Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kielbasa, Tomato Paste, and Pride

I don't want to complain about how sick I've felt the last couple of days.  I had a bad reaction to an antibiotic after I had a minor surgery.  I still feel like crap, but you don't want to hear about that. 

You sat down here to listen to the story of how dinner came about and how I made myself eat it anyway. 

Late this afternoon, being hungry, I dragged my butt out of bed and I went to the fridge to see what I could eat.  I hate when I look at the food in there and realize that unless I'm eating sliced cheese, I'm going to have to actually prepare food.  Something told me I should try to combine the snack with dinner plans, since it was going on 4:30.  If I was actually going to cook, I'd need some time.  I'd need to concentrate or we'd be having hockey pucks or mystery scramble.  My guys love to eat good food, but have the grace not to label a meal until after I've declared dinner to be a nuclear waste site.  When I'm a good cook, I'm really good.   One taste of my lemon meringue pie will tell you that.  When I'm bad, it's still mostly edible, though it's up for pot shots and attempts at laughing tears into my eyes.  Hopefully, you'll never be invited for one of those meals. 

So, I pulled out the ribs I'd gotten the other day, spray coated a baking sheet, and opened them up.  I should have checked the sell-by date before I glommed up my kitchen scissors on the packaging.  It was yesterday's date.  The rank smell that wafted up told me that, in reality, it was quite a bit beyond that.  I may be sick, but I still have a sense of smell.  I had intended to use Susan Branch's recipe for spare ribs in pineapple juice.  Let's just say that Susan Branch would never let good ribs go bad in her refrigerator, no matter how lousy she felt.  Absolutely every recipe in her book, 'Vineyard Seasons' is delicious.  Her Welsh rarebit recipe is perfect comfort food.  Her spare ribs recipe has us drinking the juice out of the bowl after the ribs are gone.  I shouldn't even be mentioning her name in the same place where I talk about how my ribs had gone bad before I began.

So, what does a woman do when she's wearing her pajamas in the kitchen at 4:35pm on a sunny Sunday afternoon?  What does she do when she's been upright for all of two or three hours in the past four days and this is her first foray into her usually happy kitchen in that time? What does she do when she hasn't even begun and the kitchen starts to smell like a grease trap?

I burst into tears. 

I'm ashamed to admit that this isn't the first time I burst into tears in the past few days.  I cried in the pet food aisle when I tried to take Nick to karate and had to make a quick stop at Fred Meyer.  I very nearly called Mike to come pick me up that night.  I cried at church when I was supposed to make dessert for coffee hour and nothing I bought at the market was going to turn into a dessert.  Honestly, I would have bought muffins, but they'd been picked over and all that was left was flax seed gluten free muffins.  The mix I bought at the last minute required an egg and I hadn't brought one to church.  I very nearly called Mike to come pick me up then too.  Instead, I stood in the bathroom and cried while I let him convince me to just come home.  No one would even notice, he told me.  The hell of it was that no one did notice.  A few of them talked at me, but never looked at me until one sweet man asked me if I was alright just before I drove away in my car. 

Nick happened to be the one guiding me this afternoon when I needed to lie down again. 

"I'll make dinner mom," he said. "I'll just make my goulash from the Iron Chef competition at Boy Scouts."  When he'd gotten home from that Scout meeting, he'd glowed with happiness.  His patrol won the competition with his recipe.  He even had me copy it down into my special book of recipes. 

And so he did.  One kielbasa and two cans of tomato paste later, he had made a meal.  Mike had warned me that he'd used about two tablespoons of black pepper in it and the onion wasn't quite caramelized yet, but if you were to put kielbasa and tomato paste onto a plate, that about sums it up.  He even forgot to add the bow tie pasta.  That might have helped.

He stood there, grinning with pride, after he brought me a plate full.  He waited. 

I wanted to tell him that I wasn't very hungry.  It was smeared onto the plate, lumpy and red.  I wanted to tell him I needed to go back to bed. 

Instead, I ate it.  It wasn't bad.  I'd never eaten pure tomato paste before, but it wasn't bad.  Certainly not nuclear.  I can tell you that I cleaned my plate tonight.  It seemed important.

"Man, this stuff is delicious," Nick said as he scraped the last bite off his own plate.  They say that being hungry is the best seasoning, but I think pride does a pretty good job as well. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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