Monday, January 4, 2010

Mama's in the kitchen

What a bizarre day! I’m still trying to figure out how I just spent three hours in the kitchen when none of my New Year’s resolutions had anything to do with cooking. Well, with my cooking, that is.

It started with the collard greens. My daughter loves them, and no wonder – I load them up with sugar. Parents, if you are looking for a way to get your kids to eat their vegetables …

I put a big pot on the stove, tossed in the greens, borrowed some apple cider vinegar, poured in the sugar and then turned around and saw a big bag of new potatoes. Suddenly, we needed potato salad; hence, another big pot on the stove. That’s when I spotted the peanuts, the raw ones that I searched five grocery stores to find this summer when I was determined to boil my own. Enter the crockpot. Followed by a hungry husband who, after opening the pots, wants to know, “What’s for dinner?” which means “Where’s the beef?” My husband does not do veggie plates, with or without sugar.

“How about the leftover shrimp from our New Year’s Eve boil?” I suggested.

“Shrimp and grits?” he asked, always pushing.

“Okay, sure,” I said, thinking I could open a packet of instant grits, throw the shrimp on top and be out of there in 15 minutes.

You see, something happens if I’m in the kitchen too long. Despite its cheery color, I start feeling a little like the woman in the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In other words, the walls start closing in on me, expiration dates start calling out to me, dishes start begging to be washed, the floor demands to be mopped, and the windows remind me that I never had those curtains made.

“You’ll need chicken broth,” he said, as he opened the cabinet.

Oh, boy, I thought, reminding myself to cancel the cooking network first thing in the morning.

One trip to the grocery later, and I’ve got my laptop propped precariously by the sink as I sauté the shrimp in a pan in which I just fried bacon to crumble on top of my culinary masterpiece. In the pan with the shrimp is freshly minced garlic. I have been in the kitchen about, oh, two and a half hours now.

My very hungry husband comes in, spies the garlic cloves on the counter, and asks helpfully, “How many more of these do you need?”

“I’m not sure,” I reply, stirring collards, peanuts, potatoes and sautéing shrimp, as my kids ran in and out of the kitchen asking, “Okay, Mom?” to a question I never heard.

They know I always say yes when I busy.

“This recipe doesn’t call for garlic,” said my husband looking up from the computer.

“Well, it does now,” I said.

“How about the grits? Which pot has the grits in it?”

“Oh, dear! I haven’t started the grits. I should have cooked those first.”

“Yes, you should have. The grits will take 15 min.” he said.

I looked at the full stove and the shrimp that was almost finished cooking in the pan.

“Well, this will just have to come off,” I said. “I’ll reheat it after I get the grits going.”

And then he did it. He made the face. The “Well, that won’t be any good face,” and I’m putting it politely. I read a lot more into it. So, I gave him the face back. The “I’ve been working in the kitchen for hours, and you are going to eat it and like it” look. Yes, my looks say so much.

He apparently felt the heat because he hustled out of the kitchen. That’s when I realized I really could use some help, so I called the children in – a sure sign of desperation.

“Sweetie, can you please help grate the cheese,” I asked my daughter. “I don’t think your brother can do it.”

“What can’t I do?” he said.

Darn, reverse psychology!

Feeling bad, I said, “Okay, son, you can try it.”

He eagerly reaches for the hunk of cheese.

“BUT, wash your hands first.”

He complied, and I turned around just in time to see him grabbing the cheese with dripping wet hands.

“And DRY them!”

After sheepishly complying, he worked the cheese grater like a pro, as my daughter stirred the pots, read the recipe, and set the table.

When dinner was finally served, they cleaned their plates. I’m not sure whether it was from hunger or pride from their contribution, but they declared it my best meal ever. And I vowed to serve it again – next New Year’s.

(Want to try the recipe? Click Here!)

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