I come from a short line of bad cooks. My mother always said that anyone who could read could cook, but she and I proved her wrong. At Mama’s funeral, my brother brought us all to tears when he said, “There wasn't a can our mother wouldn’t open to make sure we were fed.” Because I am a more modern cook, my preferred mode of culinary conveyance is the microwave. I not only nuke normal items like potatoes and frozen foods, I also microwave meatloaf and barbecued chicken, dishes known for their slow cooking in order to develop flavor. I tend to believe fast cooking just develops it faster.
When I was married, The Big Kat said that whatever fell out of the freezer when I opened it was what we had for supper on any given day. That wasn’t true, but about once a month we would have what I liked to call our Missionary Meal, which was made up of all the tiny bits of leftovers from former tasty meals I’d packed away in the freezer. There would be a spoonful of this and a spoonful of that on each of our plates, all suffering from some degree of freezer burn. I think that was about the time Melissa started eating soup from a can, literally from the can without benefit of bowl or stove-top or even microwave. Billy still swears he starts swelling up when he just gets a gander at my French fries because of the amount of salt I put on them. I am one of those cooks who thinks if a little bit of something is good, a lot of it will be that much better, especially when that something is salt.
Then there was my powdered milk phase. When Melissa and Billy were little, instead of buying milk and just having to throw it out when it went bad, I discovered the wonderfulness of powdered milk. It was especially great for cereal. My technique was this: pour the cereal in a bowl, pour on some still-granulated powdered milk, walk over to the sink to add a little water from the faucet, stir, and, finally, holler "breakfast is ready!" It was perfect for kids who knew no better until their Aunt Dianne invited them for a sleepover and ruined everything with her refrigerated real milk the next morning.
I’ve passed the bad cooking gene down to all three of my kids. Billy has as his signature dish something known as Flaming Fart Dip, and Melissa has been relegated to dish-washing duty in her family. The other day, I was talking on the phone to Molly and there was a strange noise in the background. When I asked her if she was peeling carrots, she said she wasn’t because she didn’t know how to peel anything. The noise was, instead, associated with tearing the plastic wrap off of something before putting it in the microwave, which, I surmise, is a form of peeling, thereby proving Molly wrong as she can, indeed, peel something.
Not too long ago, my friend Allison invited Molly and me over for dinner. She said it wouldn't be any trouble, she's just do up a London Broil. When I told Molly about it she was really excited, but, because she is my child, she wasn't quite sure what a London Broil was. When she got home, she called Billy in Oregon, asking him what he thought it was. His response: "I'm not absolutely sure, but I'm pretty confident it's some kind of fish."
Although not a good cook, I am an organized planner. When the kids were growing up, they could always expect fish sticks on Friday even though we were Methodist and not Catholic. Monday was tacos; Tuesday, spaghetti; Wednesday, Tuna Helper; and Thursday, dogs in a blanket. Since I didn't want to have the DFACS people stopping by and interfering in my life, there were usually some vegetables thrown in each evening, mostly broccoli.
Now that I live alone and because I love alliteration, most every week I have Salmon Sunday, Meatloaf Monday and Tuna Tuesday. After that, it falls apart since I can’t cook anything that begins with W or Th and because Allison and I do our early bird dinner on Fridays. Saturdays are sometimes saved for my current specialty, which I first called Mexican Goulash because of its cilantro and noodles. Then when I realized that I might not have offended enough ethnic or food groups with that name and when I remembered my special secret seasoning (Tony Chachere's) and the fact that I sort of stir fry it, I changed it to Mexican Cajun Asian Goulash. So far, no one has accepted my invitations to stop by for a taste.
As sad as this story has been so far, there is a happy ending. When I'm in Portland, I eat like the queen I was meant to eat like. That's because of Melissa. Whereas some people marry into money, Melissa married into culinary expertise in the form of Trevor Stelson. Melissa's husband, Trevor, is a fantastic cook who creates dishes out of his brain and out of his garden, things I don't even know what they are, but they sure are good. If it weren't for Trevor, we'd all be skinny or dead or most likely both.
However, although Trevor is a great cook, he's not a perfect husband. One afternoon a couple of summers ago, Melissa and I were at her house with Miles, who was still a baby. Trevor, however, wasn't at home. He was out drinking beer. Melissa was talking about how it's usually the women who end up keeping the kids while the men are out carousing. I concurred, saying how women have to do it all, how we are overworked and under-appreciated. At that point, I looked at Melissa and asked, "What are we having for supper?" to which she responded, "I don't know. We'll have to wait until Trevor gets home."
So it looks like we'll have to keep Trevor, despite his need to play and/or watch every sporting event known to humankind and don't forget that beer thing. I just wonder if I could get him to spend his winters in Atlanta. I wonder if he would like my Mexican Cajun Asian Goulash.
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