While I love to cook and eat an exotic French meal, I often opt for a salad for dinner. The raw vegetables are good for my gut. But mine is no ordinary salad. Dad says my salads are the most gorgeous salads ever made. Of course, I use the standard lettuce, celery, cucumber, carrot, and tomato. Then I add diced apples, raisins, roasted mixed nuts, avocado, slices of hard-boiled egg, and ground flax. (I leave out bell peppers and onions.) Toss it all with salt, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, and I have a wonderful (and large) bowl of salad for dinner. I always make extra, offering some to Mom and Dad. I even prefer this tasty salad over a good burger and fries. It is so full of wonderful complementary colors, flavors, and textures. I can eat as much of it as I want. And after eating, I don’t feel like I have swallowed a hamburger bowling ball.
(Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay)
Dad’s daily lunch fare is—gasp—onion sandwich. (I do not like raw onions in any form or food.) He insists on the large Wala Wala or Vidalia mild sweet onions. With the onion cut in two, an inserted fork keeps one half in place while he cuts a large sandwich slice, which goes on multi-grain bread with a slathering of mayonnaise and spicy mustard, a slice of tomato, a square of Swiss cheese, and leaves of lettuce, with potato chips on the side and a cold Diet Coke for refreshment. Dad keeps telling me how delicious his onion sandwiches are, and I keep telling him I will try one someday. I don’t know that I will.
In the grocery store, Mom followed her prepared shopping list—penciled on a yellow legal pad—items grouped by type and store location, and if it’s not on the list she doesn’t need it, because if she needed it, it would be on the list. Dad, listless, followed the whims of his heart and his hunger: Jarlsberg, Swiss, and Gouda, cauliflower and broccoli, fresh salmon and parmesan chicken, frozen pizzas, bags of roasted nuts. Any why not be whimsical with foods that look beautiful and sound delicious and that one is sure to relish? Why not enjoy both the shopping and the eating experiences? Neither approach is inherently correct, of course; both are equally acceptable, and complementary. Mom and Dad each pushed a sanitized dual-purpose shopping cart, for filling with food, and for leaning upon. While Dad meandered among the fresh produce and artisan cheese, Mom and I walked to the dairy cooler via the cold cereal aisle. A pretty middle-aged woman walking by surprised me with a generous smile. Her sleeveless summer dress exposed significant portions of her enhanced bosom. She passed us twice more, and each time that smile. After the third pass, Mom hissed at me, scandalized, “That woman is flirting with you. It’s so obvious! And her boobs are practically falling out of her dress!” Mom’s observations filled me with a sudden and unexpected panic, and I was in junior high again, awkward, anxious, and utterly unable to flirt. She’s flirting with me? I thought, stupefied. Why? I could not understand it. And I could not respond. Even had I been interested, my flashback to adolescent anxiety left me perspiring and paralyzed. Which is just as well—now is not the time or the season. The parking lot sloped away from the grocery store, and Mom and Dad pulled back on the reins, as it were, to keep the colts from bolting. I drove silently home, disturbed at the stirring sensations I have worked so hard to suppress. I focused on seeing how many shopping bags I could carry into the house in one trip, and helped my providentially protective mother put the groceries away in their various nooks and crannies on the pantry.
One of my purposes is to make mealtime easy, healthy, and pleasant for Mom and Dad, by cooking dinner for them. For two years I have enjoyed cooking for them occasionally on a weekend. Now it can be every day, if wanted. It brings me pleasure to bring them pleasure. I have always wanted to learn to speak French and cook French. I study French lessons on Duo Lingo once or twice a week—I may become competent in ten years so. And after watching Julie & Julia in 2020, I bought the 50th anniversary edition of Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This week we enjoyed (1) quiche in a buttery shell with green onions, mushrooms, spinach, and ham, (2) salmon soufflé, (3) crêpes with Splenda-sweetened fresh fruit and almond whipping cream (for my son Caleb’s 22nd birthday “cake”), (4) carrots and parsnips glazed in a buttery sweet sauce, and (5) cream of mushroom soup, all from Julia’s book. I have fun cooking delicious, appealing food, and we all enjoy consuming it. The recipes were hard at first, but have become second nature with repetition. Dad sent me an email today, “I will be cooking dinner tonight.” These six words implied so much: (a) I can cook, too; (b) I want to cook, too; (c) I love to cook, too; (d) I can do things; (e) I want to share the load; (f) thank you for your cooking; (g) I want to take a turn; (h) I want to do something nice for you like you do for us; and, (i) isn’t it wonderful how people take raw ingredients and make such creative, delicious dishes? So, tonight he cooked delicious “saucy pork burrito rice bowls” with ingredients and recipe provided by Hello Fresh. When I asked if I could be his sous chef, he said sure. As the three of us sat at the table with our fragrant rice bowls, Dad remarked, “We made this, together, didn’t we Rog!” We did. And it was very tasty.