One boy, the 14-year-old, asked, “Does quiche mean we aren’t having meat?” His younger brother, the 12-year-old, requested an exact definition of quiche. He accused me of making up the word to fancify our evening meal. The oldest brother, the 16-year-old, got hooked on the word that preceded quiche, spinach, and challenged me to defend my ingredients. Their father loudly quoted the ’80s-incarnated phrase, “Real men don’t eat quiche.”
The only real men I know who don’t eat quiche are the real men who plan and cook the meals themselves. My husband doesn’t want to be a real man if it means he has to do that. He’d rather eat quiche. Our two older sons are a lot like their dad. But our 12-year-old was determined to be a real man. He took up the torch for masculinity, firmly resolved to be a beacon of light for the XY combos subject to XX cooking. He was willing to sacrificially go hungry for the cause.
And he may have pulled off martyrdom, except for the gagging and choking and the general display of disgust which accompanied his dedication. While his older brothers suffered the assault on their manliness in silence, spreading quiche thinly across their plates, placing tiny bites as far back on their tongues as they could without triggering reflux, swallowing morsels with large gulps of milk, the young lad stood his ground staunchly.
His father refused to tolerate it. The child gravely insulted my culinary skills, which threatened the stability of routinely home-cooked meals enjoyed by his daddy.
I rose to defend my menu. “What is quiche?” I began, as if reciting a Shakespearian soliloquy. “Quiche is eggs, which you like. Quiche is cheese, which you like. Quiche is salt and pepper and spices …”
“Does it have to be spinach, too?” interrupted an insolent innocent, the 14-year-old who just wants meat.
“Not when you make it,” I hotly replied. He hushed, because he has learned from his father that real men don’t want to make their own dinner.
My beloved feared that he must come to the defense of my vittles before I slapped my cookbooks closed and passed the pots to him. Everyone, he decided, had to eat three bites of quiche.
The 14-year-old, true to form, quietly complied, or at least gave the illusion of compliance. The 16-year-old, who has spent his teen years making up for the years he survived on a diet of milk and air, gobbled up his serving and went back for seconds. In his opinion, if real men want to starve themselves, that leaves more for him. Our 10-year-old daughter, who not so long ago took up the cross for beleaguered Brussels sprouts and lost, gamely complimented the cook and ate her portion.
The 12-year-old, however, loudly hocked and heaved over his plate. In his defense, 12-year-old boys have never been noted for their wisdom. The battle to decide real manhood began. Back and forth my husband and the child wrestled, shouting, You must eat the quiche! – I can’t eat the quiche! broken here and there by garbled shwokkkt-hhgggggosht. It spiraled into the chaos of Because I Said So.
Charlotte, who knows far more about cooking than I, tells me real men can’t handle the quiche. So, I won’t be making it again. Next time, under the advice of Char, I’ll call it a frittata.
They’ll probably say they’d rather eat quiche.