Blame it on the Tikka Masala

It was double digit negative something or other outside yesterday (even colder today), which means my fingers were too frozen to cook. When Jason called asking for a ride home – why he didn’t want to take the bus, I’ll never know – I suggested we have Indian food for dinner. He seemed amenable, especially since he had a tiny little tantrum over the amount of dishes that were dirtied on Thursday. There may have been a count of plates dirtied….and some accusations made that we must have used two or three plates a piece for all meals eaten.  

We picked up the professor after class and drove directly to Puspa Restaurant. We arrived at about 5.15pm, which basically makes us senior citizens – eating dinner before the sun goes down. But we have kids, and no energy and no desire to be out more than once on a freezing Friday night.

There’d been a bit of a tiff prior to our departure. I’d tried to drum up some excitement amongst my little troops for Indian food and my attempts were shot down, cold. ‘I don’t like Indian food,’ G replied. ‘I only like Chinese food.’ Apparently he decided a week ago at the Farmer’s Market – when I put a plate of butter chicken in front of him – that he did not care for Indian food. He has carried a torch for ‘Chinese food’ ever since his Muncie preschool class took a fieldtrip to the buffet at the vile Red Sun Restaurant. The buffet that featured hot dogs and pizza and probably macaroni and cheese.

I liked Chinese food in college. But it nearly always makes me feel sick, and I just can’t stop wondering if the ‘chicken’ is actually, chicken. And I’m not yet at the stage where I’m willing to serve or buy two different dinners to accommodate picky eaters. If Indian food is what’s for dinner – then that’s what we’re eating.

Luckily, by the time we got to the restaurant, the objections had been forgotten. Aided, perhaps by the restaurant’s red and white striped mints wrapped in celophane. ‘If you eat all your dinner, you can have one of those,’ I promised. Which worked. Seriously, those mints aren’t even good. Especially not the ones at Puspa.

The ordering process was an exercise in diplomacy. Jason was in the mood for lamb, but all of the dishes proclaimed a level of spice that I feared would exceed my oldest’s tolerance. So J got lamb madras…for one. I selected chicken tikka masala and tharka dal with some rice and naan for the remaining three. Sure to be un-spicy if the descriptions were to be believed.

The proprietor brought out a plate of those thin chip-like disks (pakoras?) with coriander or fennel seeds imbedded in them. G took a few bites and pronounced them too spicy, but the Hen ate his like a champ. Until a few minutes later, when he took the crushed bits and dumped them in his water. But he was being quiet, and not making an extraordinary mess, so we let it go.

Eventually, before the kids got too antsy, the food arrived. And all was well. The chicken wasn’t ‘too spicy’ and, though he wasn’t super excited about the lentils, the G-man obliged me and ate what was on his plate. After all, he had that spectacular mint to look forward to. The Hen ate, and ate, and ate some more. The double portion of rice I’d ordered was consumed mostly by him and his daddy. Ditto for the lentils.

We left the restaurant satisfied and within forty-five minutes of arriving. Double bonus.

As we reflected on the evening, after the kids were asleep, Jason remarked: ‘they did pretty well tonight.’ True, it was probably one of the more civilized restaurant meals we had shared as a family. Possibly because the Hen was firmly confined to a high chair. Possibly because big brother lay with his head on my lap like an obstinate kid in a church pew, until dinner arrived.

Other than the Hen figuring out he could dip his finger in his water glass, stick it in his mouth, and make a ‘pop’ sound….there were no major disasters.

But of course, the story couldn’t end there, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth telling.

Instead, Mr Hen woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning. With no intention of going back to sleep. Call it insomnia, or blame it on the chicken tikka masala, mixed with a few Cadbury mini-eggs.

I was not enthused.

I brought him to our bed, where he lay for a few minutes. Then he got off the bed and hightailed it to his brother’s room. In the dark. I heard him dumping toy cars from the bucket and rummaging around in the bookshelf. All while his brother snored like a sailor. He came back to our room…with a book in hand. I was not going to read the kid a book at 2am.

I rested my head on my pillow as I listened to him avail himself to the contents of the house, alone. Without big brother’s watchful eye, or far-reaching arms. But when I heard him climbing down the stairs, I knew I had to intervene.

I gave him a few sips of water and took him back to his crib; steeling myself against the inevitable protests.

But he didn’t make a sound.

Go figure.

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