FALL

Hail to the NFL

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hail to the NFL

Wings for all ages.

One day last year, nine-year-old E came up to me with a smile on his face.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I don't know," he answered, sounding mystified. "I was in the other room and I just started feeling happy, but I can't figure out why."

We went over a few possibilities - a visit from a friend, a particularly good dessert he'd had - but nothing rang a bell. Then I had a thought. He'd just been in the TV room, and fall was approaching -

"E, could this be about the Patriots?"

His smile grew wider in recognition and he nodded vigorously. We hugged, and I wondered: Was it good that we'd managed to create some of our son's warmest, most joyful childhood moments while watching men violently tackle each other onto a stone-hard field?

I remember growing up watching the Redskins with my father. He drank beer, I had my cup of grape juice, and we shared the peanuts. These are some of my fondest early memories, and I've tried to recreate them for our kids. Except for the part where Dad used to yell, "Get him! Kill him!"

So when the Pats are trying to stop the other team from getting a first down, I'll swallow my (obviously inherited) urge to scream "Hurt him." Instead, I'll pump my fist in the air (as gently as possible), or shout out something lame, like "Go! Go!!!" After all, BD and I want to keep our Sunday afternoons with the kids as educational - and nonviolent - as possible. So after we've cheered a particularly rough tackle, I'll make sure to say something preachy about how the players are real people with real feelings. E will nod the first time, then subsequently roll his eyes.

Four-year-old P, meanwhile, isn't having any of it, other than happily yelling "touchdown" when we tell her to. BD and I take turns having tea parties with her in the other room, but we're hoping this changes soon. The signs are pointing in the right direction - at least this season she knows Tom Brady - but when she asks if the Pats have gotten a home run, we realize there's still work to be done.

Often, of course, the game runs into dinnertime. When we first started watching as a family, I insisted that we serve healthy food, so E started equating the NFL with balanced meals when he was just a preschooler. In fact, one of E's favorite football night dinners is baked potatoes and artichokes. (Touchdown!)

But BD and I don't always want a baked potato and artichokes. Those are the times when we - well, he - bakes up a mess of chicken wings. We plate 'em up in the kitchen, then race into the TV room, not wanting to miss a minute of the action.

Not wanting to miss even one of E's beautiful, soul-warming grins.

Easiest Wings Ever

In our opinion, the key to great wings is almost over-salting them and almost over-cooking them. And for our kids, no sauces or blue cheese, thanks.

So:

12 wings (about 2  lbs)
2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Lay the wings on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the salt on both sides of the wings, 1 tsp. per side, then grind pepper on them to taste. (My kids don't like pepper, so if we want them all to ourselves, we know what to do.)

Bake for half an hour, then flip and bake for another half an hour. This ensures that both sides essentially fry in their own fat.

I fully understand that if you make these, you'll probably eat them while cheering on your own home team. That's good -- I'm trying to appeal to a national audience here, after all. But maybe you could dedicate just one wing to the Pats ....

updated 8 years ago

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