The funny disease.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

For Sale: Husband--Feeds Family of Four

My husband is not alone; I know that Sweetface is only one of millions that are glued to the Food Network like royal icing on gingerbread. For some of these viewers watching a chef make seared tuna with tempura fried squash blossoms and wasabi sauce is like watching a sport. Watching pro football doesn’t necessarily mean you have the desire or ability to play pro football. But my husband pays close attention to technique, because he likes to cook. Cooking combines three of his favorite things: food, science and gadgets. Before I get too far into discussing my husband’s obsession I must explain that we have a small kitchen, and that there are only two of us. There are no children, no dogs, not so much as a goldfish. It’s him and me and his kitchen gadgets.

Our kitchen drawers are overflowing with whisks, spatulas and a plethora of gizmos that appear to be instruments of torture. (Sweetface assures me that it’s just a nutmeg grater, or a vegetable peeler). Not to mention the toaster oven, blender, food processor, crock pot, espresso machine, and the crowning jewel of my husband’s kitchen: the Professional Six Quart KitchenAid Mixer in Cobalt Blue. He calls it Conchita, and I am only allowed to run it for 15 minutes at a time, then “she” has to rest for an hour. Of course I must give him credit, he does use most of these gadgets. I say most because I did supply him with an angel food cake pan, but have yet to have angel food cake. Though I realize it could be worse. One of my cousins collects Star Wars action figures, which pretty much sit on shelves, despite the name “action” figures. I predict he will have trouble explaining to his children why they can’t play with Daddy’s action figures. Sweetface and I will just have to keep any future progeny from playing with the toaster oven.

Of course, using the gadgets is only part of my problem. My husband has to be supplied with eggs, and milk and unbleached flour and bread flour and whole-wheat flour. Our cabinets are stocked to get us through six months of winter, though we spend more time and money in grocery stores than I care to admit. It’s like a sickness with him. We visit the Jewel, Dominicks and Meijers on a regular basis. We go to Michael’s Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s and drive all the way to Wheaton to get to Whole Foods with less devotion, but often enough that I can find the roasted red pepper hummus with no problem. We are a grocery store’s worse nightmare: unfaithful customers. I feel I am being promiscuous in whatever three grocery stores we choose to patronize that weekend, while my husband trips blithely through the aisle hunting for pickled elk snout or something like that.

I used to resist an overstocked pantry. But I’ll admit I yielded what with the threat of terrorism. I know that those can of refried beans and pumpkin pie filling won’t protect us from a bio-terror attack, but it makes me feel better to know that if something does happen, and hording seizes the aisles of the Jewel, Dominick’s, Meijers, Michael’s Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and the 7/11 on the corner we won’t have to wrestle any with suburban working women/mothers for the last can of proverbial Who-hash. (You’d think they wouldn’t have much energy left being mothers and working outside the home, but I once made the mistake of going to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving, where I witnessed two, by-all-appearances normal women turn into vicious banshee-harpies over the last bag of fresh cranberries. If I was braver I might have said, “Ladies, there’s no need to fight. People eat your gritty homemade cranberry sauce to be nice. It’s in gelatin form in a can for a reason.”)

After seeing his father’s pantry, I know that my husband is restraining himself. My father-in-law has an 8 by 12 room in the basement lined with shelves. And those shelves are generously stocked with staples that include Betty Crocker instant potatoes, corn flakes and enough fruit tea to get him through every evening for the next five years. He could open a modest general store. Not knowing my father-in-law, you might think he’s crazy. But really he was raised on a Minnesota farm, where stocking food for 6 months of winter was inadequate. Part of the reason he continues to hoard is because he is a thrifty shopper and likes to buy a lot of something when it is on sale. The other reason is because he and my mother-in-law live in Germany, and are dependent on the military grocery store, which has been known to run out of various items for weeks and even months. They can’t always go to a German grocery store and just get their favorite brand of soda crackers, or good old U.S. staples like pancake mix. Also, he really likes fruit tea.

Sweetface, on the other hand, is not content with fruit tea, and decides we can’t have strawberries for dessert without a sponge cake that will take three hours at 7:30 in the evening. And given the choice just to wait until the next day to eat it or break my no food for 2 hours before bedtime rule, I inevitably cave in and eat two pieces of sponge cake. Thus I wake up in the middle of the night with roaring heartburn and a sickness in the pit of my stomach that comes from too-many-calories guilt.

The purpose of consuming this money, time and kitchen space is to use what he learns on the Food Network. It’s a little unfair to say that he never cooks our regular meals, but only a little. Or perhaps I just hate cooking so much that it seems like I do it more often. Sweetface likes to go on baking sprees. He’ll make two pumpkin pies, a Shoo-fly pie and fresh bread in an evening. We can only eat so much pumpkin pie for breakfast. (It’s perfectly okay to pumpkin pie for breakfast, as long as you don’t put whipped cream on it, just like it’s okay to eat chocolate cake for breakfast, as long as you scrape off the frosting.) I would suggest opening a food pantry, but he’s not regular, he goes on baking blitzkriegs, and then I won’t see as much as a snickerdoodle for a month. My solution is to foist baked-goods onto unsuspecting relatives, who tell us that we won’t be able to bake like that when we have kids. But I’d like to see a baby stop my husband.


Anonymous Timmy T. Napalm said...

Where can I find some of this elk snout?

11/04/2005 7:15 AM

Blogger Sarah Letnes said...

Wait for the Wal-mart to go up in your back yard. Then walk across the patio towards the grill, which will be the Wal-mart deli. The elk snout will be near the pickled pig's feet.

11/05/2005 7:42 AM

Blogger Sister in Law said...

You forgot soy flour and cornmeal. Also whole wheat pastry flour, oatmeal, rice flour, pure wheat gluten, cornstarch ...

Sorry.. did we mention its genetic?

11/08/2005 1:04 PM

Blogger Sarah Letnes said...

Wify no-fun put the kibosh on other specialty flours. Sweetface has to have an intended recipe for some ingredients. Cornstarch is a flour?

11/08/2005 2:51 PM

Blogger Sister in Law said...

It is a ground/powdered grain product. No less of a flour than wheat gluten.

11/09/2005 9:51 AM


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