OPINION: A Small Fortune

I can’t cook, don’t ask me and yet everything in our family centers around food. It’s five o’clock somewhere, (like Florida) and my kids are retired. I’ve never seen three children approach mealtime with such zeal and urgency. Truly, they know how to advocate for themselves; eating so frequently and with such rigor that recent searches in my phone include “signs of tapeworm” and “how to install a padlock on the refrigerator”.

My grandmother had a paddle. Not a padlock, a paddle. It hung in her kitchen, (right next to a fire engine red colander that’s now hanging in my kitchen) so we knew not to come swarming, asking when dinner was ready. “For Naughty Children,” the paddle read, (not that we needed an explanation).

We all knew what it was for but my grandmother never hit us, not that we probably didn’t give her every reason to. “The Little Rascals” and Fight Club…on steroids comes to mind when I think of me and my cousins and the Sunday suppers at my grandma’s, (the one day we’d all crowd into her tiny kitchen like Alice’s Restaurant, complete with hubcaps to eat on). What happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen. The woman knew her way around a skillet. Nothing compares to that sauce or the memory of sitting around her coffee ring stained table sampling the wide array of home-cooked Italian meals she’d (I wouldn’t go so far as to say lovingly) prepare for us.

But unlike my grandmother and more like my own mother, I can only claim a short repertoire of old standbys–overdone pork, undercooked chicken…everything centers around meat, the safety and preparation of which is always highly questionable, moderately nauseating and ends in a call for takeout. Typically, this elicits a Ferris Bueller “Twist and Shout” reaction followed by a somewhat candid and comical true confession of what everyone really thinks of my cooking.

My kids will undoubtedly look back fondly on the nice people at Happy Wok, Hunan Cafe and Reiki. If fortune cookies really brought fortune, we’d be swimmin’ in it. Skillets overwhelm me. I don’t want anything that I have to stand there and supervise (cut to my very short stint as a recess aide). Any recipe which requires following multiple directions, protective gear (even potholders) or the use of a thermometer are all out too. There was a very, very brief period I entertained going to nursing school. Dear Future Patients, run.

Our Sunday sauce, sadly, comes out of a big, fat jar. I think in my “younger days” (oh, how I long to be carded) I was more willing, patient and skillet friendly. My family was patient, too, like the time I substituted a can of Guinness for white wine in a pasta dish or that Thanksgiving I forgot about the great bird and we all had to make really good use of our incisors on another Chevy Chase special.

Let me just go on the record here that no one in this house is starving. Our fridge and pantry battle it out daily for reigning Jenga champ. Be careful what you pull out and when. I have “abandon cart” moments, “abandon store” moments and many, many “abandon skillet” and “abandon children” moments.

And don’t even get me started on school lunches. I don’t pack them, not anymore. Do our kids really need one more thing to shove in that backpack? Seriously, are they doing “Wild” or training for future careers as camels? “Are you smuggling rocks?” (I had to ask). There’s a good chance I may have to resort to black marketing my breast milk to afford chiropractic care for my kids.

I can’t be bothered; with the lunch, the dinner, basically any of it. I’m taking a little break from feeling guilty about it, too. Don’t tell my mother-in-law (the woman franchised guilt) or the mice, they’re still reeling from that gelt I tossed in the trash. By the time I sit down to eat, usually everyone’s done and then I just end up overeating (who can even look at food at this point). It’s an excuse for a break.

One day I’ll learn to make Sunday sauce. For now, the fire engine red enamel can rust on the colander and my kids can have one less thing breaking their backs. Nobody’s swinging a paddle in this house and we’ve got Reiki on speed dial. I think we’re all good here.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful to the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.