"Hey Helen, I'd sure like to eat some delicious macaroni salad tonight," said my husband, Tom as I entered the house after a hard day’s work. "Could you make it?" He poked his head around the kitchen cabinets with an encouraging grin.
Shuffling across the carpet, I kicked off my shoes and gazed at him in disbelief. Had he taken leave of his senses? Stood in the sun too long? Drank a tumbler of outdated fruit juice? Was he hoping to have his head snapped off?
My eyes narrowed. "I am not now, nor am I in the foreseeable future preparing a bowl of macaroni salad," I said bitterly. "Delicious or otherwise."
It was a minor food-related incident. After a moment of silence, it ended amicably, and all parties were satisfied. He found a recipe, made his own confounded salad, and hasn't asked me to do it since. A well-enunciated refusal can work wonders.
In truth, I've always enjoyed cooking and have passed along this pleasure to my children. However, my son, Justin, is far more adventurous than I. He often buys outlandish food items and concocts dishes like eel soup and tripe stew. (Horrible.) His latest recipe called for a noodle mix containing traces of arsenic, lead, and cadmium (used in producing batteries, solar cells, plastics, and nuclear reactors). Yum! May I have a second helping of that tasty treat?
Then, Justin offered to brew a nice pot of tea for us to share. As he poured the steaming beverage through a sieve, he remarked casually that it might include: wheat, eggs, mustard, and—crustaceans. Hang on!
"What kind of bloody tea is that?" I spluttered. "Am I about to drink the pulverised shells of sea creatures?"
"No," said Justin calmly. "I'm straining them out."
I like to try new recipes. I'm not saying I could win Canada's Top Chef since I often make silly blunders. Still, people eat what I make without complaint.
I didn't learn from my mother. While Mom could bake excellent brown bread, her talents in the kitchen didn't extend much further. I couldn't even say the word macaroni without shuddering for the first forty years of my life. I'll never forget her slapping a quivering wedge of mac & cheese on my plate. Who slices macaroni? My mother. She'd boil it in just enough water that the pasta would suck up the liquid, engorging to twice its natural size in the slimy aftermath of flour/water paste. After the fragmented clots congealed in the pot, she'd lay slabs of cheddar cheese on top to melt, then slide the whole business out onto a plate for carving. Bleah.
The other day I baked a walnut cake. Sure, I might have scorched the nuts, forgot to add the egg whites until I slid the cake into the oven, and then set fire to a tea towel as I hastily snatched the pan back out. And I did trip over the cat and slop a portion of the batter onto the floor as I hurriedly slapped the whites back in, but other than that, I think it turned out quite well. Or not.
Actually, for different reasons, I doubt I'll ever be asked to make walnut cake or macaroni salad again.
Helen lives on the family farm near Marshall, Saskatchewan, where she works as an author, columnist, and in education. Find her online at helentoews.com. There, you can learn more about her humorous Prairie Wool Books, or newly released fantasy series, Runestaff Chronicles