Thankful for the Grocery Store

He tasted better than he looked.
He tasted better than he looked.

I host Thanksgiving every year and this year was no different. I love having my family come over. We watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade together and sister Kiki and I prepare most of the dinner. Except, I have to make the turkey because he usually  needs to get in the oven before anyone arrives. It shouldn’t surprise you that touching an uncooked turkey sceeves me out. I hate sticking my hand inside that bird and pulling out those disgusting things wrapped in paper. I mean, come on, the turkey wasn’t born with paper in it’s orifice. Why wrap up its giblets and stick them back just so I have to pull it out? And all that red blood. Yuk. It occurred to me while preparing this year’s turkey, I should be thankful for grocery stores. Imagine if we had to hunt the turkey, defeather it, behead it, clean it and then cook it? If all that stuff was left up to me no one would have eaten. Ever. And what about ovens? I bet the pilgrims didn’t pull open a door and stick the turkey in a preheated oven from Whirlpool. Did they build a fire in the back of their log cabin and stick the bird on a skewer? Thank God for grocery stores. That’s all I’m saying.

My aunt and uncle went to Italy in the 1980s to visit the village where our family is from. It’s insulting if you don’t let my family cook for you. No big surprise there. My relatives, in their primitive village, didn’t have ovens in their homes in the 1980s. They cooked over a grate in the floor and they sat on the floor to do it. Can you imagine? I am thankful I was born in 19 – well, in 20th century America instead of any time in the past 100 years in southern Italy.

My Italian relatives didn’t have screens on their windows either. They didn’t care if the bugs came in or the cows. You could be sitting down to dinner, on the floor next to the grate I’m assuming, it probably doubled as the heating vent, and ole Bessy the cow would come sauntering in the door without a screen on it and she’d saddle right up to the cooking vent and drop in her seasoning of chewed up grass.

When my great-grandmother came to America in the 1930s to join her husband, bringing my teenage grandfather with her, she took all the screens off the windows of their home. Someone said to her, “if you take the screens down the flies will come in.” Her response: “If they come in, they have a way to get out.” How do you argue with that logic? After some time in America my great-grandmother begged her husband to return her to her village in Italy. Once she got home she decided she wanted to return to America. She must’ve missed the screens and the oven. Probably the grocery store too. Just saying.


Why Would Anyone Want to Cook?

I only use the ones with the word "cake" in the title.
I only use the ones with the word “cake” in the title.

The other day I was at the nail salon and the young lady helping me says, “I love looking at recipes. Cooking relaxes me.” I had to control the eye roll because I hate to cook. Yup. That’s right. And my comment is usually followed by “what kind of an Italian are you that you don’t like to cook?” Pop-Pop would often ask me that question especially because I also hate tomato sauce. I will have you know I am a perfectly good Italian who likes garlic, olive oil and sharp, stinky provolone cheese. And of course, cannolis!

My husband realized when he married me he chose the only Italian woman who can’t and doesn’t cook and I married the only poor Jew. The first time I tried to cook for Husband, back when he was just Boyfriend and I still wanted to impress him, I wanted to make macaroni. What else? Well, who knew you had to wait for the water to boil BEFORE you put the macaroni in? Pop-Pop came into the kitchen yelling and waving his arms, “What are you doing? Move out of the way. Let me fix it.” And so he did, which was a good thing because Boyfriend returned. And now I know to boil the water first. It’s all good.

Baking is my thing. Just like Pop-Pop. Since Pop-Pop was my most important male role model (Ma, did you see I added “male”?) and my favorite person (sorry, Ma) it only stands to reason I would want to be like him. And cannolis are way more fun to eat than liver. Not that anyone ever made liver in my house. More like stuffed peppers.

Nope, I don’t understand why anyone would want to cook. I also don’t understand why anyone wants to jump out of airplanes, skydive, and ride rollercoasters. I wonder if I equate cooking with reckless activities? Cooking can be dangerous once knives and fire are involved.

