes plates better than bowls, but I prefer bowls so that my food doesn't touch. The other day, we had burgers on the grill because the weather was nice, so I went out to help Papa. There is a special grate that we use for burgers, though I'm not sure if it works. When I went out, the flames were leaping out of the grill so I said:
Julie: Wow, Papa, that's quite a fire!
Papa: It's a good one, isn't it? I put a lot of lighter fluid on it. I pretty much drenched it.
The reason I don't know if the grate works is that the fire was so hot, it just burned the outside of the burgers. While we were eating, mine was suspiciously undercooked on the inside, so I had to microwave it. In conclusion, the burger grate requires more testing.
The other night, Grammy made a pumpkin pie for dessert, so she was eating a little sliver of it with her hands. I came over and cut a little sliver, too, and Papa asked me:
Papa: Don't you want a spoon to eat that?
Julie: No, I want to eat it like Grammy.
Papa goes to get a plate and a spoon.
Julie: What? You don't want to eat it over the sink like Grammy and me?
Papa: No, I'm more refined.
Apparently, we should have eaten our pumpkin pie with a spoon and on a medium-sized plate with the dark blue flower design.
4) There are certain ways to prepare all of our food, and Papa knows EXACTLY how to do it all and how long. He is an avid supporter of timing everything he is cooking. I'm more of an estimate-how-long-it-has-cooked-and-take-it-off-when-it-looks-done kind of girl, but not Papa. The other night we were broiling some fish and Papa cooked it for exactly 5 minutes on each side, but it wasn't cooked all the way so he kept saying "I already cooked it for 10 minutes! It should be done! Something must be wrong with it!" He cooks corn on the cob for EXACTLY 4 minutes; oatmeal cooks for 5 minutes on low and then is covered for 5 more minutes. Rice is 5 minutes at a boil and then cover it for 5 more minutes. If I'm cooking and Papa walks into the kitchen, he always asks me where the timer is and how much time things have left. I just tell him: "The timer is in my head, Papa. I know exactly how long everything has been cooking." Usually when I tell him this, he laughs and then goes and checks on everything I'm cooking, setting timers as he goes.
5) Nothing can touch the table. We lay placemats on the table to set all the food on, because it isn't allowed to touch the surface. Cups, plates, dishes, silverware, everything must be on a placemat. At my parents house, we set our dishes and cups on everything; pianos, bookshelves, desks, everything. At Grammy and Papa's, you never set your dishes on anything because the furniture isn't sealed so it leaves rings and heat marks. Whenever my sister comes to visit, she forgets this rule, so whenever she sets her cup down on the table, I look at her and signal (using Rachel Language) to use a coaster. Rachel Language is the language that my sister uses. Basically it is like living in a game of charades, because if she wants something, she'll just look at you and act out what she wants, or even worse, she'll just look at you and point at what she wants. Yes, she does speak, but she just chooses to use Rachel Language when she wants something. I refuse to respond to this language, and usually just look at her and talk to her like I used to talk to my preschoolers: "Use your words, Rachel. I can't understand what you want if you don't tell me with your words." However, I try to use Rachel Language around her so that she understands that she isn't allowed to set her cup on the table without a coaster.
6) Portion size is also important. Grammy gets the smallest portions because she doesn't eat a lot. Even when we give her little portions, she usually says something like "Wow, what a big meal we have tonight!" I get medium-sized portions, even though it is usually too much. Papa gets big portions. We try to get rid of all the food we make so that we don't have to eat leftovers, so once the original portions are distributed, we go back through and empty the rest of the pots and pans evenly on the plates. We're getting really good at estimating how much to cook, all thanks to Papa and his exact measurements.
On Wednesdays when Grammy and I go to bell choir, Papa has to cook dinner by himself. When we get home, he always says "Here I am, slaving away on dinner." And Grammy tells him "I cooked all the meals the first 50 years, you get the second." That must be why we eat bag meals. One Wednesday, after dinner, Grammy, Papa and I were cleaning up the dishes from our meal. Papa already did the dishes he used to cook dinner with, so he said:
Papa: You know, I cleaned all the dishes before dinner, too.
Grammy: Well, it doesn't look that way now!
Papa: I'm just saying I cleaned a lot before we ate.
Julie: What? Do you want a high-five?
Papa: No, I want a medal.
We usually have fish twice a week. Papa's favorite is Orange Roughy because it is the most expensive, which obviously means it is the best. Grammy and I think it is so expensive because it comes from the farthest location. We season all of our fish with Lemon-Pepper seasoning because it is Papa's favorite. He even has Lemon-Pepper tarter sauce to accompany it. One time Grammy and I seasoned our fish for dinner with this new seasoning we got from my older brother for Christmas, but Papa told us we should use Lemon-Pepper next time because it is better. I also don't think I've ever used so much butter while cooking than I do with Papa. He puts butter on everything. When we broil our fish, Papa sprinkles his Lemon-Pepper on top and then squirts mounds of squeeze butter onto the fish. It kind of negates the fact that fish is usually healthy for you, so I just pretend like he doesn't put it on there. He also puts a lot of butter on our vegetables. One night we were having canned corn (keep in mind, this was only one can) for dinner and I was stirring something on the stove and Papa came over and started putting butter into the corn. He put about two tablespoons in and was about to put even more in until he saw me looking at him. I told him: "That's a lot of butter you put in there." He just said: "I would have put more except you were watching me."