Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Different Kind of Date

Last week I invited my eight-year old daughter on a date.

It was the first in what I hope will become a quarterly event. No mom, no wife, no brother, no son, just my daughter and me.

Earlier in the day I made a reservation at the Purple Parrot Café. I told them to give me the best table in the house. They did— not because I own the restaurant— but because they knew how important this night was to me.

After coming in from soccer practice, and finishing her homework, she was ready. I got in my car, pulled around to the front door, rang the doorbell, and opened the car door exactly how a gentleman is supposed to.

We ordered the five-course tasting menu at the Purple Parrot Café.

The meal started with an amuse bouche tart of spinach, blue cheese, and bacon. She loved it. This is going to be great, I thought to myself. She’ll breeze through these menu items with no problem. I refuse to be a parent that raises one of these children who eats nothing but chicken strips and soda. She has always had a rather sophisticated palate, so the prospects looked good for a new and positive learning experience.

Butternut squash soup was the first official course. She swallowed a couple of spoonfuls and, when asked, said it was good. I could tell that she didn’t care for it, but she didn’t want to let me know. When the waiter came to check on us, I had him remove the soup and told him that we were pacing ourselves. I want her to have a refined palate, but I don’t want to force any foods on her that aren’t “her thing.” To this day, there are still foods that I don’t eat and no one forces them on me.

The second course was a warm duck confit salad with a wild mushroom vinaigrette. It was great. Again, she wasn’t thrilled with it. She took a few bites, and politely laid her fork on the plate. At this point and time I thought about forcing her to eat more, but held back. Instead, we talked about the proper way to transfer butter to the bread-and-butter plate and how to butter a piece of bread.

The third course was a petit filet mignon with fingerling potatoes, wilted spinach, lobster, and brie. Bingo! She cleaned her plate. I patted myself on the back for not commenting on her lack of enthusiasm for the first two courses. If I had, this course might have had a different end result.

The fourth course was a cumin-dusted rack of lamb with cous cous and an ancho-chile demi glace. “Lamb, as in Mary Had A Little?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, and took the opportunity to tell her the story of how I never ate lamb as a child until my mother told me that it was roast beef. The story didn’t work. Six weeks earlier, my daughter had decided to become a vegetarian. Though she was only herbivorous for a few days, this jump from “I’m not going to eat anything with a face” to slicing into the medium-rare flesh of an animal whose “Fleece is white as snow,” was going to be a huge step.

“But they’re so cute,” she said.

“Just try one bite. If you don’t like it you won’t have to eat another.”

On the night of October 20 th, 2005 another lamb lover was born.

Our fifth course was a pecan-praline bread pudding. She loved it.

After the meal was over, I asked which had been her favorite course. She said that she liked the amuse bouche best, followed by the tenderloin, the lamb, and the bread pudding. Squash soup and duck confit will have to wait for another meal. The final tally was four out of six. Not bad for foods that I didn’t eat until I was in my twenties.

I want my daughter to set her goals high. I want her to know exactly how a man is supposed to treat her. Investing this sort of time in our relationship now is going to help with all of the relationships that follow in her life. Especially when it comes to one of the most important steps she’ll ever make: choosing a man.

When my children are grown and gone and I am left to sit and remember, there is no doubt in my mind that one of my fondest memories will be of that first date with my daughter. It just might be one of hers, too.

Fathers, do yourself a favor; make a date with your daughter, tonight.

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