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Les Miserables and Beef Stroganoff

Table For Four

“Mom, tell me about Les Mis. I just feel like I’d really love that musical.”

First, I’ll delight in having a child interested in such things, and then I toss in a few extra points for the fact that he doesn’t call it “Less Miserable.”

(Anymore.  He doesn’t call it that anymore.)

As it turns out, among the things that are difficult for me, we can now add this to the list: discussing the complexities of the various plotlines of Les Miserables while preparing multiple recipes for dinner.

“Oh, buddy, it’s such a good story,” I say, leaning over my ipad, scanning the list of ingredients.  “There’s this guy…” I get out the measuring spoons, “his name is… Jean Valjean.  Or…” now the measuring cups… “Javier.”

Then to myself out loud, “Which one stole the bread?  Valjean.  He stole the loaf of bread because he needed to feed his family, and they put him in jail.”  Put butter and onion in Instantpot.

“In jail?? For bread?”

“I know, right?  Seems kind of extreme.  But then he got free somehow…”  pour gluten free noodles into the Instant Pot, and then, “Peter, could you open the red cooking wine?”

“Sure,” he says, twisting the cap free in that effortless way that men do, and then he adds quietly, “but he didn’t just ‘get free somehow,’ babe.”

“Right, he escaped,” I say, as I add two cups of broth – I mean, no, add the sirloin first, “and then he got to stay with a priest – do you know what a priest is?”

“Sure, like Pastor Phil,” my son says, and I say, “Mmm, close enough, sure, and then he leaves during the night…” I pause to fill the pot with water. and then, “there are some candlesticks.”

“Where?  You need candlesticks?”

“No, the guy stole some. But then the priest said it was okay because he gave them to him.  Step back, buddy.  This water’s super hot.”

“Mom, especially can you tell me about Cosette?  Tell me about the point of her character.”

Right.  That’s an easy one.

“Well, just a second, let me put the potatoes in… okay, after Jean Valjean ran for his freedom, he then worked really hard to be a good person and make a better future for himself. Can you hand me a wooden spoon? So he started a factory, and lots of people worked for him. The women who worked there decided they didn’t like this woman named Fantine… though I can’t remember why… step back, buddy, remember? This is super hot… and she was working there because she had to pay for her daughter – that’s Cosette – and she was living with a family who was really mean to her. Hold on – let me see if this needs one tablespoon or two – and then Fantine got sick, and Jean valjean wanted to take care of her daughter – please ask your brother to set the table – and so he bought her from this mean family, and he raised her and it’s – move over, buddy, i can’t reach… the… there, got it!  And anyway, it’s good. He takes care of her and it’s a story of grace and redemption. And please go wash your hands for dinner.”

I’d say that about covers it.

(Nailed it.)

Tricia Lott Williford

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