It's Lent, and being of Italian and Irish descent and married to a woman whose forebears hailed from Spain and Mexico, I'm an industrial-strength Catholic. And that means that, around the Danehy household, Lent is Jubilee Time.
It's funny, really. I'm old enough to remember when Catholics couldn't eat meat on Fridays year-round. My sainted Italian mother would make one of two dishes nearly every Friday of the year. Sometimes it would be tuna fish and spaghetti, which isn't nearly as disgusting as it sounds. It's just regular spaghetti with tuna in the sauce instead of meat. (It really does sound disgusting, but I know I put away my fair share. I was doing it for the Lord, although I'm pretty certain He doesn't give a crap.)
The other stuff was pasta fazool. I know that officially its pasta e fagioli, which means pasta and beans, but my mother spoke perfect Italian and pasta fazool is how she pronounced it. They have it as a soup at Olive Garden, but they put meat it in, which defeats the purpose. And, yes, I eat at Olive Garden from time to time. An Italian friend of mine, knowing that I'm not a big fan of eggs, once sniffed, "You know that they put eggs in their salad dressing."
To which I replied, "As long as they don't have visible egg snot floating in the dressing, I'm OK. Heck, I don't care if the secret ingredients are head lice and dandruff from Dog The Bounty Hunter's hair; that stuff tastes good!"
Plus, they have the bread sticks, which are to die for. Or, in unlimited quantities, to die from.
The tuna fish and spaghetti/pasta fazool cycle was, on rare occasions, broken by macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches. But then my friend Bobby Chacon introduced us to bean tostadas and a third dish was added to the rotation. (Bobby would later become the featherweight boxing champion of the world and then have the most tragic life thereafter. He now suffers from pugilistic dementia; as Richard Pryor once said, "He don't know who he is!"
My mother, who could eat those really hot, nasty peppers like they were candy, for some reason wasn't a huge fan of salsa, so she would put barbecue sauce on the tostadas, over the beans and under the cheese. That also sounds disgusting, but it's not that bad.
In the Creedence Clearwater Revival song "Bootleg," John Fogerty growls,
Take you a glass o' water, Make it against the law.
See how good the water tastes when you can't have any t'all.
On Ash Wednesday (which is a day of fasting and abstinence), my son, after getting his ashes, said that he had a sudden craving for TurDuckEn on top of a brisket, all wrapped in bacon. My daughter, who had chilaquiles for her one meal that day, said that not having meat made her "hangry." It's weird; we all go meatless, on average, a couple of times a week. But when it's mandated ... ? Plus, Ash Wednesday is quickly followed by a Friday, so that Thursday in between is like a Viking feast.
Anyway, since it's Lent, I would like to confess a few of the mean tricks I played on my kids when they were younger.
• I was a stay-at-home father and one morning, when he was 3 or 4 years old, Alexander asked if he could have some ice cream. I told him that we didn't eat ice cream in the morning. He explained that he really wanted some. I had the stereo on, with the radio tuned to 93.7 KRQ. He already knew about telling time, so I told him that when it got to 10:00, I would give him some ice cream. He'd come out every few minutes to check the time and grumble that it still said 9-3-7. I explained that if he kept coming out all the time, the clock wouldn't move. At 12:01, I gave him some ice cream.
• I convinced both of my children that I could take sickness out of them and put it inside of me, and since I was so much bigger than they were, it wouldn't affect me nearly as much. I would put my hand near their faces, do a drawing-out motion, and then turn my hand around and pop it into me.
I think it worked. Alexander went from kindergarten until he got out of college without ever missing a day of school. (I had done the same back in the day.) Darlene missed a Thursday and Friday in the second grade because of chicken pox. Because of that, Alexander and I call her "The Slacker."
• Finally, when Darlene was playing Bobby Sox softball, she spent an afternoon playing on a Slip 'N Slide at a neighbor's house. One time, she slid off the mat and jammed her heel into an in-ground sprinkler. She had a game that night, so I just taped her ankle and she played. The first pitch she saw she laced into right-center, then hobbled to first base. I was coaching first base and I asked her how she was doing. She said it hurt, so I told her to rub some dirt on it.
After the game, I took her to Urgent Care. She had a broken leg. Oops.