I have a wonderful husband and four growing boys, all of them burger crazy. Every July 4, we go to my brother’s house in Hauppauge, Long Island, for a family reunion and barbeque. It’s been a family tradition for more than 20 years. Throughout, my brother has been in charge of the grilling and burger prep. It’s something he takes great pride in and looks forward to all year.
My brother is a good man—a good father, husband, and uncle—and he does grill a good beef patty. But here’s the problem: He has a reckless disregard for proper build order. He’s been known to do things like place ketchup directly on the burger, then the veggies, then mustard directly on the bun. One year he even placed a slice of cheese between the lettuce and tomato (!). Granted he had been drinking, but still, it was extremely awkward.
I do not want to hurt my brother, but I also don’t want my kids exposed to this type of behavior. What should I do?
–Perplexed in Paramus
It’s a slippery slope, Perplexed. First it’s improper build order, then it’s burgers on English muffins, then, before you know it, you’re in the gutter eating veggie patties.
Your first responsibility is to your children. It won’t be fun, but for the sake of your boys’ emotional well-being you’ve got to make it clear to your brother that this level of conduct will not be tolerated, and if he expects to remain welcome at family gatherings, he’d better take a long, hard look at the human being he’s become.
Try giving your brother a taste of his own crazy-order medicine: Invite him over for dinner. Serve him bone-dry pasta on top of rectangular meatballs. Maybe sprinkle some parmesan cheese—but on his head. Ask, “How do you like it?” That should teach him.
Cheese between the lettuce and tomato? That’s not OK.
Scott Blumenthal, PhB