Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Lazy Cook

I love a good meal, whether home-cooked or out-on-the-town. Give me a crab cake full of lump crab meat and a smooth glass of Chardonnay and I’m in gastro-heaven.

I grew up in a family with six kids, one grandmother and two parents. My mom put dinner on the table seven nights a week. She cheated only slightly by serving the occasional cold cuts or pancakes.   

Our meal cycle most likely replicated what was served in many homes during the 1960s. Sunday pot roast followed by Monday’s leftovers. Tuesday was fried steak with veggies on the side, Wednesday was baked chicken, Thursday, spaghetti in the pressure cooker and on Friday, being Roman Catholic, we went without meat so it was a holy smorgasbord – hard-boiled eggs, tuna, and  pizza made with canned biscuit dough, tomato sauce and imitation mozzarella cheese, sort of an Irish pizza. Afterward, my mom made a pot of tea in the winter months, (iced tea in summer.) Anyone who wished to remain at the table, did so. And we talked. 


We never ate out as a family. Can you imagine the nine of us, unsightly herd that we were, filing in through a diner’s front door, taking up all the space in the waiting area and beyond? Yeah, it was better we stayed at home. The one time we all went out together was to a local dairy bar, The Cowtail Bar, where fresh ice cream was served. I can’t even remember what I  had, the event itself so foreign to my sensibilities that the novelty of what we were doing occupies my entire memory chip. 


When I ran my own household and kitchen in my late twenties and thirties, I carried on the tradition  of mom’s rhythmic meal routine. I added a few twists that included Mexican pizza (using that same handy Pillsbury dough) and chicken and broccoli casserole. I’d come in from work each evening, kick off my shoes, head straight for the kitchen counter and set to work. Children require nutritious sustenance in order to thrive. Sometimes I didn’t sit down with them, which imitated my mother’s sister, Marie. She made dinner for everyone and then hovered or perched nearby in case anyone required assistance.  Mostly we did sit, and we ate, and we talked. It was a time for connection even if the meal was occasionally take-out. The food didn’t matter as much as the fact we were together. 

 Vintage Pillsbury Pizza

Now, it’s just my husband and me. He’s retired, and often prepares dinner. I cook rarely though last week I made Chicken Elizabeth. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? When I don’t feel like cooking, my line is “I put dinner on the table for over 20 years, I did my time.” Does that sound mean? That’s not my intention. My mother has said the same thing, and she’s the nicest lady I know.

 Mommy has earned her "No Cooking" status

But my husband and I like our food, and we always have dinner. Sometimes we stay in, sometimes we go out. Some evenings, we each fix our own separate meal.  We love the local pub, we make due with the small diner on the other side of town, and we enjoy the chic Black Sheep Bistro, our favorite place to celebrate or meet friends. Sometimes, when I’m feeling really lazy, I pour myself a glass of wine,  eat some crackers, stuff a handful of mesclun in my face and call it a meal. 

 Husband helping with Pasta Brunetta (spelling)

Last night, as my husband began to pull leftovers out of the refrigerator, I intervened by making him, Sicilian that he is, an offer he couldn’t refuse - let's go out. I told him I’d pay.  When we arrived at the restaurant, the hostess seated us, and there we were, face to face. Hello. And we each began talking about our days -- about what news and art currently consumed our thoughts. Sustenance, not just for the body, but for our relationship. And for the soul.