Dinner’s Ready

If you have ever been to our house, you have been fed. My wife is a great cook. I’ve found we make a great team, especially when it comes to cooking. I’m not suggesting that I’m much of a cook’s assistant, but I do like to eat. Her Eastern European decent comes into play when company arrives, even if unannounced. It somehow would be impolite not to put on a full spread, complete with plenty of appetizers for twenty people, even if it’s only for a family of four. After everybody leaves, she often remarks, “What was I thinking? I made enough for the Ukrainian Army.” That’s a vague reference to large amounts of kielbasa and sauerkraut. For whatever reason, there usually seems to be a lot of that left over. Unless her family is visiting. You may have heard recently that we Americans are now energy independent and the Russians have an overabundance of natural gas. I wonder why?

My annual physicals sometimes attest to her culinary skills. Winter seemed exceptionally long this year. When the nurse at our family physician’s office got me started, I said, “Would it be all right for me to remove my shoes?” Followed by, “Here, hold my phone”. She smiled and told me to get on the scale. I thought that was unfair.

Our home is getting older and so is some of the technology. We have an overly sensitive smoke alarm. I don’t know why, but Olga seems not to like my attempts at humor sometimes. I’ve begun to refer to the smoke alarm as a “kitchen timer”. Must be a guy thing.

Some of the recent reasons behind that relate the shortages we’ve seen in the markets. One must become more creative when some simple staple items are unavailable. I understand the toilet tissue thing. I’m not trying to be crass but who wants to run out of that? At least now I don’t have to rake up all those leaves that I didn’t get to in the fall. And, we found those corn cobs I saved were pretty useful. (I had more here but Olga made me delete it).

Now, if you’re the one hording the breadcrumbs, I don’t mean to judge but you can make those out of the bread that you over-purchased and went stale. And, potatoes? What’s the deal with that? Good news is that Utz made plenty of potato chips. No shortage there. We found that if you toss a couple of handfuls of those tasty morsels into the blender, Voila, a handy, crunchy breadcrumb substitute. We try to buy the all-natural, free-range chips. We hear that it’s healthier that way.

We like to shop together since I retired. I use the term “we” loosely, as it’s mostly me. Olga says I’m a lousy shopper. I refer to myself as more of a purchaser. You have a list. You stick to the list. If you were supposed to purchase something else at the store, it would be on the list. When I come back from the grocery store and you ask me if I bought ketchup, I will ask if it was on the list. If the answer is no, it’s not on the list but we needed it, then I would defend myself by (nicely) saying, “I didn’t buy ketchup, catsup or whatever you call it because it wasn’t on the list”. Makes sense to me.

We drive into the sparsely occupied parking lot and get out of the car while trying to avoid the spent wipes and discarded latex gloves from our sanitary-conscious fellow shoppers. Paula, our daughter-in-law, made us some really cool masks. We dutifully don the face coverings while I find myself noticing that in addition to the mask, I’m wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. I begin to ponder that I’m about to go into a busy store to buy things. What if security thinks that I have a more nefarious purpose, based on my attire? Shedding the sunglasses, we proceed.

Right up front on this one, so you don’t misunderstand. I don’t like Walmart for a number of reasons. Shopping there these days makes the experience even less pleasant for me. On a recent trip, we were pushing our freshly sanitized shopping cart down an aisle, trying hard to pay attention the arrows on the floor for traffic flow. In a way, this really is better for me. Usually when I stop to wait for Olga as she peers at labels, some person confronts my cart head-on wanting me to get out of their way. It’s more confusing for me now when someone wants to get by and politely say, “Excuse me. Can I get through?” Innocent enough but with the masks I can’t tell who’s talking. Invariably I wind up blocking the wrong person. Did I forget to mention that I don’t like Walmart? As we made our way through the empty paper goods aisle, the fire alarm sounded. A computer-generated, monotone voice comes over the loudspeaker system. With a crackle it says, “There is a fire in the building. Please leave the store immediately.” Having had plenty experience at home with false alarms, I basically ignored it. I couldn’t see or smell a fire so, I figured, what can they do to me? Ask me to leave? By now people are shoving their once sterile carts against each other and congregating at the exits to the parking lots. So much for social distancing. We went about our business for a few minutes in the now empty refrigerated section as I picked over what was left of the orange juice. I’ve seen No Pulp, Some Pulp and Most Pulp but the warning label stating, “Chew Before Swallowing” took me back a step.

I’ll have to say that we were enjoying not invading everyone’s “personal space” as they all piled on at the exits. In case you haven’t noticed, that is apparently becoming more like ten feet than six. I’m not one to like close crowds but this is ridiculous. We proceeded to make our way to the check-outs. We had to wait so far away that the cashier had to use a bull horn to tell us when we could approach the counter. The only saving grace is that we can leave our personal bags in the car and use plastic again. Too bad though, I was beginning to enjoy the paper bags ripping as I try to carry the groceries into the house.

Take some extra time and cook with your family. It’s a great way to share the work and, most of all, grow closer together. If you set the smoke alarm off in the process, it may lead to one of those stories.

About the Author View all posts

Rick Gile

Rick Gile

Life is made up of stories. You may not realize it, but we relay our experiences to one another all the time. They can give our loved ones a sense of the past, our friends a glimpse of how we have reacted to life's changes. Or, tell a new acquaintance something about ourselves. Stories are really about the journey of life.

What you encounter as life passes are views of events that make up your past, while shaping your future. What you read here are merely a few of the stories that have shaped my life, so far.

Rick and his wife Olga live in upstate New York, close to their grandchildren. They work part-time with their sons after running a business for 37 years in the Albany area.

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