I think it may have started with a particularly good homily that evidently started a chain of thoughts until one night, my husband looked at me and asked, “What can I do to make your life easier?”
Now, I’m not sure if there’s anything a wife would rather hear. “Can I change that diaper?” Maybe at one time. But that was long gone. “How about dashing off to Paris for a few weeks?” Better. Probably too much to wish for. Personally, I’ll take making my life easier. I had an answer all ready for that one. It came out without missing a beat. “Cook on Sundays.”
Like many a wife who has been married—oh, probably anywhere over 30 years, I had come to the conclusion that figuring out what to eat every night was among the all time most mind-numbing jobs ever invented. Even Mike Rowe hasn’t dared touch it. I welcomed any opportunity to get out of it. I’d already parlayed a deal where we’d go out for pizza every Friday. Here was my chance to ditch yet another day.
We were not “chicken every Sunday” people. We didn’t eat big dinners at 1 pm as was the case with many families when we were kids. We tended more towards brunch—eggs, bacon, hash browns after Mass. Then a light supper. Over the years, the brunch mitigated into more of a fix it yourself event. But there still was supper. And frankly, I was tired of it.
“Deal,” said my husband.
“Deal,” I said.
What followed was interesting, to say the least. The next Sunday, I waited. And I waited and waited and waited. Finally, the question popped out. “What’s for supper?” Only it didn’t come from me.
“Uh,” I said, trying to be tactful. “I thought we’d agreed you were going to do that.”
“Oh.” There was a long silence. Over the rumblings in my stomach, I could hear the wheels turning in his brain. “Well, how about soup and sandwiches?” Followed closely by “Where do you keep the soup?” and “Do we have anything for sandwiches?” I pointed out the cupboard where the soup had been residing for the nearly 20 years we’d lived in the house, and the refrigerator where, on any given day during the same time span, he could find lunch meat and cheese. And the basket where we/I store the bread. And so we ate. And it was good. Enough.
There were a few (actually, a lot) more Sunday of “Ooops. Forgot.” Then, he started to get creative. He went to Giant Eagle and picked up a box of something that when you threw it into the microwave for a while, turned into something vaguely resembling Italian food. One portion. We split it. I kept my mouth shut—after eating my half. My stomach wasn’t quite so forgiving, but maybe the ballgame was on and he didn’t hear it.
Eventually, we had a little chat. I won’t go into the details. You can probably figure it out. And so we stumbled along, week after week. Lots of soup and sandwiches, and some meals that had you fed it to POWs, you would have been cited for violation of the Geneva Convention. I bit my tongue a lot, both literally and figuratively. The best thing you could say about it was that with all of our travels, we weren’t often home on Sunday night.
Just a few weeks ago, however, we had a major breakthrough. He arrived home from work and said, “We were talking about Beef Stroganoff today. We haven’t had that in a while. I think I’ll make it on Sunday.”
Oh, lord, I breathed, I can see it now. I’m going to have to stand by his elbow every step of the way like a pitching coach. The last time I did that was years ago when he wanted to make my signature German coffee braid for Christmas. It’s a yeast bread. Does that give you some idea of the amount of time I was “on call?” The result was spectacular, I must say, with frosting and holly decorating the top. The dog ate it, except for the holly. The saving grace of that episode was that over the years, it has made an excellent family holiday story.
On Sunday, he got ready for the Big Meal. The day before, we’d bought all the necessary ingredients. Now, I got out the ancient Betty Crocker cookbook, opened to the appropriate page and suggested he read it carefully before starting. I answered a few questions, such as “Where’s the cutting board?” and “What knife should I use?” His engineering brain obsessed a bit over the exact width and length the beef strips should be until I was afraid he’d get out a ruler, but eventually, he let me go back to sitting by the fire with my book. Suddenly, there was a loud crash from the kitchen, followed by a few un-Sundayish words and he appeared in the living room. “You have to be careful taking the flour bin out of the cupboard,” he announced. “Mmmm,” I muttered. He went off to fetch the broom and dust pan.
There were no further mishaps, no further questions to speak of, and then he called me to the table. There was wine and napkins and plates and all the right silverware and a steaming plate of Beef Stroganoff. Gratefully, I took my place. We said grace and ate. And it was good, too. A bit on the salty side, but definitely edible. (The next day, I noticed that in the drawer, the plastic measuring spoon labeled TBSP was on top and asked him about it. He said that was what the recipe called for. I checked. Of course, you have to know it was TSP.)
In terms of going above and beyond, I consider this right up there with the Duke of Windsor giving up his throne for his lady. Overall, I think I’m as lucky as Wallis Simpson. Happy Valentine’s Day to my King of the Kitchen! Oh, and Happy 50th Anniversary, as well! It’s been quite a ride.