It’s near dinnertime. Cait comes running in through the door from an after-school activity and, as all kids do, drops her book-bag on the floor and makes a bee-line for the refrigerator. She swings the door open, stands there, and peers in for several minutes.

I tell her, “You’ve seen everything in there long enough to have it memorized. Close the door and stop letting all the cold air out.” I add, “When you figure out what you want, then open the door again.” (I can’t help it; I was raised thinking that waste of any kind, including electricity, was a sin.)

As Cait closes the refrigerator door, I notice big fat tears rolling down her cheeks. Assuming something terrible has happened somewhere during her day, I ask, “What’s the matter? What happened?”

“Nothing happened, Mom,” she mutters dejectedly and walks away.

I’m thinking to myself, big fat tears are not nothing. I follow after her and ask again, “Why are you crying then?”

When she realizes I’m not going to let this drop, she turns.

As I wait for her to speak, I’m imagining that she’s had a falling out with a friend, or has gotten into trouble with her teacher, or… who knows what! Anything except what comes out of her mouth next.

She says, “There’s nothing good in the refrigerator!”

And then more tears. My daughter is crying, not because some child did something hateful to her, or because some teacher treated her harshly–but because she isn’t happy with the food selection in the refrigerator!

Then she adds, “You haven’t cooked us a good dinner all week, either.”

Ah, we’re getting closer to the heart of the matter. My daughter cares about food. She’s become accustomed to fine dining at our house, and is letting me know the standards have dropped.

You see, I’d gotten into the habit of whipping up some pretty fancy dinners as a matter of course when her two brothers (my stepsons) were around. It was a way to ensure we’d get to frequently see them; their stomachs were definitely the way to their hearts. They’ve both grown up and started lives of their own now. And, recently, I’ve been swamped with projects. So I just haven’t been inclined to cook as much.

Between the good food at home, and the occasional dining out (we’ve taken Cait with us to an eclectic assortment of restaurants since she was a baby), Cait has developed a pretty sophisticated palate, and rather high expectations for the evening fare.

“Okay,” I say, “grab your coat and let’s go out to eat; I’ll call Dad on the way. I don’t feel like cooking tonight anyway.” As I close the door behind us, I mutter to myself, “I’ve created a monster.”

Cait overhearing me and not missing a beat, says, “Or a future New York Times food critic.”