My husband thinks fully cooked meals spring ready-made from the oven like Venus rising from the foam, but with gravy. I don’t know how he survived eight years of bachelorhood before he met me, but I do know why he wore pants that would be relaxed-fit on Paris Hilton, and why his eyes glaze over with that faraway look when we drive past Burger King.
These days he’s making up for all the meals he missed by hanging out in the kitchen, waiting to see if the Pillsbury Dough Boy appears from the swirling mists in the freezer. It’s like watching a toddler get ready for a visit from Santa. Everybody thinks they’ve been good enough to get a prize.
“What did you eat before we got married?” I quizzed one day as he stared into the empty tea pitcher like a motherless calf.
“Tuna casserole,” he answered, prodding a package of frozen hamburger in hopes it might turn magically into meatloaf.
“You ate tuna casserole for eight years?”
“No, I had the same tuna casserole in the freezer for eight years. I got custody in the divorce. Every night I had to figure out what to do so I wouldn’t have to eat it. I know the nutrition information for every item on the fast food market.”
At least I don’t have to worry about any fond feelings left toward his first wife. The woman did things to tuna that I couldn’t do to scrap metal without heavy-duty equipment. She didn’t use serving spoons. It took the jaws of life to separate the one that didn’t get away from the casserole dish.
It makes my life easy. If I defrost cinnamon buns in the microwave, he thinks they’re homemade. I hate to tell him, but if I can’t rake something out of a jar with a Rubbermaid spatula, I’m not going to be serving it for supper. It could be a 55-gallon drum full of creamed spinach, if somebody else made it, I'm ringing the dinner bell with my best happy homemaker smile in place.
To me, it's not a recipe if it doesn't say Heat and Eat.
When I discovered Alfredo sauce in a jar, I was more excited than a Brownie Scout on cookie delivery day. While I understand that I’m not going to find fettuccine Alfredo tacked up on the doctor’s bulletin board as one of your top ten heart healthy foods, it’s part of a meal that everyone in my family will eat, which goes a long way towards making it a food priority in my house. Add some grilled chicken and everybody’s happy.
I popped a couple of jars of the white stuff into my buggy at Wal-Mart and wheeled innocently down the aisle, full of the peaceful conviction that comes from providing a good meal for a loving and happy family.
Later that evening, while my back was turned, the beast, heady with the freedom that comes from release from captivity, shattered the air with a mighty blast and attacked. I screamed.
The children ran to the kitchen like the population of
pouring in to see
“Did you start another fire?”
Alfredo covered the front on the stove like a dust ruffle. I had spatters up my sleeve and a striking Picasso-esque design on my Snoopy sweatshirt.
Kid One: “Is supper ready?”
Kid Two: “Supper can’t be ready. The smoke detector’s not going off.”
Kid One: “The batteries wore out.”
Just then the beast attacked again, rising from the depths of the superheated Alfredo like a milky Kraken rising from the ocean floor. This time I was prepared. No towering wall of Alfredo is going to threaten my family without me beating it into submission with a serving spoon and the lid to a two-quart boiler. “Run, kids, run!”
Heating supper from a jar should not require escalation of the National Defense Warning System.
My husband sauntered around the corner, hands in pockets. “Need some help?”
“Sure. Do we have the Chef Emeril or the Marines on speed dial?”
The lid on the pot behind him rattled like a teenager’s knees at quarter past curfew. He whisked the pot off the stove, poured the contents into a bowl and added a paper plate lid, then tucked the whole thing into the microwave. Slamming the door with a flourish, he performed the beep-boop medley on the keypad that told the microwave to cook Alfredo sauce.
He grinned. “Once you’ve been face to face with an eight year old tuna casserole, you’re not afraid of anything.”