It was a dark and rainy morning when I got the call. The last thing I wanted to do was drive ninety miles, before breakfast, to pick up my college-age son, Nathan. Ben, who was twelve at the time, had two friends sleeping over. But Nathan needed my help … and I figured I’d be there and back before anyone woke up.
I arrived in Corvallis and was waiting for Nathan to finish his shift when my cell phone rang. It was Ben. He didn’t seem to care that I was gone.
“Hey Mom,” he announced. “There’s nothing to eat.”
I stifled a sigh. One of my tasks for the day was to go to the market. “Eat cereal,” I told him.
“Eeew,” he said. “There’s only the icky kind.”
That would be the health food, whole-grain kind with bran and almonds and granola chunks.
“Okay, then,” I said. “Make cinnamon toast.”
There was a long pause. “I can’t. The sugar’s all gone.” (Whose fault was that?)
I make a quick mental inventory of the pantry. “All right,” I said, “then you’ll have to make French toast.” French toast is always appealing because boys can douse the toast with syrup. Guests never turn it down. “We even have powdered sugar,” I added. I don’t know where they learned about adding powdered sugar, but they love it.
“But I can’t!” Ben wailed. “I don’t know how to make French toast!”
“Sure you do,” I said. “Get out the eggs and that pan I bake pies in.”
Step by step I coaxed him through the process of breaking eggs, measuring the milk, and preparing the frying pan. “There’s no butter, so you’ll have to pour a spoonful of vegetable oil — not olive oil! — into the pan. Turn the stove on medium.”
At this point Nathan showed up. After listening to my end of the conversation, he took the cell phone away. “Hey Ben,” he said. “Dude, make mac-and-cheese.”
I let out a screech. Packaged macaraoni-and-cheese for breakfast?
Nathan gave me a pitying look. “Look, Mom,” he said. “This is survival.”
“There’s no butter,” I pointed out. “Should he make mac-and-cheese without butter?”
“Eeew,” said Nathan. He gave the phone back to me.
Pretty soon we had Ben soaking the bread in the egg mixture. “Now you need to turn it over,” I said. “Then take it out and put it in the frying pan, but be careful because —”
“Eeew!” Ben wailed. “It fell apart.”
I sighed. “Yes, that’s why I told you to be careful. Use a spatula, and put it in the pan.”
“Oh.” There was a pause. “I’m just using my hands.”
There was another pause. “Eeew,” Ben said. “This stuff looks like SNOT.”
“That’s right,” I said. “Snot Toast. Breakfast of champions. And sleep-over guests.”
Then I had an idea. “Hey, get Andy and Tyler to help you cook.”
This idea was rejected immediately. “They can’t,” he said. “They’re watching Napoleon Dynamite.” There was another pause. “This egg stuff is really SICK, Mom. It looks like vomit.”
Oh, the joys of having a man in the kitchen!
“Look,” I said, “just deal with it. Now, you need to get another piece of bread ready. Soak it on both sides, then put it in the pan.”
“Again? You mean I have to cook more than one at a time?”
“You can probably fit three or four in that giant frying pan.”
There was a heavy sigh from the other end of the line.
“You can’t quit,” I told him. “You have to feed your guests. Turn the bread over when it looks done. Use the spatula.”
He seemed to have a handle on things, so I hung up. A while later I called Ben back. “How’s it going, honey?” I said. “Did you get everybody fed?”
“Yep,” he said. “They each ate one piece.”
Only one? ” Ben, they need to have more than that! Guys your age never eat just one! They’re hungry! Ask them if they want more.”
There was another long pause. “Awww, Mom,” he complained, “that’s too much work! I don’t want to make more!”
This time the long sigh was mine. How come that line never works when I try it?