Monday, August 10, 2009

The Refrigerator

Camping to escape the refrigerator

When the kids are little, dinner is easy. You make spaghetti and salad and say they can't leave the table until they've eaten 17 peas.

But when they come home from college they are much harder to deal with.

Actually, the trouble starts in middle school when the health teacher tells them about growth hormones in chicken but doesn't tell them what to eat instead. The process is downhill from there, undoing the mother's best attempts to keep her family healthy and agreeable. Instead, her efforts to feed them become fraught with disputes, long sighs as they look into the pantry, and irritated grunts as they slam the full refrigerator door saying, “There's nothing to eat around here.”

When they come home as adult houseguests (that's the way YOU think of them, expecting all the manners a houseguest would have, but they see themselves as the rightful heirs to the contents of the refrigerator) it is complicated. Take this summer for instance: a daughter and her fiance from Africa are visiting before the wedding, and another daughter is home from her college position for the vacation. Two married sons and wives and a married daughter and hubby come and go, adding joy to the mix but palpitations for the cook.

The first week was the hardest. One daughter was fasting , trying to find the cause of her tummy ills. I had planned a week of feasting for the newly arrived African couple...But then the bridal pair were jet lagged and ate during the night. They were never hungry for the 6 PM dinner because they had eaten bowls of cereal at 5:30 PM.

One of the kids is a vegetarian. One eats enormous quantities of fruit and drinks 24 ounces of juice at a time (I remember when the standard of vitamin sufficiency and economics was 6 oz.). One doesn't want to eat after 4 PM for proper digestion, but Dad gets home from work hungry at 6 PM. One won't have any kind of potatoes: mashed, boiled, baked, fried, or scalloped because they are soft and mushy and he's “all about texture.” (Personally, I never met a potato I didn't like). Fruit is also preferred crunchy, not soft, even if the flavor and sweetness is lost. One doesn't like sweet things mixed into a main dish, such as chicken teriyaki, ham with glaze, chicken and apple sausage, syrup on waffles...

At the moment my refrigerator is crammed with non-fat milk, mostly empty pitchers of orange juice, apple juice, and ice tea, soy milk, about 6 kinds of pickles, salsas, hummus and pesto, leftover boxes of Chinese food, bags of fresh spinach, European blends of lettuce and greens, and about 12 different kinds of salad dressing. Oh yeah, and yakisoba noodles for the stirfry (hold the meat, hold the sweet-and-sour, and serve before 4 PM).

Which is partly why I am at the beach camping in a misty place cooking my hot dog on a stick over a fire.

“I forgot the ketchup and mustard”, I say to my husband as I pull his hotdog off the stick into a bun.
“Condiments are overrated”, he says, contentedly chewing his uncomplicated dog.

I love that man.


Gilly said...

Hmmm! What my grandmother would have called "picky"!! But difficult for you - and what is wrong with potatoes?? The only one I have sympathy with is the one who doesn't like sweet things mixed with the main dish! (When I visited the States years and years ago, I picked all the marshmallows out of my salad and ate them first, to get them out of the way! I did try not to offend!)

Hollace said...

I guess I myself would be picky in the food of another culture, Gilly, but I'd try to disguise it like you =). I admit a Christmas ludefisk wasn't my favorite once, and in Peru our friends have to eat sheep's eyes to be polite!

I didn't mean to be complaining, but ironic. I guess it's a matter of my expectations (isn't that always my problem?) I expected to be a hostess who fixed nice big dinners and it just got too complicated for me to be in control of the kitchen. But it sure has been fun having the kids coming and going! We had wonderful times.

Gilly said...

Yes, it is fun to have loads of big kids around! We only have the one daughter, but occasionally there would be a crowd, and suddenly we were out of milk/coffee/biscuits! Now its her turn!

But I wouldn't mind being out of biscuits again, just once or twice!

Elizabeth C. said...

I LOVE this post!! :)

Hollace said...

chuckles, Elizabeth. I'm glad!

Steven said...

I'm with you - any potato is a good potato!! And, "uncomplicated" is downright good!