Monday, September 25, 2006

After-School Snacks

One day last year, while my wife was out of town, I picked my daughter up from school.

On our way home we stopped by one of my restaurants to deliver some paperwork. While there, my daughter and I sat down in the dining room, shared a plate of French fries, and talked about school, church, work, and the joys of being a third grader. It was a spur-of-the-moment occasion and a good opportunity for a meaningful visit.

Last week, my daughter asked if I would pick her up from school again. “But what about your mom,” I said. “She’s not out of town and she always picks you up.” My wife usually bakes cookies for the kids after school while they do their homework.

“Dad, I want you to pick me up so we can go eat French fries again like we did last year.”

Wow. The first thing that hit me was that she remembered that afternoon. The second was that it had been over a year since the two of us sat down in my restaurant and shared a plate of fries.

Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of time with my children, but that time is usually spent with my wife and son, too, all of us together. It was a treat to have my daughter make the request and was even more special that we spent the time in the dining room of my restaurant.

I picked her up that afternoon and we sat at a small table upstairs with a full view of the dining room. We ordered fires and soft drinks. It was three in the afternoon and the lunch traffic in the restaurant had long since cleared. While she dipped her fries in a ramekin of bleu cheese dressing we overheard a manager interviewing a potential employee at the next table.

I took the opportunity to explain the job-interview process and what a potential employer looks for when hiring someone. I told her about the benefits of a higher education and the importance of graduate degrees, and then we played a game in which we interviewed each other.

Although most of the mock interviews were spent joking and making up funny backgrounds and personal histories, she was able to think on her feet and deliver some extremely creative answers.

As a kid I ate a lot of oatmeal after school. I made bowls of instant oatmeal, baked oatmeal cookies, ate oatmeal cream pies, and drank a lot of Hawaiian Punch. My father died when I was six and my mom was usually in school or teaching school. My after school snacks were usually eaten in front of the television or running out of the door on my way out to play neighborhood football.

I don’t know what it was about oatmeal and after school, but it— along with the occasional Milky Way bar— was my after-school snack of choice. In those days, French fries would have been a special occasion food.

Eating fries after school with my daughter was significant because the conversation was fun and the company was exceptional, but it was made even more special because she initiated it. We laughed, and ate, and enjoyed each other’s companionship. She picked up a few pointers on applying for a job and begrudgingly learned the benefits of a Masters Degree.

It’s good for a father to share a plate of fries with a daughter— for no other reason than to slow down and catch up— and if you can throw in a few laughs and a couple of life’s lessons at the same time, it will serve as a memorable and magical moment.

Sweet Potato Brownies

If you don’t like sweet potatoes, don’t worry, you’ll love these. If you don’t like brownies, have no fear, you’ll love these. If you like sweet potatoes and brownies… get ready for an amazing treat!

1 /2 pound butter
2 cups sugar
1 1 /2 cups flour
1 tsp Salt
4 eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
2 cups potatoes, grated
1 cups pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350.

In an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients in order, stirring after each is added.

Pour into a buttered and floured 9x12 inch baking sheet.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting.

2 Tbl butter
1 /4 cup orange juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Melt butter and add remaining ingredients. Let cool. Glaze brownies after they have been cut.

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