I’ve made weekly menus for years because it hasn’t always been easy to drop into the grocery store for an item or two at the last minute with three kids in tow, especially when Isaac had an obsession with automatic doors. It was difficult to take the kids shopping. Period. Years ago I couldn't wander around aimlessly in the grocery store, hoping the experience would inspire me to cook our next meal. For years we strictly adhered to a gluten-free-casein-free diet. It’s difficult to “wing it” when dietary restrictions are involved.
So we plan. We do our weekly grocery shopping every Saturday. Every. Saturday.
I print a master grocery list each week. If I don’t, Isaac does. It’s a list of the 100 items or so that we most often buy at the store, arranged by aisle. Bananas, eggs, chicken breasts, peanut butter, frozen spinach, coffee. I circle what we need. If I need applesauce, I know I can find it in aisle two, regular bread in aisle four. It might sound downright crazy. And maybe it is, but years ago if I were shopping with Isaac and I forgot something a few aisles back, I was shit out of luck. He wouldn’t backtrack. It wasn’t possible.
Organic grilled turkey burgers were listed on last Thursday's menu. When the menu was created, it seemed like a good idea, considering the weather forecast and our obligations.
Isaac is quite fond of turkey burgers and the burger-grilling ritual. He smiles while moving the grill from inside the garage to the patio space behind our house. He refuses to get a plate for my husband Chris when the burgers are done cooking. He laughs hysterically and points at Chris and says, “Daddy!” (That means, “Ha! Dad, do it yourself.”) He loves putting the grill back in the garage after we're done eating.
The weather forecast changed. A cold front moved in. By Thursday evening, the temperatures were too frigid to grill outside on a cold winter night in Iowa. We still have snow on the ground. Usually that doesn’t stop us, but Thursday it was too cold.
“Dad won’t grill tonight,” I said to Isaac. The thought of changing the menu put Isaac into a tailspin. He wouldn't allow the burgers to be pan fried. The only option if we wanted to have a meal at home was to have Friday’s pizza on a Thursday. Horrors! Anxious Isaac screamed and cried and carried on when I suggested it.
He had been looking forward to the burgers all week. He had even worn his bright orange “It’s Burger Time!” t-shirt for the occasion.
After a bit of discussion, we decided on Plan B. We went to Wendy’s.
We hadn’t eaten there in a long, long time. We waited so long for our food that I could have sworn I saw my fingernails growing. While we stood in the dining area, Isaac picked up trash and opened doors for customers. He carried empty trays to the front counter. He was in his element. He went into the bathroom a time or two to wash his hands after I prompted him to do so. (No, it wasn’t a prompt, I guess. I said, “If you’ve been picking up garbage and opening doors, you can’t eat your food until you wash your hands. Your hands are full of germs!”)
When our food was ready, nobody was happier than Isaac. He carried the brown plastic tray of sandwiches and fries to our table. He sat down, smiled, and took a sip of water. It was Thursday night, and it was Burger Time.