It was too hot to cook last night.
After six summers in Oregon I have finally acclimated. I sweat and whine and flop about bonelessly whenever the sun gets too warm, which is generally anything over 90 degrees.
I know. I know. Feel free to mock me – I certainly am.
While that’s still a lot more stoic than most of the other “anything over 80 sucks” long-term Oregonians around me, it’s still a far cry from the Becky of the early 2000s, who would patiently mutter “I really don’t enjoy doing an 10 hour day in the Bakersfield sun whenever it hits over 102”.
Yesterday was a balmy 95 degrees, and despite a house with central AC and an office with AC so crisp that every patron who steps through the doorway smiles in pleasure, I just couldn’t bring myself to embrace the idea of cooking when I got home.
I tried asking my friend Google for help.
“Google, it’s too hot to cook. What kind of dinner should I make for my four kids?”
I did my best to keep it simple. I learned long ago not to ask Google to consider the fact that Magpie is dairy-free or that DragonMonkey is gluten-free… the results are too weird and difficult.
Even so, the results were fairly predictable.
“Becky, you should have grilled up tri-tip two days before you needed to ask this question so you could marinade it in your fridge and slice it up today to serve with a variety of cold salsas!”
“Sorry. I forgot – Google, what kind of quick dinners can I feed my four kids when it’s too hot to cook?”
“Becky, you should make hamburgers! Fire up that grill that stands right in the sun with no shade and then roast things for an hour.. that’s the perfect no-cooking meal!”
“Google, NO. You’re not listening. What kind of I DON’T WANT TO COOK AT ALL meals should I make my kids tonight? Meals for a hot summer night that kids will actually eat? And I swear, if you recommend some kind of garlic spinach Brussel sprout salad again, I’m going to hate you for the rest of my life. What kind of kid starts jumping up and down in excitement at the idea of a garlic spinach Brussel sprout salad?”
“Becky, you should make chilled bean dip!”
“Huh, that sounds kind of good. How do I–”
“You take black beans and mix them up with garlic and sliced cilantro harvested beneath a winter moon. Mash it with a silver fork and blend for 2.3 seconds n a counterclockwise direction with acai berries and je ne sais quoi and sprinkle it with foreign spices and blood of a virgin and…”
So I turned to Facebook, where people are much more reasonable, and got a bunch of wonderful answers. Deli meat platters. Veggies and ranch dips. Ice cream sundaes. Order Dominos. Send the Bean out to grill for me.
I finally settled on cereal, and decided to make an event of it. I stopped off at the store on my way to pick up the kids from the sitter’s, and grabbed four boxes of forbidden, name-brand, sugar cereal.
After herding all four of them upstairs into the house, I pulled out the boxes with a flourish. Lucky Charms. Fruit Loops. Cap’n Crunch. Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds.
“Dig in and have as much as you want!” I announced, gesturing at the boxes with a flourish.. “It’s too hot cook, so today and tomorrow are cereal dinner nights!”
Three children cheered.
“Wow! Yummy! Thanks, Mommy, you’re the best!” cried Squid.
“Ceweal!” chirped Magpie with a giant grin, and then glancing sideways at her big brother, she added an absolutely adorable, “Gank oo, Mammy.”
“CEWEAL!” echoed Finn, dragging on his high chair, trying to pull it over to the table. “Wan up. CEREAL! Wan up! Pease. CEWEAL!”
DragonMonkey crooked an eyebrow, the weight and responsibility of his preteen years settling heavily on his shoulders. “Really, mom? This is dinner? Don’t you think we need more vitamins and protein than this?”
“Dude. It’s cereal. We rarely even eat it for breakfast. Relax and be happy. This is a fun treat.”
He picked up a box and squinted at the side. “It says here it has 12 grams of sugar. That’s too much sugar. You’re really going to give this to us for dinner?” His gaze settled on me, waiting for me to make the right decision.
“Relax, DragonMonkey. I’m not sitting you in front of a TV and cramming M&Ms down your throat on a nightly basis.”
“M&Ms? We have M&Ms?” said Squid, perking up with interest.
“No. It’s a simile…. wait, it’s a metaphor…. Oh, I forget. No. Eat your sugar cereal and be happy.”
“Thanks, Mom!” Squid said.
DragonMonkey took a deep breath and proceeded to explain slowly, as if I was the world’s slowest learner. “Mom, it’s not good for us to have this much sugar. Our muscles need protein.” He shook his head, manfully shouldering the burden of his oh-so-disappointing mother.
“Fine. Everyone but you gets Lucky Charms. You can go eat a limp hot dog and gnaw on frozen broccoli, or wilted lettuce or something.”
“No, no. It’s fine.” He poured a bowl with a sigh. “I just think that maybe other moms out there are feeding their kids real dinners. It’s okay though.” He sighed, heavily. “It’s fine.”
For sale: pre-teen with opinions.