Living with chronic back pain is hard some days. Some days all I can think about is how much it hurts and when is it going to stop. I get angry and pout and ask myself questions like "why me?"
I sit by myself for hours and do not pick up the phone or answer my door. I sit alone and feel like the weight of the whole world is on my shoulders. On days like this, I think nothing can make me feel better.
But then, I remember a joke or a comic clipped from the newspaper or even a favorite saying and it is just enough to break up my bad mood and I let myself look at the good side of things and find a reason to be happy. Anything can brighten my day, even an embarrassing trip down memory lane and my quest to rope myself a husband. Of course, if it hadn't worked out, I would be taking this story to my grave. Like most funny, embarrassing and humiliating stories, this is true.
After watching a marathon of “Bridezillas” today, I reminisced about my younger days and my efforts to win Jerry’s heart. I was trying to be so good at everything around the house, and being a 23 year old meant I had little experience in the kitchen.
I grew up in a little town on Lake Superior. Ashland is a town with a lot of tradition. In our house, my Mom and Dad both worked and there were 4 kids. Like most of us, Mom made most of the food for us from scratch. We had homemade bread and rolls, never store bought which caused me to dream of Wonder Bread sandwiches throughout my childhood.
Wonder Bread came in the cool white bag with the circles on it. Wonder Bread was already sliced would fit in my Snoopy lunch box much easier than the uneven slices from a homemade loaf. Wonder Bread and Skippy would make me a happy girl. If only we didn’t have to have homemade bread!!!
Dad cooked too and he was no slouch. His salamini and fried potatoes were awesome and he took great pride in homemade tomato and rice soup. He also made my sack lunch for me every single day for school. I liked the big thick sandwiches, especially after my braces came off.
As we grew, we helped Mom in the kitchen and also tried our hand at cooking and baking solo. We had some successes. Clare was and is still way better at me in baking cookies. I’ve only made cookies a handful of times because I never seem to time them correctly. But, I’m pretty good at apple pie and banana cake with cream cheese frosting. Mmmmm.
But baking desserts is not the same as cooking and let’s face it, you can not live on banana cake. Well you could, but you probably shouldn’t. I would watch cooking shows and it always seemed like timing is the hardest part of cooking. You need to time it so everything is done at the same time. It always worked out on the TV shows, but I had no idea how to do it in “real time”. It seemed to me like it was a really long story problem. I never liked story problems.
I had no idea how to time cooking a meal. I wanted to make Jerry delicious homemade meals that were good and nutritious so he would be healthy and happy. I envisioned beautiful platters of spaghetti, pot roasts, perfectly tender chicken and the granddaddy of all meals, a perfect turkey dinner on a cold winter night with all the trimmings. But how in the world do you time a turkey, potatoes, corn, corn muffins and pie? How do you fix all this stuff and how do you know what to look for when you buy meat and poultry? What seasonings should be in my house? and what the heck to you put a turkey in? It wouldn’t fit in a frying pan. This was going to be interesting.
But then my eyes spied a little book, a paperback book about cooking at a garage sale. “Saucepans and The Single Girl”. The book promised to show you the way to a man’s heart and help you create wonderful, romantic meals for your man. Thank goodness I had help right here in this handy little book.
So off I went, reading the book whenever I was alone and Jerry was busy. I read all about the pans, the spices you need, they even had advice on which cuts of meat were best for which dishes. And how to pick out fresh produce and how to store the produce and meat. And the book even had whole menus planned out.
So all I had to do was get the ingredients, follow the recipe exactly and the best part??? It was all timed to finish at the same time!! The answer to my prayers. No impossible calculations regarding weight of turkey, pounds of potatoes and how many biscuits, all I had to do was follow the directions. I’m good at following directions, so off I went on my journey to win my man’s heart by going directly through his stomach.
I read and reread every chapter, trying to remember the key points about telling good produce from bad and which cuts of meat are the best. Inevitably, I was just going to leap off the dock and straight into my first meal.
So I selected one of the pre planned menus and loaded up my grocery cart and set off to win Jerry’s heart. The first meal was roasted chicken and it went pretty well. I avoided the unknown of fixing mashed potatoes and instead chose to do baked, but other than that, it came off pretty good and Jerry seemed surprised and very hungry. I called it a success.
So, I moved on to another chapter. This one was a little more complicated. It was a recipe for upside down meat loaf. It required brown sugar, ketchup and a lot of praying. For starters, there was not enough room in my loaf pan for the meat and the loaf and the upside down part. I was making a huge mess.
But with my trusty book, I went ahead and made the upside down meat loaf and the mashed potatoes and the carrots. I was a little nervous about this one.
Jerry came home from work, starving. I took the meat loaf out of the oven and it smelled good. Then I flipped it over onto a plate. Let’s just say the upside down meat loaf, is not a very good looking meal. It was a gooey mess. And worse than that, it didn’t taste good either.
It had a weird bar-b-que taste, and it really didn’t work. Jerry was nice about the whole thing, he just asked me to never make it again. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned how he hoped I would never make that meal again. I guess something he remembers for 25 years is nice, but not in a good way.
A few weeks after the upside down mess, Jerry was relaxing on the couch when he stuck his hand under it and found a book. While he was hoping for a racy novel, he found my secret. I came home to find Jerry holding “Saucepans and the Single Girl”.
I had been found out. He knew what I was up to and it was not subtle. Jerry laughed and said he thought it was cute that I was trying so hard. I was a little upset. I wasn’t looking for cute, I was looking for a ring. But not to worry, only 8 short years later he was standing there in a tux and I walked down the aisle to become his wife.
Here we are 26 years after he found the book and I guess there is a lesson to be learned. The book is a total success, but only if you skip the upside down meat loaf recipe and you don’t mind the wait.
Thanks for listening.