“Congratulations, Jennifer! For cleaning your house so spotlessly, you’ve become a big winner. Bob, tell her what she’s won!”
“Well Jennifer, for cleaning so tirelessly, for never getting bored of the mind-numbing organization and surviving on only a few hours sleep at a time, for not ripping the remote out of your beloved’s hand as he channel surfed all eff-ing night, you’ve won an afternoon with your mother-in-law! You are one lucky Hausfrau!”
“Oh, Bob. That is just fantastic. Thank you! Thank You! Thank You!” she giggled manically, laughter echoing in the hallways as she lost all hold on reality.
Last night Sparky and I had another one of our cleaning fits. For me it’s really this sleepless state of mind. The night before last, the term MF-er was muttered every hour until about 3 am when I finally quit fighting it and instructed Sparky to stop flipping the channels, put on Gilmore Girls and go to EFF-ING SLEEP. No sooner did the opening credits start to roll then Sparky started to snore and I was up for the rest of the EFF-ING night.
Gilmore Girls is Sparky’s Ambien. Me? I need the real deal.
When I’m like this, I need to do something and since Mim still hasn’t taught me to knit, I organize. Sleep deprivation is a lot like being high for me, except nothing seems as funny. I lack that creativity that makes one think that peanut butter is proof there is a god and if I’m not careful, anxiety comes for a visit so I have to stay busy as a form of self preservation.
For Sparky, this binge might have more to do with the delivery and installation of our new TV. What started out as MY insistance that we get a small, inexpensive TV for the bedroom with a sleep timer turned into a 42” HDTV plasma and an appointment with our wall/painter man to skillfully hide all the cords inside the wall. (You know the wall that was just repaired in the room that was just repainted in October. Its okay, though, because our painter will just take of it when he comes to repair the bathroom ceiling due to water damage from our upstairs neighbor.)
Anyway, this bout of cleanliness prompted Sparky to invite Mutti-lein over. Our house is clean, therefore I have nothing to fear as the schlumf American daughter-in-law.
In the process of making this coffee cake I had to use my new oven mitts, which got me thinking about my dad.
There is no one happier that I have learned to cook than my dad. It might be because the first meal I made him, scrambled eggs, had to be sipped through a straw and he’s hoping never to have to repeat that experience.
My dad can cook, but he doesn’t because my step-mom is something of a gourmet. My sister can cook, my step-dad can cook and even my brother can cook. My mom couldn’t. Her philosophy was why waste the time and patience when you could just marry a man who enjoyed cooking. I totally agreed with this. Until I moved to Germany, my claim to fame was being able to cook anything that took seven minutes or less.
I can make a mean Mac and cheese. The secret being keeping it on the stove to stir in the powdered cheese. That way the cheese dissolves better. You must eat it before it gets cold, though. I can microwave with the best of them evidenced by the 7-second ice cream hit. Seven seconds softens, but doesn’t melt, one pint of chunky ice cream perfectly.
My attempts at “real” cooking were mediocre at best. However, I have always had one true blue fan. My dad. He has eaten everything I ever made for him, no matter how disgusting.
I once attempted spanakopita (my ambition hindered only by my complete lack of skill) as an appetizer for Thanksgiving. My cold, greasy, white lumps bared no resemblance to spanakopita save for I called it spanakopita. My step-mom didn’t even flinch. She greeted me and my offering warmly and even set it on the sideboard with the rest of the appetizers.
My dad was the only one brave enough to try it. He ate two pieces and told me it was delicious.
The next year, they requested that I bring mixed nuts.
Upon my move to Krautland and the subsequent change of my name, I started to cook more. As Leonardo’s Mac and Cheese is not readily available at Aldi, Rewe or Kaufland, I had to actually learn to cook. I mean from scratch, using a cookbook.
No one was more encouraging than my dad.
I was 7, my dad gave me my first cookbook. I was 19 when I got my second. This was prompted by 27 phone calls one Thanksgiving that ended with an unstuffed-gizzard/organ-bag-intact cold turkey and gravy the consistency of concrete and burgers from MacDonald’s. He still loves to tell that story.
This last trip home was the week after my third successful Thanksgiving. Like a real cook, I had the burns to prove it. My dad, however, was horrified by a particularly bad burn on the inside of my forearm.
The funny part of this is that I’ve had burns from spent ammo cartridges ricocheting down my blouse. I’ve slammed my thumb in the hammer of a gun so hard as to have my thumbnail fall off. I have caught the tender skin between my thumb and forefinger in the slide of a 9mm that bled profusely and let me tell you that hurt like a son of a bitch. His response? He told me to, and I quote, “Man up, Jennifer! Man up.” How does a burn from the oven send him in to protective mode i don’t know.
To that end, my dad bought me oven mitts. Thirteen inch oven mitts that cover my arms up to the elbows. I feel like that 6 year old when I wear these because they are so big. I also feel loved and protected even though my dad is 6000 miles away.
This morning as I was safely pulling out my coffee cake, (a recipe my step-mom gave me,) I thought about him. Later, I used my fingers to pluck chocolate croissants off the cookie sheet and burned the back of my hand on the oven door.