Monday, July 15, 2013

The Black Pepper Incident

The other evening Vince called to let me know he was on his way home from work. This is usually my cue to run upstairs and throw something in the skillet and pretend like I’ve been slaving over a hot stove for hours.

Okay, so not really.  I mean, Vince isn’t that gullible.  And, frankly, I’m not that much of a cook.  Oh, sure, I can make a mean pan of lasagna for special occasions and I can stumble my way through a recipe from time to time.  My area of expertise, frankly, is in preparing party foods.  I excel at party foods.

But I can’t exactly serve veggie pizza or seven layer dip for dinner.  Not every night, anyway. 

My years of putting together entire meals with more than one course stopped with…well…actually, they never really started.  I was single for so long I just didn’t see the need to slice, dice, chop, sauté and conjure up a plate full of food with all the fixin’s on a daily basis.  

Give me a bowl of Raisin Bran and I’m good to go.    

As a result of all those years as a single woman, my favorite meal is leftovers.  LOVE me some leftovers.  Especially when it means I have to wash but a single plate and a fork.

Vince, however, was used to the more traditional family-type meal with some sort of meat and some sort of vegetable.  There was probably a minimum of at least three different things on his plate. 

Times, oh how they change. 

Now we usually only have the more traditional family-type meal on Sundays when we’re both home to work the stove.

But I also realize that Vince works a lot of hours and when he gets home from his “half day” of work (that’s 12 hours to you and me), he’s a tired and hungry man and he doesn’t want to spend more time cooking dinner for himself.

So I make an effort. 

The other night, my “effort” consisted of a grilled chicken sandwich and a bowl of cottage cheese with chunks of tomatoes.

Clearly, I was not inspired to make like Julia Child and create some culinary masterpiece. But, then, I also had time constraints working against me. When he calls to let me know he’s on his way home, I have approximately 15 minutes from start to finish to prepare something edible.

Sure, I could make something ahead of time.  But when I do this, it usually ends up being dried out or gloppy because I have never been able to crack the “car guy” code and figure out when a finance manager will actually be done with work. “Whenever the last customer leaves” is hard to plan around.

So the chicken sandwich was fine.  Actually, I’m a pretty good sandwich maker.  Maybe not quite as good as Vince is, as he excels at the “Dagwood-type” sandwich that is so big it’s hard to eat without spilling vegetables and condiments and such down the front of one’s shirt.

But, hey, I’ve been making sandwiches for people since I was in grade school and one of my daily chores was preparing lunch for my siblings.  I got very good at lining up those four metal lunchboxes and tossing in four apples and four single cookies twisted in pieces of waxed paper.  Then I’d slap together baloney sandwiches.  These were the antithesis of Dagwood-type sandwiches.  However, I would’ve been excommunicated from my family if I’d tried to sneak in anything extra. 

No, these sandwiches consisted of a single slice of baloney, a smear of mayo or mustard (depending on the recipient’s preference) placed between two slices of Wonder Bread.  If I was feeling particularly fancy, I might cut the sandwich on the diagonal, but that was about the extent of my efforts.  There were no sliced tomatoes, no slivers of onion, no leaves of lettuce for a little added crunch.  And there was definitely no need for a frilly toothpick to hold the sandwich together. 

Part of it was me being lazy.  But the bigger consideration was my parents’ need to economically feed a family of six.  One package of baloney didn’t last that long as it was and no one was malnourished enough to warrant an additional slice of baloney.

So I wasn’t a bad sandwich maker.  I just wasn’t a very inspired sandwich maker.  And if I had a bad day or one of my siblings pissed me off, I might accidentally (on purpose) throw the apple on top of the baloney sandwich, thus smooshing it into a barely recognizable piece of meat between two paper thin slices of Wonder Bread with the sploosh of mustard oozing out.

Hey, don’t mess with the cook.

Fortunately, for Vince, I lost the taste for baloney and Wonder Bread by the time I hit puberty and I cannot say I’ve ever purchased either as an adult.

So his chicken sandwich did have, as a matter of fact, slices of tomato, slivers of onion and lettuce leaves for that added crunch. 

My downfall was the bowl of cottage cheese and the tomato.

HOW could a bowl of cottage cheese and chunks of tomato be my downfall, you ask?

Well, sit tight Skippy and let me tell you.

See, my idea of cottage cheese is…well…just that.  I scoop out some cottage cheese. And then I eat it.  I do not find the need to doctor it up with spices and such.  Not so with Vince. He likes to add liberal amounts of garlic powder and black pepper to his cottage cheese such that the surface is no longer white.   He may even add other spices that I’m not even aware of. I just know about the garlic powder and pepper.

So, like the good wife that I am (?!), I tapped some garlic powder on top of the cottage cheese. And then I tapped some more.  Because my rule of thumb is: Whatever amount of spice I think is enough, I need to double it for Vince.  So I did. And then I moved on to the pepper.  Except that I inadvertently dumped half the container onto the cottage cheese. 


