I’m making dinner tonight.
This may not seem like a great and noble feat to many of you, but then, you’ve probably never been subjected to my mad culinary skills (or lack thereof). Chris has to mold the minds of his grad students this evening, so it’s my turn to make dinner. Normally when it’s “my turn to make dinner,” that’s code for taking the kids out to eat. But I’ve decided to step up my game for a change. I even had enough foresight to ask Chris to pick up my supplies at the grocery store yesterday.
I’ve been spoiled by a man who can create a magnificent meal out of anything you put before him. Seriously, he’s like a Chopped ninja. If I handed him a rutabaga, some anchovy paste, a box of Red Hots candies, and an Asian swamp eel, he could prepare a feast fit for royalty.
(But rest assured, I will never hand him an Asian swamp eel.)
Of course, given the vast sea of culinary differences that exists between my hubby and myself, my kids have decided that ANYTHING I make is inedible and ridicule-worthy.
So, naturally, I just stopped cooking for them.
The truth is, though, that I can cook — a little. I just don’t necessarily cook what they like. I was raised on casseroles and pasta and Crock Pot meals and hamburger pie. Not altogether healthy, but hearty and comforting and relatively easy. Tonight, I’m attempting slow-cooker pork chops. My sister’s pork chop recipe can make you cry like a baby, it’s so good. My goal is to make mine edible.
“Just don’t dry them out completely, please,” George requested.
“And make sure they’re not soggy,” Mary Claire added.
“I’m working till 9:00 tonight,” Sam reminded me. “I’ll just grab McDonald’s on my way home.”
Gus didn’t speak. I’m certain he was busy saying a little prayer that I’d serve some bread, too — anything to fill his empty stomach if and when things went awry.
As I was prepping the meal this morning, Chris stood hovering in the kitchen.
“Go away,” I said to him. “Go to work. I can feel you judging already.”
“That’s not the best cutting board,” he said. “I’m afraid you’re going to hurt yourself.”
“Goodbye,” I said. “I’ll call you when I’m done cutting so you know all is well. Hopefully, the bleeding won’t keep me from being able to push the buttons on my phone.”
As he was walking out the door, he said, “Did I just hear the pepper grinder? Are you actually SEASONING things?”
“GO AWAY!” I yelled. “I LOVE YOU! DRIVE SAFELY!”
I don’t want my kids to grow up and move away and remember me as the mother who was incapable of preparing a home cooked meal for them. So, I’m trying… again… to get it right, to get something in the kitchen right. I’m pushing the strawberry cake and the meatloaf catastrophes far back into the recesses of my memory.
It bothers me sometimes that I’m not a good cook. But then I remember that I have other talents, and that I contribute to the household in different ways. But still… the cooking. Parents are supposed to be able to nourish and sustain their kids. (I was only good at it when I was breastfeeding, and then, I was a bovine-like goddess.) It makes me sad that my grown offspring will never come home because they want a special, signature meal for which I’ve become family-famous.
Here’s what they’ll come home for, though… laughter and support and words of encouragement and advice. They’ll come home to hear 80s love songs and to read all the sappy poems I wrote in 8th grade. They’ll come home because they need their term papers edited. They’ll come home because I’m the one who keeps the candy dishes filled. They’ll come home for a soft landing or a shoulder to cry on. These things, I can always provide.
And maybe — just maybe — after tonight, we’ll be able to add slow-cooker pork chops to the list.
And if not, at least I still have all my fingers.