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River Town Chronicles: 91 ways to feed your lover

My wife, Tia, is a terrific cook. However, for nearly 35 years of marriage she’s asked, “What do you have a taste for for dinner?” or “I need dinner suggestions for this week.”

“Meatloaf,” I reply.

“Steak,” my son, Jay, suggests.

After which, Tia looks ready to order pizza or let us starve.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. Create a list of 365 dinner ideas and deliver it on her birthday!

After racing through favorites, I counted up how many I had – five: meatloaf, breakfast for dinner, chicken salad, turkey and cheeseburger meatloaf. I persevered. A week later, I’d added cheeseburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, tacos and roast beef. A wopping 354 to go.

I downsized; 91 meals (repeated four times a year) would do. A week later, I caved and took to the Internet. Food Network alone offered yummies like beef stroganoff and “Old Fashioned Meatloaf – AKA ‘Basic’ Meatloaf.”

Finally finished, ecstatic, I emailed the list to my daughter, Molly, who prepares meals with vegan marathoners in mind. It returned with every second or third suggestion replaced with plates such as “asparagus and prosciutto grilled cheese with soy.”

To rebalance the list, I sent it to Jay. He found “Duck Dynasty” goodies like “Fabulous Frog Legs.”

I couldn’t wait for Tia’s birthday. On Valentine’s Day, when opening it, she laughed, but at me or with me wasn’t clear. “Good thing I got it for Valentine’s Day,” she said. “If you’d given it to me for my birthday, I might have hit you with it.”

Although that didn’t make immediate sense to me, it resonated on a visceral level.

Next day, Tia said, “I have the list, but which dinner do you have a taste for tonight?”

Jay and I guffawed in disbelief. “Doesn’t matter!” he said.

“Everything’s equal,” I agreed. “Except for Molly’s choices.”

“Meatloaf,” Jay offered.

“It’s the default,” I confirmed.

Indeed, we had meatloaf. Only trouble is, now we have to wait 90 days till it comes around again.

• Rick Holinger lives in the Fox Valley where he’s taught high school since 1979. Contact him at

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