I stood there with a horrified look on my face holding the container of black pepper in one hand and the bowl of pepper-drenched cottage cheese in the other.  I had no idea what to do.  My first instinct was to quickly dump the mess into the disposal and start over.  Except that it was the last of our cottage cheese.  And I didn’t have time to come up with an alternate plan as I heard the garage door begin its ascent, clueing me in that Vince had arrived.

So, I did what any pepper novice would do. I tried blowing the excess off into the sink.  Except that I breathed in too quickly – and I inhaled a face full of pepper.

And then I started sneezing.  And sneezing some more.  I didn’t stop sneezing for another 10 minutes. My eyes were watering and my nose and lips were burning from all that pepper.

Vince is fond of saying that ketchup is about as spicy as I can stand – and he’s not far wrong.  I don’t even eat “mild” chicken wings as I find the mild sauce too spicy for me. 

So you can imagine how happy I was having inhaled a handful of black pepper.

I managed to pull myself together, take a spoon out of the drawer and scoop the top layer of pepper off the cottage cheese and dump that in the sink.  True, this should have been my first solution, if only I’d been thinking clearly.

In between sneezes, I told Vince what had happened and we both had a good laugh.  And he ate the chicken sandwich and cottage cheese without comment or complaint.  Oh, except he thanked me for making it for him.

Which made all those sneezes worthwhile.

But I’ve decided that in the future I’m simply going to hand him the container of pepper and let him spice his own cottage cheese. 

After all, I’ve pretty much exceeded my lifetime quota of black pepper. And sneezes.

Bon appétit!

Friday, July 12, 2013


I had a rare experience this morning that I have to share with you.

See, my alarm went off and I got up.

Shocking, I know. 

Somehow I didn’t groan, roll over and beg Father Time to back it up a little so I could catch a few more winks.

Instead, I got right out of bed, made my way to the kitchen and fed the cats so they didn’t have to beg for food like…well…like dogs.  They didn’t say so, but I’m guessing they were grateful that I didn’t try to confuse them this morning.

After I fed the felines, I made a cup of coffee and sat in the living room to enjoy the sunny morning for a bit before getting ready for the day.

What makes all this rare?  Because it. Never. Happens.

I am not a morning person. Never have been. I don’t understand the concept of sunrise and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one.  Sunsets?  Sure. I even have pictures.  But sunrises?  Not so much.

So I sat on the couch in the living room enjoying my coffee and gazing around my little domain.  Also rare this summer was the sunshine.  I think I read that in the last 19 days we’ve had rain 16 of them.  No matter how you look at it, that makes for one soggy summer so far.

So I enjoyed the sunshine.   And I noticed – for the first time in the year since we’ve lived in this house – that the sun hits the purple crystal hanging in the living room window at precisely 6:47 a.m. where it sparkles for a few brief moments before the sun moves on and highlights something else.  Since I’m all about the sparkle, I delighted in the vision.

But then what happened?  I started noticing that the window behind that purple crystal needs an immediate date with a bottle of Windex. 

And then I shifted slightly on the couch…and I saw a filament of spider web hanging down from somewhere up high, connecting to a glass globe on the coffee table and ending somewhere inside the decorative bowl in the middle of the table.

Ugh.  WHY did I have to shift slightly on that couch?  I would’ve been happy to have been blissfully unaware of that filament.  Not only that, but I am not a big fan of creepy crawly things so removing the filament brought with it the possibility that an actual spider would come out of his hiding place to find out what was happening to his handiwork.

I had to give the arachnid props though. If he had started up in the ceiling fan or on the ceiling itself, he had to create a whole lot of silk to get from there down to the coffee table. It’s a VERY high ceiling.  Poor guy was probably napping after his long journey. 

Nevertheless, I put down my coffee cup, went to the closet to find a dusting cloth and then wiped off the table, the glass globe and the decorative bowl. 

That done, I decided I’d better jump in the shower lest I find even more surfaces that need some attention with a mop, broom, or other cleaning implement.

So it looks like I have some sprucing up to do this weekend.  But don’t I always?  It’s one of those never-ending chores that won’t go away no matter how hard you clean.  The dust and dirt always comes back.

But despite all that, I truly enjoyed those brief moments enjoying the morning sunshine.  Who knew you could get so much pleasure out of taking a few moments like that before starting your day? 

Yeah, yeah, okay – so half the free world recognizes this.  The other half – like me – are affirmed night owls with an aversion to sunrises and spend every possible second snuggled up in bed waking up only to hit the snooze button one more time.

But maybe…just maybe…I’m not quite so averse to sunrises anymore.  I’ll have to test the theory.  Just not tomorrow. It’s my day off – and I’m probably going to want to sleep in.

(Heyyy, what can I say? We can’t push this “early bird” conversion. Change takes time y’know.)

Seriously…have a good weekend all. Enjoy your sunrises. And your sunsets!