Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is It Edible?

I've gotten into the luxurious habit of going back to bed after the two youngest kids leave for middle school.  Cut me a little slack - they have to get up before 6:30 to catch their 7:00 a.m. bus and my body needs more sleep than that allows.

When I crawl back under the covers, I've taken to going into this strange kind of half-sleep, half-awake period where I think it's time to get up, know I don't have to, and really couldn't care less.  I can hear the next door neighbor cutting the boards for his deck, Jackson barking at the leaves falling from the trees, and the various school buses coming and going.  What I can't seem to do is wake up completely enough to drag my pajama clad body out of bed until, say, oh 9:00 or so, when I come sliding down the stairs (not falling, if I'm lucky) in search of painkillers, since it's usually the shoulder pain that finally forces me out of bed.

This morning, what forced me out of bed (I thought) was this:

I was lying there and I kept thinking I smelled the cheesecake you see above.  It's a New York style, made from scratch, with love, cheesecake that Justin made for Jamie's fourteenth birthday.  Last night.  I'm still smelling it, apparently, in my sleep.

When we first got married, I thought I should take my mother's cue and cook meals for my husband.  My mom is a great cook.  Unfortunately, that was not apparently on my genetic cue card, because I am a terrible cook.  I know it.  Justin knows it.  Now my kids know it.  If I'm making dinner, Ben will generally say (tactfully), "Um, Mom, I think I have to work tonight."  Jamie will say (gently), "I'm not very hungry.  I think I'll eat something later."  And sneak back down in a half hour to devour a bowl of cereal.  Sometimes my lack of culinary skills makes me extremely sad.  Even with a recipe, I'm probably gonna blow it.  Big time.

I do make a couple of things my family likes.  I'm pretty good at those cookies you make from the log of dough you can get at any supermarket.  I get requests in the winter time for my chicken and dumplings.  (Which is really just boiling a chicken and putting it's various parts in with some Bisquick.) that I think about it, those are about the only requests I get.  I can make a great chili, with my Mom's recipe, but it's not spicy enough for my family and my acid reflux won't allow for hot sauce.

Enter Justin....

Justin can cook.  I should have put that in all capital letters with steam rising from it.  He can throw together some ingredients and oh.  my.  GOD.  He recently started making what he calls beef stew.  Just writing that makes my mouth water.  I don't know how he gets it just right, but it's the perfect blend of meat, potatoes, barley, carrots, and gravy.  Put it together with some crusty bread and you've got leftovers for three days.

His specialty is baking.  Every Christmas, the smells coming out of our kitchen are indescribable (and I'm definitely not talking about our flatulent dog here).  He makes these little walnut cookies that have our neighbors standing in line at the door.  His fudge is unbelievable.  I won't even go into detail about the cheesecake, because I think the picture above really says it all.  He loves to experiment, just to see if two disparate ingredients might taste good together.  Things you would never think about putting in the same pot, but hmmm...they do taste good together.  Wow.

For the past couple of years, he's been perfecting and canning a homemade barbeque sauce.  When we smell it, it draws us all, drooling, into the kitchen.  He'll take a little piece of white bread, dip it in the sauce, and say, "Want to try it?"  Are you kidding???  Why do you think I'm standing here with saliva dripping down my chin?  We've started including it in care packages and bringing it with us as gifts.  I wish he could get a patent on it and start selling it at the grocery store.  We'd be rich.

I think cooking gives Justin a creative outlet from sitting and being a techie for ten to twelve hours a day.  He seems to enjoy it.  I've taken to staying out of the kitchen until it's time to do the dishes.  It just works better that way.

Thank God that Justin can cook, because I can't.  I'm great at ordering something from the local Chinese place.  Or putting in our weekly pizza order.  But I'm just not the cook my mom is.  Or that my grandmother was.

Did I mention that I do a lot of laundry?

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