Tired parents left to scrape together dinner at ‘The Fourth Line’


Over time, parents begin to look at life differently.

By time, I mean a week. And by life, I mean dinner. The beginning of a week — Sunday — is made for big family dinners such as pot roast with potatoes, a green vegetable and a starch; homemade banana pudding or cake for dessert. Perhaps spaghetti with meatballs, garlic bread and salad is more to your liking, with homemade banana pudding or cake.

But by the time we get to the end of the week, what’s for dinner? Grilled cheese with store-brand macaroni and cheese. Or, maybe it’s just the macaroni and cheese.

This is an actual quote I heard at the end of last week: “We fed the kids one big meal today; are we really obligated to make them another one?”

That question was voiced by the mother of my children. I didn’t judge, though. If you judge, you cook, and it was Saturday, so I was off duty.

We make a weekly menu around here, which begins impressively enough with actual meals. Leftovers come around on Thursday, and there’s generally a question mark next to Friday. Saturday is questionable indeed.

Chef Kelly English, restaurateur extraordinaire in Memphis, is famous for Restaurant Iris and, more recently, The Second Line. By the time we have “clean out the refrigerator night,” what is laid out on my kitchen counter has been reheated so many times, it might be called The Fourth Line. I’ve warmed up some iffy-colored food found in long-forgotten Tupperware. I’ve mixed ingredients that were never meant to be in the same room together, much less the same microwave oven. It’s all served up as small plates and on paper plates.

Much of the problem is that we’re tired of making the same meals week after week. And by the end of the week, we’re just plain tired. Our time is already limited during the evenings with the kids’ homework and bath times and everything else that comes with four school-age children. It becomes easy — too easy — to let meals go.

Part of it, too, is trying to come up with food they’ll all willingly eat. One kid will try anything, another eats most things, one has a few things he’ll eat, and one mostly refuses all food. It’s like the FDA’s most obnoxious food pyramid.

But then there are some foods I don’t believe they’ve ever tried. While at Kroger the other day, it struck me that my children have probably never tasted bologna, never mind eating it every single day for school lunches like I did.

Have they eaten tuna casserole? Chicken á la king? Perhaps Montesi’s, where my mother shopped when I was a boy, carried only those ingredients. Probably not. Probably, like my wife and me, she was just tired. Tired of thinking about food and what her thankless children might eat. Tired of being asked what’s for dinner and then hearing the answer critiqued.

Maybe tonight we’ll just have bologna and whatever that is in the Tupperware. It’s late, and The Fourth Line is open.

Link to The Commercial Appeal