I have long suspected that I may be one of the last of a dying breed - women who cook supper.
No, I'm not talking about women who cook only on holidays, who cook once or twice a week, or who cook their specialty dishes to take to a potluck party. I'm not alluding to women who salivate over the shows on Food Network, but would never truly dream of dirtying their designer digs.
No, I'm referring to women who cook day in and day out, who start rattling those pots and pans around five o'clock every afternoon, who fill a buggy to overflowing at least once a week. For better or worse, I'm one of these women, and have been for a very long time.
I've often pondered how other homemakers with a husband and/or children "get out" of cooking every night. What do people eat? Do the kids just wander about listlessly, dragging a loaf of white bread behind them? Has take-out taken over? Does no one complain?
I've personally received urgent cellphone messages at work, which I frantically returned, only to be asked, "what's for supper?" And if such information was not shared some time during the day, I've been greeted in the garage with the same determined query. There have honestly been times when I haven't turned off the car before at least two of my dearest were at the driver's side window waiting with bated breath to hear the night's menu.
Usually the boys eagerly line up behind me at the stove as I yank the horns off a steer before trying to implant at least a few grill marks across its carcass. Sometimes, the gang's been so ravenous, I've even resorted to the Erma Bombeck "quick-thaw" method, but I'm warning you now - frozen chops and armpits do not mix.
I'm certain I could have a broken neck, and I'd still be expected to have a meat and two veggies on the table no later than 6:30 p.m. In fact, I have cooked with one arm in a cast, propped on a crutch to support the 13 screws and plate in my left ankle.
I'm not kidding.
We could have a tornado barrel through, a flash flood or a forest fire, and my crowd would continue to chew methodically on their country steak and rice. A nuclear holocaust would just have to wait until after dessert was served.
I guess I am a bit behind the modern scheme of things. For example, when I'm the only woman at the grocery store with a cart, I do appear slightly obtrusive. Even as I approach the check-out counter, the cashiers begin to panic. Bag boys quit on the spot and assistant managers come running. Apparently, I long ago beat out a local Chinese restaurant as Food Lion's best customer.
The woman who shows up behind me with a Lean Cuisine and an apple couldn't be more disgusted. As she rolls her eyes dramatically and stands with one pelvic bone thrust forward, I'm sure she must be concerned that whatever I've got might be contagious.
Everybody also gets especially agitated when I make the monumental mistake of asking for special packing arrangements. I like my cold things in plastic and my dry goods in paper. This plan makes sense to me, but what a dilemma I create for the poor employees. Witness one young man holding a jar of jelly next to his cheek, trying to determine its status, "Well, it feels cool to me."
But with all its inherent headaches, I'm still convinced that the evening meal is untouchable family time, one of the cornerstones of our society.
After a hectic and harried day, everyone can come together for a few moments to relax and regroup, to remember what's really important in our lives. And it doesn't have to be just Mama's job to pull it all together either - all should pitch in.
If our young men and women can risk their lives defending freedom, I believe the least we can do is keep suppertime sacred. It's as patriotic as apple pie.
(Mindy Jeffers is a Martinez resident.)
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