When you are billeting (they live with you) a house full of junior hockey players (3 of them are 18 and one of them is 19), you get the opportunity to eat with them on a regular basis. With their practices often being in the afternoon with minimal food consumed prior to practice, the call to “eat dinner together” has varying levels of enthusiasm. Depending on how long ago they ate their post-practice Chik-Fil-A or Chipotle, they may not be hunger. And, if they are hungry, there is the distinct possibility the meal won’t tickle all of their taste buds.
Over the past 4ish months they have been living with us, we have found a couple of meals that will reliably pull them away from their video games and voluntarily bring them downstairs to eat with us.
- Pizza: I cannot lie. We make a pretty good pizza. My role is “dough maker” and sausage and bacon fryer. If we have the full crew on that night, we make at least one each of the following: pepperoni, sausage, and barbecue chicken.
- Sliders: We will make 36-48 of these. Aldi’s has the best price on the bread, and the boys love them for warmups. Since “second dinner” is usually consumed by at least half of the boys, this is a big deal.
The rest of the things we make for them have less than full enthusiasm.
- One of them doesn’t like gravy.
- One of them didn’t think he liked meatloaf, but he is possibly the best eater now.
- Only one of them likes roasted sweet potato cubes with rosemary. This is one of our favorites. It is unfortunate.
- One of them (quite possibly one of those already referred to above) doesn’t like tomatoes in any form.
- A random thing–one of them likes lots of whipped cream on his pancakes and some baked items.
- They will all put roasted broccoli on their plate, and sometimes they will eat it.
- After the boys were gone one night and found out there was Chinese in the refrigerator, two of the boys came down to claim it as their second dinner that night.
- The visit to “flavor town” left the curry and gumbo out in the cold. The fried rice entered the semi-regular meal rotation.
With these facts in mind, I felt compelled to try something new with them. Unfortunately, the available protein was pointing me toward Jambalaya. How did I handle this? I made the jambalaya as an “optional” lunch item. My gut told me one of the boys would very likely enjoy it. Two of them might think it is okay. One of them would definitely find the tomatoes and the spice beyond his range. (It would be a street he would never visit in Flavor town.) This compromise – a meal for all but only if they wanted to try it without having it as their only dinner option- allowed everyone to participate as they chose.
In the end, I did get my jambalaya. The one who enjoyed it added hot sauce because he could. The other Chinese lover thought it was good. And, the other two didn’t even try any–no matter how hard we nudged them. It made plenty and and the “second dinner” stores were replenished for a couple of days. If I can find another rice-centric recipe, I am going to try it!