Then there’s Nan. She walks around with spatulas strapped to her hips. She equates feeding you with love. The more you eat the more you love her. And in reverse, if she cooks your favorite meal for you she loves you. Which is why she always makes eggplant parm for my husband and nothing for me. That’s no joke. She used to make stuffed peppers for my sister’s old boyfriend. He was Italian. I haven’t seen a stuffed pepper since they broke up. Sixteen years ago. I think Nan is still in mourning. Don’t tell my brother-in-law. And no, he’s not Italian, but we don’t hold that against him. Well, I can’t speak for Nan.

Tell me, faithful reader, do you like to cook? Why?

Do You Have Obsessive Behavior?

I can't have just one.
I can’t have just one.

I’m not a drinker. Never have been. Not even in college. My husband always said I was a cheap date. I guess that’s why he married me.

Several years ago I worked out with a trainer, which I loved. I know, I’m weird. I like to exercise, but working out with the trainer was when I started counting calories. I had gotten so good at it I could eyeball a plate of food and guess the calories within in a few points. Too bad you can’t make a living doing that.

I may not drink, but I love my desserts. Cookies, chocolate, cheesecake, and anything with pumpkin in it. Needless to say, this time of year I’m in my glory because there are pumpkin cookies, chocolate and cheesecake. The only problem is what to eat first. And of course, there’s that issue of the calories. It’s hard to turn off the calorie counter when I’m staring at a pumpkin muffin from Dunkin’ Donuts.

I was recently at a writer’s conference and during the cocktail reception a woman asked me why I didn’t drink. Well, to have the desserts, silly. If the look on her face on the way to the bar was any indication, she did think I was silly with my declaration. Oh well. To each his own, as they say.

I admit, I may be slightly obsessive about the counting calories thing, but then I’m also a little obsessive about the amount of words I write a day (which is never enough for me.) I’m obsessive about being a good parent, which I struggle at. I’m obsessive a lot of things. It goes with the Type A personality.

What am I learning here? Maybe I should just eat more pumpkin cheesecake and stop counting the calories.


Under Pressure

Let’s just say I’m pretty good under pressure. It’s the afterward I stink at. My daughter recently sliced the top of her finger off with a pair of scissors. OID-10015731kay, a bit of an exageration. She was trying to cut Duck Tape. Yes, Duck Tape. It’s the brand name of the silvery stuff your father probably used to fix everything in the house with. Now it comes in way better colors and patterns. It’s all the rage and she makes everything out of it including a shirt. Very clever my girl, but I digress.
She put a big slice into the top of her pointer finger. At first I thought she sliced opened her palm there was so much blood, but once we ran water over her hand I saw the cut. I can handle this, I thought. It was my first trip to the emergency room for an injury. For me or for my kids. My sister and I weren’t allowed to get hurt as children, too messy, so I never had the pleasure of braking a limb or splitting my head open.
Now, I know I don’t do well with needles so I didn’t look when the wonderful nurses in the ER numbed her hand for the stitches. My girl seemed to be handling things pretty well and only squeezed my hand a little when the numbing medicine raced through her veins and made her fingers swell. Okay, I took a peak. What kind of a mother would I be if I kept my eyes averted the whole time?
I didn’t see it coming. I thought I was still under pressure and figured I wouldn’t even consider relaxing and collapsing until I was back home with a cup of tea. Wrong. Out of nowhere I’m hotter than an afternoon July sun and I never get hot. Not even in July. All at once every pore in my body spit sweat. And I mean every pore. I soaked my t-shirt through and was sitting still.
The nurse saw me and said, “oh, do you need to put your head between your legs?”
“No.” Never let them see you sweat. Isn’t that the motto? And what would my daughter think about her injury if her mother passed out in front of her?
I rested my head against the wall and thought as long as I don’t move I’ll be fine. But the nurse saw something different. “Would you like me to get you some orange juice?”
“No. Okay, maybe.”
Which was met with my daughter’s crying and “are you all right?” Great. Trying to be strong under pressure here and failing miserably.
The nurse brings me the orange juice, but that’s not enough. Oh no. They also wheel me in a chair that reclines so my legs will be higher than my heart. Now who’s the patient here? Completely embarrassing.
They stitch her up, help me to my feet and send us on our way. I walk into the house on shaky legs and declare to my husband, “You have ER duty next time.”
There better not be a next time. Too messy.