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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Meal Created #1

Many times I come home with no clue what to make for dinner. I know what ingredients I have bought to stimulate my palate but on most days there is not a complete meal ready to be cooked in my imagination. I crawl home, am greeted by the dog and cat, then I enter the kitchen. A glance at the clock, phone for messages and flip through the mail are the next decompressing activities. A glass of wine poured and then the refrigerator is opened.

I fumble through the paper wrapped meats, saran wrapped leftovers and plastic bags of veggies much the same as I flipped through the mail, looking for that one ingredient that will be the catalyst toward dinner. Part of the rummaging and fondling is also the mental evaluation of how creative or tired I am. There are very few nights that a leftover is left in its primary state and just reheated. There are also nights when no light bulb goes off before the stomach grumbles. At these times I ask for advice from my family. They usually throw out ideas quite different from my ponderings but are enough to jump start a menu. I hardly ever take their advice but file away their wistful meals for future times.

There are weeks when I'm on a roll. Thumbing through a new cookbook, finding seasonal produce, thinking of different country's cuisines can break the lethargy and make the forage through the refrigerator and pantry a quest toward the perfect meal. I'm an explorer as I poke and squeeze ingredients. Willing them to tell me how they would like to be prepared and presented. These protracted adventures are usually on weekends or at times when schedules can be stretched. When I am on this culinary quest my family's hunger drifts from my mental fore front. Many times in mid chop my husband will tentatively ask when dinner is. Quickly followed by "Just curious, no rush, I just want to know if I have time to..." My daughter however is more insistent with a movie to go to or a date. If the meal doesn't fit her time frame it's a quick sandwich and off she goes.

Then I am left to continue my dance with ingredients. Food is coming out of the fridge and pantry faster than it is being cooked. The counter is getting smaller and 3 burners hold simmering, bubbling pots and saute pans. This is the exciting time of the meal. Food is briefly in a holding pattern. As I come up for air I start imagining how I want to present the meal, which dishes to use, are there to be garnishes, what wine and glasses. How dirty is the tablecloth? Paper or cloth napkins? I turn my attention to these finishing details and once executed, delve back into the cooking. I love the romance of creating the meal. Sometimes it isn't up to my imaginary concept, sometimes it surpasses and I gloat at the dishs' perfection with each bite, regaling my husband with my culinary prowess. He is always supportive and since pushed to the edge of starvation is grateful for dinner at 10:00. At this point he would be happy with gruel.

Now up to this point no one has entered the kitchen except me. I've kept everyone at bay fighting them off with glowers and growls.With a full stomach and figuring it's the least he can do my husband smiles and suggests indulgently that he do the dishes. I look demurely at my plate and say o.k. he pats my hand, fills my glass with wine and says, "Go put some music on and sit down, I'll be done in a minute."

If he had made the meal that would be true but the culinary tornado has been creating for the past 2 hours and the kitchen looks that way.

"My God! He screams,"Don’t you ever put anything away? I can't even find the sink! You only cooked for 2 people! There are dishes everywhere! I still have to walk the dog!!"

Sitting in the big purple chair, I close my eyes, listen to the music, the rants of my husband and replay the tastes I have just created knowing that they are transient and perfect.

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