Betty J. Slade
A friend called, “I’m so upset. I’m here staying at the timeshare for Thanksgiving. My daughter-in-law has planned to do all the cooking. She told me I wasn’t needed in the kitchen.”
“That’s good news. Why are you whining?”
“Because I like to cook the turkey and decorate for the holidays. I brought everything to decorate with and big pans to cook in so our vacation will feel like home.”
“Are you kidding? Can you hear yourself? Let her do it. Why are you making work for yourself?”
“Because I’ve always cooked Thanksgiving dinner.”
There is something about a woman and her kitchen. I have a friend who will not let anyone clean up after a meal. She has to put everything back in perfect order. There are women who have never shared their kitchen with anyone. It’s their kitchen and woe to anyone who comes into her coveted space.
I was the boss in my kitchen, but I insisted everyone help with the meals. With three daughters and one son, everyone needed to learn to cook and I needed the help, so my kitchen was our kitchen.
After giving advice to my friend for Thanksgiving, I realized I needed to take my own advice. Our son came home not intending to stay, but decided my Sweet Al and I needed help. We didn’t realize we needed someone to take care of us. The older we have become, apparently, we need help.
Our son took over the duties of the kitchen when he arrived. He has a passion for cooking. He watches cooking shows for entertainment. He creates recipes and treats us to exotic meals. I was thrilled. I was tired of cooking. I wasn’t quite ready to move out of the kitchen, but the kitchen wasn’t big enough for two cooks.
For family dinner each week, we alternate between houses. When it’s our turn to prepare a meal, our son steps in and cooks. It’s not for me to hash over the menu with our daughter. Our son says, “I got it.” That means, “I’ve got it and it’s not up for discussion.”
Two days before Thanksgiving, I thought I would help. So, I prepped things for the Thanksgiving dinner. For the dressing, I diced the onions and celery and cooked them. I fried the sausage and cooked the cranberries. I had things ready for our son. I would be out of the kitchen when he began to cook.
My son came home. “Did you cook my cranberries?”
Yes. I thought I was helping.
“Why did you boil the onions and celery?”
“I always cook the onions and celery the day before.”
“Do you want to do the whole meal?”
He left upset and came home later. With a pleasant voice, but firm, he said, “It’s this way. When you are painting a piece of art, do I come in, pick up your brushes and start painting? No. Why would you do that to me?”
I hadn’t seen it that way before. My son is a gourmet chef. He prepares a meal fit for a queen. When he cooks, it’s an event of fine dining, like painting a piece of fine art. He will drive to town to get the necessary seasoning for a certain taste. He’ll make the 10-mile trip for a fresh lemon to garnish the plate.
Heavens. All these years, I was feeding a hungry family. They didn’t wait for me to drive to town to make it an event. I cooked family-style with what I had to cook with. If I didn’t have oatmeal and was making oatmeal cookies, I used cornflakes. If I didn’t have BBQ sauce, I’d make it with ketchup and brown sugar, or a can of tomato paste and molasses. Living in the country, I learned to be flexible with what I had. I wasn’t making a fine piece of art to adorn the table. I was just feeding my family.
I told my Sweet Al, “I’ve been replaced in the kitchen. It’s time for me to shift, understand where I am in life and make room for another person’s gift. I cooked because there was a need. He cooks out of love, and it tastes better.”
Final brushstroke: The Thanksgiving meal was superb. Every dish was fit for royalty. Our son was in his place. Even though, I feel like I can still handle the heat, something is telling me it’s time to stay out of the kitchen. It is no longer my kitchen. Turn it over to the chef.