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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Attack of the Killer Alfredo

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.

“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 and pricing 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 get it out of a can, jar, or economy size shrink-wrapped package, I’m not going to be serving it for supper. There was a time when a woman’s dreams were fulfilled by spending enough time in the kitchen to bake biscuits lighter than an angel’s wing, put up enough tomatoes to last the winter, and memorize the recipe for grandmother’s heirloom pickled poundcake.

That time is past.

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 the star atop the food pyramid in my house. Add some grilled chicken, and everyone from Finicky Fred to the dog next door is happy. At the grocery store, I deviated from the list and popped a couple of jars of the white stuff into my buggy. Then I 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 upon release from captivity and applied heat, shattered the air with a mighty blast and attacked. I screamed.

The children ran to the kitchen like the population of Tokyo pouring in to see Godzilla get the big one.

Kid One: “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 smoked on my Snoopy sweatshirt. "Not yet sweetie, but stay tuned."

Kid Two: “Is supper ready?”

Kid One with conviction: “Supper can’t be ready. The smoke detector’s not going off.”

Suddenly the beast attacked again, rising from the depths of the superheated Alfredo like a milky Kraken surging to the surface 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.

Bill sauntered around the corner, hands in pockets. “Need some help?”

“Sure. Do we have Chef Emeril or the Marines on speed dial?”

The lid on the pot rattled like a teenager’s knees at quarter past curfew. He whisked the pot off the stove, poured the contents into a bowl, added a paper plate lid, then tucked the whole thing neatly into the microwave. Slamming the door with a flourish, he performed the beep-boop medley on the keypad that told the machine to cook Alfredo sauce.

"Very nice. I guess all those years of bachelorhood prepared you for anything."

He grinned. “Once you’ve been face to face with an eight year old tuna casserole, everything else is easy."


VirtualWordsmith said...

I had the same thing happen about a month ago. Surprised the heck out of me. The secret to warming up Alfredo sauce on the stove top is to keep stirring it until the steam begins to roll off the top, turn the burner off, set the pan on the back burner and cover with the lid. :)

Nita said...

Nice to know virtualwordsmith, but I'm still amazed Alfredo sauce comes in a jar. Only time I've had it somebody was spending money and I was eating out (like at one of the Italian restaurants in this area). But Amy, canning your own tomatoes doesn't take a great cook, I can do it, and usually do. The trick is finding someone to grow them for me.

Chumplet said...

Newspaper. Must get a column in newspaper. Get on it right away. This stuff is priceless.

Alfredo in a jar is one of my staples, along with his sister Marinara and their buxom cousin Crushed Tomatoes.

the Bag Lady said...

Sheesh, you make the Bag Lady feel bad - she grows her own peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes, cans them, makes her own salsa and pizza sauce....and now you're saying she could save herself all that work and just buy it ready-made? And Alfredo Sauce, too?!
What would she do with all that extra time?

Amy Mullis said...

Omigosh, Bag Lady, can we be best friends? The kind where one friend makes lots of delicious homemade food and the other friend expresses undying loyalty while spilling sauce on her shirt?

Melanie Avila said...

Chumplet - I had the same thought while reading.

Amy - I love reading your stories!

Janna said...

Very nice. Blogs don't come much funnier than yours, Amy. :D

the Bag Lady said...

Amy - only if you promise not to make me laugh and snort my milk out my nose...
C'mon over to my blog and check out the outdoor oven where I cook pizza (with home-made sauce) and bread...

wordsmith said...

Isn't it amazing how adept they are (husbands that is) with the microwave? And this is why Amy has a column in theWAHMmagazine. :)

plaidearthworm said...

...alfredo dust ruffle....snort....thanks for making me laugh and scare the cat!