Here is another one of my Food Narrative homework assignments. At this point we are working on tying together our writing to create a portfolio. Therefore, many of the pieces I am working on now are about bringing together the rest of my writing. This here is about the time when I first started to learn how to cook…
My feet dangled below me as I sat on the stepping stool that constituted as my dining room chair. I banged my little fists on the red plastic tablecloth while I impatiently waited for dinner. My mom was still on her way home from work so it had been my grandma who picked me up from pre-school and brought me home to help make dinner. I liked my school because it had a fence that imitated giant crayola crayons and a yellow brick road leading up to the door just like in the Wizard of Oz. The place was magical, but I didn’t mind leaving because I loved spending time with my mom and grandma. It was just the three of us. My mom and I had recently moved back in with my grandma, who I call Memere. I was lucky to have two women taking care of me because someone was always there. I woke up every morning in the room I shared with my mom to find myself alone. I would jump out of the miniature sized, cushy red couch that I slept on and run to the phone in tears, angry that my mom hadn’t woken me up to say goodbye. The first time I called her she simply told me to lift my shirt. When I looked underneath my night gown I was shocked to see a bright red lip print on my tummy. Every morning after that I noticed that my mom always left a lip print somewhere on my body, whether it was my hand, my forehead, or my cheek. It was a great game of mystery, but the point was that my mom never left without kissing me good-bye.
I got to press the garage button and watched the door close as Memere hung her keys on a hook by the door. Into the kitchen I ran to help make dinner. Memere said we were going to make veal cutlets. I didn’t know what this was but I did know that it was really fun to make! Memere prepared bowls each filled with something different. One bowl with fluffy white flour that would puff up into the air and get all over me if I wasn’t careful enough. The next bowl had milk and eggs while the final bowl had a mixture of breadcrumbs and little black peppercorns. I got to pound the meat with a huge mallet, an activity that greatly reminded me of a game I loved at chucky cheese. Next, Memere instructed me on how to dunk the veal into each bowl consecutively in order to create an outer coating for the meat. From there she went on to fry up the veal in a skillet filled with melted butter until the breading turned brown and became crispy. At this point my job was done and I was allowed to sit in her blue reclining armchair and watch TV. My favorites of the time included anything on the Food Network, as well as the slightly unknown TV show, “Hercules” and of course its female companion show, “Xena, Warrior Princess”. Everyone was always surprised that a three year old enjoyed such violent shows but I thought Hercules was my boyfriend and Xena was my hero. Friday was the only day I was allowed to participate in nap-time at school because I could stay up late to watch new episodes. Usually my mom didn’t let me take nap time with the rest of my friends because she said I would never fall sleep at night; thus my teacher helped me pass the time each day by having me give her back massages. I am now an excellent masseuse.
While I watched TV, Memere finished the meal. She was the queen of microwaves. As a by-product of the 1950’s, she was able to cook absolutely anything to perfection by dialing a specific sequence of numbers into the little digital keypad. A common side dish to our dinners included mashed potatoes, broccoli, or cabbage, slathered with lots of salt and melted butter. After channel flipping for a while, the smells emanating from the kitchen won my attention. I ran to the table and clambered up into my stepping stool chair in order to impatiently await the first meal I ever helped prepare.
I quickly became quite a little chef in the kitchen. A lot of it had to do with my busy family and my Mom’s strict belief in teaching me independence from a young age. I even began to pack my own lunches. One scorching summer day I noticed a bunch of neighborhood boys playing baseball outside. Even at three years old I loved boys and begged my mom to let me join them. Before I left, I made myself a snack to bring along. The door slammed as I ran out into the day with a small square lunchbox banging against my side. I was wearing a frilly green dress my aunt Debbie had given me that made me look similar to a Victorian doll. In fact, aunt Debbie had actually purchased the dress from Dollyworld, the one and only theme park and mountain resort run by Dolly Parton herself. My feet crunched on the Floridian crab grass as I ran across the communal backyard in the general direction of the ballgame. I later learned that this was the type of grass that Minnesotans deemed weeds, but for the moment all I knew of the green stuff was that it was itchy and inhabited by fire ants. The game was a wild success and I surprised everyone with my batting skills in contrast to my girly demeanor. Once the game had ended, I collapsed in a poufy heap on the ground and began to nibble on my snacks. One boy observed that my mom had packed me a great lunch: Jell-o, carrots, Lays potato chips, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some grapes and a cherry hi-c. I won’t forget the look on the boy’s face when I told him I packed the lunch myself. From then on all the neighborhood boys loved me. After all, I was a catch, not only could I play sports but I could pack a mean lunch too. I learned an extremely valuable life lesson that day. Boys may turn into men but they will always find that sports and the ability to create food is a winning combination in a woman.