Growing up, my older brother and I were taught to eat everything that was put in front of us. Of course, I’m a slow eater and could often break my mother into letting me be excused approximately 2 hours after everyone else had finished and left the table. This was back in the day before microwaves were commonplace. Liver and green beans are disgusting. Cold liver and green beans are disgusting especially, which is why I usually sacrificed 2 hours of free time I would have otherwise had after dinner to mentally argue with my mother by refusing to eat my dinner, on my own terms.
Enter into the world my younger brother, born when I was 8 years old and to very exhausted parents who decided to feed him whatever he would agree to eat at this point, which mostly consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches cut into triangles, grilled cheese sandwiches cut into rectangles, and grilled cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off and…well, you get the picture. Basically, he was never made to suffer like I had been made to suffer, although at some point before he turned 10 years old, our mother told him “…and fine, if you don’t like what I’ve made for you then you can make YOUR OWN grilled cheese sandwich!” which he learned how to do and happily devoured at dinnertime every night until he turned…oh, I dunno…23 years old? Something like that.
But this is why it’s fun when you finally have your own children and all those arguments you might have lost to your own mother can now be displaced upon your kids.
Technically, at my age and due to the fact that I am, in fact, a mother, I should be able to comfortably navigate my way around a kitchen. But because my own mother is very particular about how she likes her food prepared, she is uneasy about giving up control of the meals.
ENTER UNEMPLOYED ME…who stays home all day and really needs to learn how to cook.
My mother and I agreed that I would, for a change, be in charge of family meals until I became gainfully employed once again. I was hesitant at first because people in my family who are not me really love to eat meat. Meat is such a nightmare to me. If it’s overcooked, it’s tough and chewy. If it’s undercooked, you could possibly end up in the hospital with a bacterial infection caused by Mad Cow/Angry Bird Flu or whatever else is lurking about out there on those unregulated meat farms and ended up being ingested by the very animal you are trying to turn into an edible thing.
And when hot pans and heated oil are involved, it’s duck-and-cover when I’m around. I once mistakenly assumed the crab cakes I was about to make were thoroughly thawed. Imagine an orchestral symphony of pops and explosions when that ball of totally unthawed ice from the center of the crab cake combined with the heat of the oil and I ran screaming out of the kitchen, halfway hoping a huge flame would erupt and swallow my stovetop into a huge, fiery pit just so I wouldn’t have to go back in there.
It was the fatal blow to my ego, at least the ego that dealt with all matters of domesticity. I decided then that I’d stick with washing dishes. That is until I lost my job and my hourly availability left me open to make dinner for my family once again.
So back to the agreement between Mom and me that I would cook dinner for the family and learn a few things along the way. Things like:
- My mother didn’t like that I chose to rinse the lettuce after I cut it.
- She also didn’t like that I followed the instructions that were on the packet of taco seasoning instead of the instructions that were inside her brain.
- She really didn’t like that it was 100 degrees outside and our A/C wasn’t turned on so I had to heat up the taco shells in the microwave and that just made them chewy (I didn’t like this part either but it’s really to just prove my point – the woman can’t let go!).
That was only on Monday. Night 1. NIGHT ONE, people!
The rest of the week went as follows:
Tuesday: I baked stuff in the oven that was pre-packaged and straight from the freezer. Then I successfully made instant mashed potatoes and argued with my father about what kind of vegetables to serve. I’ve already lost control of dinner.
Wednesday: Fish just appeared from the oven. I didn’t do it. But I agreed to wash the dishes.
Thursday: It was Science Night at Elle’s school and we (the 4-H students and volunteer parents) were hosting a Spaghetti Dinner and Raffle for $5. Since Matt was generous enough to purchase some raffle tickets to help Elle’s fundraiser portion before he left to go back to Oklahoma City, the whole family went to the school to eat spaghetti. I didn’t cook. I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO WASH THE DISHES!
Tonight: Dad’s sick in bed and my mother has run off to the grocery store for hours upon hours upon hours…I must feed myself and my kid and I’m okay with this except I know she won’t eat what I put in front of her. Kids these days. They’re spoiled and I can say this with certainty because if my mother had been home, she woud have made my child a fresh box of macaroni and cheese because “Dena, she’s gotta eat something other than peanut butter & jelly sandwiches!”
Really? Because I thought I was giving her peanut butter & jelly sandwiches because “Mom, she’s gotta eat something other than macaroni and cheese! ”
An endless cycle.
Oh, did I not mention that my dog also shares in the nightly enjoyment of a fresh box of macaroni and cheese?
Yes. Yes, he does! I’m not kidding. And when I argue about the kid eating macaroni and cheese too often, my mother responds with “Well, I already made some for Jack (the dog) so Elle can just have some of his.”
Don’t worry, we do feed them from separate bowls.
Tonight ended with me boiling bowtie noodles and slopping tomato and basil sauce on them for flavor but not before serving Elle a bowl of plain pasta topped only with butter. The dog was fed his beloved macaroni and cheese and I helped myself to two bowls of my super easy albeit non-creative dish. Soon after, Elle spilled an entire cup of Vanilla Coke on the carpet and stared at the mess in complete disbelief while it soaked in and left stains.