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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Mess of Role Reversal

Chicken Parmesan....

...and Italian-Style Meat Loaf
Picture credits?  Not sure, but 
they're all better at cooking than I am.
Why is it mine never look this good?

Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only.

It's called "role reversal," that part of human interaction where two people (usually married) at some point trade jobs.  In our case, my retirement freed up a lot of time that normally would have spent working productively at a job.  Cheryl, because of the economics of her retirement, still works, something she reminds of each and every day.  Because of that, it became necessary for me to undertake a new set of expectational chores.

I'm not a Neanderthal, by the way.  I do laundry, fold n' iron, make the bed, and attend to various other household chores, and have been doing this for most of my adult life.  Most of the time, without being told...er...reminded.  Now I have been asked to undertake the task of providing sustenance for the evening meal.

Cooking, for me, has always been a mystery.  When the kids were smaller, I did my duty on the nights when Cheryl was stuck at the hospital, which usually involved some form of hamburger helper, or something frozen from Sam's Club.  Attempting creativity was, shall we say, not greeted with anything approaching enthusiasm.  In fact, once our oldest got his driver's license, Chef Dad nights became for them Chez McDonald's.

As the years rolled on, it became apparent that cooking was just something beyond my ken.  I stuck to those things I knew I could execute, french toast, eggs over easy, omelettes, and anything microwavable.  Some of the manufacturers, in a stroke of genius, came out with those "meal in a bag" items.  I loved this.  Didn't have to add, mix, measure, or guess.  Just unbag it, put it in the oven or pot of boiling water, and within 20 minutes -- Voila! -- a tasty, (mostly) nutritious meal.  More importantly, the end product actually looked like the picture on the bag.  As long as you didn't look to closely.  


One day, I was watching the Godfather, something I can only do when she's not home.  In one scene, Caporegime Pete Clemenza provided an impromptu cooking lesson. 

"Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for
twenty guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some
garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn't
stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh?... And a
little bit o' wine. An' a little bit o' sugar, and that's my trick."

The recipe actually came from Francis Ford Coppola who, as he later said, if the movie flopped, at least someone would know how to make spaghetti sauce.  Anyway, it seemed clear enough, so I tried it.  It actually came out pretty good, and I've been making that for a few years now.  But I have a new doctor who has severely limited what I can eat.  Not a bad deal really, since I've dropped almost twenty pounds since then.  But that meant that I had to stay away from pasta, because it is a high glycemic food, which is bad news for diabetics, of which I are one.  Still, I can make the sauce, and that's almost a meal in itself.

Along with cooking, I also have the job of shopping.  I've been culling the Internet for recipes, simple things even I couldn't screw up.  Once I decided on the dishes, the websites thoughtfully provided a grocery list.  So, we go to the store and I begin to pick out the items I need.  The trouble began when I was choosing some sauces.  Cheryl said, "Don't buy that. You can make your own sauces."

I looked at her incredulously.  I'm still a guy for whom browning hamburger represents a challenge.  Sauces?  She has far more confidence in me than I do.  But that's part of being married; knowing that other person sees more in you than you see in yourself.

Despite her confidence, however misplaced, I'm going to try to get better.  The best cooks, and my wife definitely ranks there, have an instinct that no amount of study can teach.  Maybe practice can.  At any rate, she has to eat what I cook, so I'd better get good real quick. 

Otherwise, I could end up in hot water.
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