I went to my ninth-grade prom for the food. Yes, I did. No surprise that I went stag, though it is a bit ironic considering I'm a girl.
Anyway, I got there expecting fancy fixings and was hugely disappointed with the trays of store-bought sandwich cookies, crackers and cheese. Pathetic. I was so discouraged by the offerings that when a boy actually asked me to dance, I replied grumpily, "Isn't that your girlfriend over there? Why don't you dance with her?"
My parents later asked how I enjoyed the dance. I responded with a tirade about the poor buffet. They laughed. So many times in my childhood they laughed...with me, of course; I was a merry child.
You see, as a teenager when I got only measly professions of so-so admiration while boys groveled at my sisters' feet, I was fine with it, because I was sure I would someday marry my perfect man. I wasn't thinking so much about good looks, adventure or stability. I was thinking about food and the avoidance of a certain kind of labor. For the perfect man for me, I was certain, was a French Chef named Gerald, or Gerard.
Why a French Chef named Gerald? Well...
Chef - because I needed to eat decently, something which I've always loved to do
French - well, aren't they the best? Why eat simply decent when you can eat extravagantly? Cheers!
Gerald - there's no good reason
As a child I was never at my mother's elbow learning how to cook. I was, however, at her elbow to ask when food would be ready, to snag a pinch of pastry dough, swipe some noodles, or to purloin a spoonful of pancake batter.
My sisters told me that I had the appetite of a horse, and I don't think they meant it as a compliment. It would have been practical, burdened with such a love of food, to want to learn the art of cooking. And I should have. My only excuse is that our kitchen was always so hot, and it seemed to be a place where by-standers were expected to work at preparing food or cleaning dishes.
I did eventually discover that I could make chocolate chip cookies - my one culinary skill. If push came to shove, I could subsist on cookies, canned Bean w/ Bacon soup and green beans, and bananas until I met Chef Gerald.
Then when I was twenty, I bungled the dream. I fell in love with a handsome business professional named Matthew, and he firmly believed in the adage Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime. So he prepared his mom's spaghetti for me one evening; then he gave me the recipe. We got married and lived happily ever after a few months later.
six days a week for that first year of marital bliss we dined on microwaved potatoes, Tuna Helper and frozen pizza. On the seventh day we ate spaghetti and chocolate chip cookies.
Now almost thirteen years on in our union, things aren't that bad in the sustenance department. We eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, raw fruits and vegetables. When we feel creative we steam them (not the fruit). I have learned I can work a bit of magic with most things that require batter. Life would be easy if supper could be whipped up every night and poured into a mold, or if it could be breakfast fare - pancakes, biscuits, waffles, eggs. I can happily make breakfast for dinner every day, but I have to exercise caution in my zeal. Every once in a while, I see the look in my Man's eyes, hear the panicked cry of, "Hold the breakfast! Please!"
It's just too bad that I was never at my mother's elbow, that I never learned to be a martyr of meal-planning. I preferred to be out running in nature, writing mysteries with a eye-patch-wearing-girl-detective, or even cleaning dishes to the tiresome business of putting two savory ingredients together. That's why this past Valentine's Day, the options for dinner were waffles, spaghetti or pizza. We ate pizza (for the memories, of course).
Yes, cooking should be a labor of love, and how I love my Man and my kids!
But every now and then - once or twice a day - I do wish I had a very altruistic cooking friend, Chef Gerald, in my life.