How to Defuse a Family Meal Tantrum in Six Not So Easy Steps

Aimee calls me at work to see if I’d be home on time for a family meal. It’s a busy day for her and the kids: half days for 7 year old Violet and 4 year old Desmond. A playdate, followed by an art class that gets out at 5:30. Read: hell traffic in Los Angeles. Hungry kids. Dinner necessary immediately upon arrival. Her plan: make the smashed bean tacos from Bon Appetit’s Fast Easy Fresh column before the afternoon maelstrom.(Gastroparents: this is the column for you. Need I remind you, subscribe to the magazine here. Trust me. I work there. It will make your life happier, healthier, and more delicious)  Heat and eat with a red cabbage slaw. Perfect.


Not so perfect. I get home. The tacos and slaw are ready. They’re gorgeous. My campari and white wine cocktail is poured. It’s delicious (best cocktail i had all day since sampling a cocktail for the magazine at 9:34 am) The kids are in their PJs. Desmond’s throwing a tantrum that no cheesy taco can abate.
Desmond requests, nay demands, pasta. And more TV. And a strawberry popsicle (“Yes they are healthy!” he screams “They have strawberries in them!” he quasi logically argues at 173 decibles) He’s crashing from lack of food. Our patience is lacking from lack of peace and quiet. Violet logically states that Desmond is being unreasonable, at a dulcet 63 decibels. Desmond continues his demand for pasta. At our demand for politeness, he demands pasta, at 112 decibels. He finally relents, satisfied, for the millisecond, by Aimee’s offer (after repeated half-hearted statements that this is dinner, take it or leave it) to making him a quesadilla. He micromanages her last minute culinary contortions through a cavalcade of requests for hot, cold, melted, not melted, two tortillas, one tortilla quesadillas. Nothing’s working.
All four of us are at wit’s end. Desmond says he wants a square quesadilla. I remember my old set of Ateco cutters.IMG_3195
Desmond is stacking his dinner like it’s a brand new set of Legos (or like he’s a Alfred Portale at Gotham Bar and Grill in 1991)



Family fed. Tacos, and slaw, and quesadilla eaten. Family well fed, Desmond plays with his army men. He gives me one. The army man and I toast. Tantrum defused.IMG_3169

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4 Responses to How to Defuse a Family Meal Tantrum in Six Not So Easy Steps

  1. mamacita says:

    Oh, my brother. I feel your pain.

  2. I made this same recipe from Bon Appetit, and actually posted about in on my blog too… As Hugh writes, it is amazingly fast, substantially delicious while being light and vegetarian, and terrifically family friendly. Give your kids a potato masher and they will be quite happy to take out some 8-year old aggression while mashing the beans.

  3. Susan L says:

    Whew, I’m exhausted just reading that! Something to look forward with our 8 1/2 month old.

  4. Julie says:

    I will definitely try the recipe, sounds great! On a side note, glad to hear we’re not the only ones experiencing meltdowns at dinner time. Sounds like you came up with some very creative ways to handle it, making everyone happy in the end.

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