It’s 6 PM on a Wednesday. Everyone is tired and hungry and tempers are running hotter than a goat’s butt in a pepper patch. And yet here we are again at the seventh circle of weekday dinner time trying to decide which cheese-bread-butter combo will soothe the tiny beast currently tearing this family to pieces. And so I ask myself: Grilled cheese or quesadilla?
I can hear you wondering, “Why not just ask the child what she wants for dinner?” or, “Why does it matter, those foods are nutritionally identical?” These are fair questions posed by amateurs. Let’s be clear about this, there is no rational method for feeding small children, nothing sensible about this transaction between reluctant personal chef and tyrannical patron. Would you yourself ever visit a restaurant, stomp your feet, and demand a steak only to turn it away when it arrived by stomping your feet once more and demanding chicken? Of course not, friend. You are not a monster.
Let’s begin, shall we?
- When you ask the child if they prefer grilled cheese or quesadilla tonight, how do they respond?
- They say either grilled cheese or quesadilla: Go to 2
- Something other than grilled cheese or quesadilla, even though you know that’s all they will actually eat: Go to 5
- Is this the same thing they asked for last night?
- Yes: Go to 3
- No: Go to 5
- Did you break down and begin sobbing uncontrollably while grating the cheese?
- Yes: Go to 4
- No: Go to 5
- Do you have any fish sticks in the freezer? And the ability to make a therapist appointment?
- Yes! I forgot about fish sticks! I’ll also call my therapist tomorrow.
- No, I am an infinity pool of sadness and monotony and I don’t know what to do: Go to 5
- What kind of cheese do you have in the refrigerator?
- Cheddar, American, or any other bland semi-soft cheese: Go to 7
- OH MY GOD WE ONLY HAVE PARMESAN AND A RIND OF QUESO ZAMORANO LEFT OVER FROM A DINNER PARTY: Go to 6
- How could you let this happen?
- I’m hyperventilating: You really blew it here, but try making a grilled cheese with just a thin layer of the Parmesan and double the butter on the outside. It’s a MacGyver Hail Mary, but dammit it’s all we’ve got.
- Has your child been eating the crust on sandwiches lately?
- No, they are a daily reminder of the tragedy that is first-world food waste: Go to 8
- Inexplicably, yes: Go to 9
- Are you in the mood to eat half a leftover quesadilla that looks as if it’s been mauled by a family of raccoons?
- Yes, I’m starving and my remaining thread of dignity was severed yesterday when I pushed that NASCAR-themed shopping cart around the grocery store: Great, make a quesadilla!
- No, thanks: Go to 9
- How many seeds/grains does your bread contain?
- Five or more: Go to 10
- Fewer than five: Great, make a grilled cheese!
- The last time you made a grilled cheese sandwich with this bread, did your child complain that it was “hurty” or that the bread had too many “spots” or “bugs” in it?
- Sigh, yes: Better make a quesadilla
- No, but they did complain that it was “too hot” and “not a quesadilla”: Go to 11
- Do you have the ability to mix a stiff drink for yourself while you prepare a grilled cheese?
- Whiskey River, take my mind: Grilled cheese and godspeed
- I would, but my child has been commenting lately that my breath “smells like medicine”: You should have ordered a pizza an hour ago.
Illustration by Sarah Webb