ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By
Joseph Walker

CHICKEN . . . NO ALA KING

Shari loves cook books. She loves to read the recipes, and imagine how each delectable dish will taste. She loves to look at the pictures and imagine putting artistic creations like that before her husband, Sam. He would enjoy each mouth full. She knows that.

And her kids would turn up their noses without sampling a bite. She knows that, too.

"That’s just the way it is with my kids," Shari says. "If it’s got onions or peppers or mushrooms or any of the stuff that I like, they’re not interested."

Not that she hasn’t tried.  About 25 years ago Sam bought her a popular cook book, and she was thrilled with it. She spent hours reading and re-reading the recipes, and selecting the best ones to try out on her family. It didn’t take long for her to figure out that any dish featuring onions, peppers or mushrooms was going to get a thumbs-down from the peanut gallery.

"For years I tried to get them to eat some of these things," Shari said. "I would blend the onions and cut mushrooms to the smallest portions possible. Peppers were hard to camouflage because of their color. But no matter how hard I tried to hide them, the kids always found them – and that would be the end of that dish."

Take, for example, her favorite recipe from the cook book Sam had given her: Chicken ala King. It had all kinds of tasty things in it – including, of course, mushrooms, onions and green peppers. She followed the recipe precisely the first time she made it, and for her it was love at first bite. Such a wonderful mix of flavors and textures! But the children picked out the offensive little tidbits right away, and would have nothing to do with Chicken ala King.

Shari tried everything she could think of to save the recipe intact: coaxing, threatening, bribery, sabotage, trickery. No luck. One Sunday, the family hadn’t eaten in nearly 24 hours and everyone was hungry. It seemed like the perfect time to bring out the Chicken ala King.

"I’d rather starve!" said Robbie.

"That can be arranged!" said Sam.

Shari prepared the meal, but she and Sam were the only ones to eat.

"I just couldn’t enjoy it," Shari said. "My kids were hungry and I felt so selfish."

So Shari started tweaking the recipe. Out came the onions, mushrooms and peppers. In came . . . well . . . chicken. And rice.

"My Chicken ala King recipe pretty much became chicken and rice," Shari said. "No ala King. The kids liked it, but it always seemed a little...you know…bland to me."

Earlier this year, however, Sam’s work took them to the Middle East. Their children, now young adults, opted to stay in the United States. It should come as no surprise that one of the first meals Shari prepared in their new apartment in Abu Dhabi was Chicken ala King.

"I was so excited," Shari said. "For the first time in years I was going to be able to prepare this recipe the way it was meant to be prepared."

She went to the local markets to carefully select all of the ingredients. She found some incredible mushrooms, onions and peppers. She hurried home and meticulously followed the recipe. It looked even better than the picture in the recipe book as she placed it on the table before her adoring husband, and the smells... oh my goodness... to die for.

Sam took a bite. He chewed slowly and deliberately (Sam is an engineer – he does EVERYTHING slowly and deliberately). He smiled at Shari, who anxiously awaited his verdict.

"Well," he said, "maybe if you add some green olives . . ."

Sam ducked as the cook book whizzed past his head.

No wonder Shari likes cook books so much!

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— © Joseph Walker

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E-mail Joseph at: valuespeak@msn.com 

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