Word count 924, average reading time 3.7 minutes
There’s a lot to learn from what people say. And much of the time, it’s not what you might think.
Here’s an interesting example that took place in our house last Christmas.
Our two grown sons (my stepsons) and their families were visiting for the Holidays. My wife Vikki was going to make her famous Eggs Benedict for Christmas brunch. We all enjoy each other’s company, and our crowded noisy house was filled with laughter.
Unfortunately, while the kids were opening their presents Vikki started feeling really sick to her stomach. Soon she was in bed, down with a bug that she had caught from one of our grandchildren.
No way was she going to be able to face making breakfast for eight people.
“No problem”, the boys and I said, “we’ll do it ourselves.”
Their women applauded us.
So we divided up the work; eggs, muffins, Hollandaise sauce. None of us guys had done this before but – hey – we had the cookbook. And after all, how hard could it be?
One of the guys poached the eggs – like, 16 of ‘em.
“Don’t you want your mom’s poaching pan gadget?” I asked.
“Nope, I’ll just drop them in boiling water like on TV”, he said.
The other son was working on the muffins. He sliced them and put them under the broiler.
“Don’t you want to wait a bit until we get the sauce under control?” I asked.
“Naw, it’s gonna be easy. All we have to do is melt some butter and beat it in with the eggs and lemon and stuff.”
So I read the cookbook and figured out how much butter to melt for the sauce. It seemed like two pounds was a lot, but that’s how my calculations came out. So I took out eight sticks of butter and cut it into a pan for melting while our youngest son was putting the rest of the ingredients into the blender.
I started to get worried when the butter was going into the blender.
“This doesn’t look like sauce. It looks like melted butter.” I said.
“Well, maybe it’s supposed to thicken after we put it into the pitcher” one of the boys said.
Trouble was, it didn’t. We figured it out later. It turns out that, engineer though I am, I can’t figure out cooking measures. I had melted TWICE as much butter as the recipe needed.
And the eggs were a little firm, and the muffins were a little toasty. So basically, we had medium boiled eggs on overdone muffins, drenched in melted butter with a faint lemon taste.
But everyone was a good sport about it, and the coffee and the company were excellent.
Only the breakfast sucked.
Then at one point, my youngest son looked up at me and said, “Hey don’t sweat it, Tom. Even Mom messes this up sometimes.”
I smiled my thanks at his remark, and promised to do better when I roasted the turkey for dinner. And that’s a story for another time.
But let me get to the point about that breakfast.
A couple of days later, when the family had gone to their separate homes and things had settled down, I told my wife about our breakfast adventure during her sickness.
I told her how I had messed up the butter calculation and how dismal the meal had turned out. And I also wanted her to know how easy going and understanding everyone was, and how loving they were.
“And then Jared said to me, ‘don’t worry, Tom, even Mom messes this up sometimes.”
Vikki looked at me like I had called her a snake.
“What? I NEVER mess that up! That’s why the boys love it so much!”
She was really steaming and a little hurt, I think.
“No, wait a minute, Honey. You’re missing the point.” I said, “I think he had something completely different in mind. Take another look at what he said.”
She was willing to give me (and her son) a chance.
“Look”, I said. “I had just single-handedly destroyed a brunch that everyone was looking forward to and Jared was trying to comfort me. And in doing so he actually complimented you.”
“How on Earth did he do that?” she asked.
“Well, you know how the boys are always joking and calling you a Domestic Goddess, right? And they and their wives are always calling you for advice on recipes? So think about what he said.
“He said even Mom messes it up sometimes. He obviously knew you didn’t, and the way he was referring to you shows he was trying to say that if even you – the Domestic Goddess of our family — could mess it up, then it was understandable that I, a mere mortal and a man could mess it up.”
“Don’t you see? He was complimenting you and comforting me all at the same time. It was a totally loving thing to say.”
Her face softened and her eyes glistened.
“I love our family so much,” she said. “I’m going to make Eggs Benedict the next weekend one of the kids comes to visit.”
“Well,” I said, “you might give it a while. Let them forget my version first.”
But the important memory I carry from that failed Christmas breakfast was how generous my stepson had been with me, and how his Mom had almost misunderstood his intentions.
It’s hard to know what someone means by what they say, unless you “listen behind the words”.