operation: culinary survival
Attention: The following is an unauthorized post from somewhere in the frozen tundra, where warmth is scarce and food is scarcer (or is it ‘more scarce’?). Your regularly scheduled blogging will resume when I’m done. Or sooner, if the authorities find me.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Many a married man knows the struggle. The absence of the wife, the mother, the cooker of the sustenance. The inescapable question, “What will I eat tonight?” In that absence, the options narrow: foraging, hibernation, starvation.
Oh, I know what some will say, “Don’t single men have this problem all the time? And there’s plenty of single men around. Don’t they have to fend for themselves every day?” But this is exactly the point. Like animals kept in a zoo and then thrust into the wild, married man have lost their edge, their survival instinct. After five years of marriage, even Ramen noodles begins to feel complicated.
“Do I heat the water first and then pour it on the noodles? Or do I pour it on the noodles and then heat it up?”
Normally, this is not a problem for me. My beloved loves me, and she plans. When she departs our home, I am left with scrumptious meals that would make your tongue slap your mama. This time was different. This time my wife was not leaving me for a short trip, but I was returning home early. Two weeks early. Fourteen, long, foodless days early. How would I survive? Would I survive?
The pizzas went first. They lasted a day or so.
Cereal was next. The milk from before Christmas was still good. Barely.
Pasta was attempted. Knowing that some sort of oil was required, I sprayed Pam into the boiling water filled with spiraled wheat. Pesto was added for flavor. The result was edible. Barely. But it only lasted three meals.
And then meal-skipping began. One lunch. Then another. I knew that the cereal was running low. Like the widow of Zarephath, I was preparing for the worst. Where was my Elijah, the man of God who would prolong my oil and flour?
Friends recognized the need. Invitations for dinner rolled in. I became a food-mooch. Chicken and potatoes with the Tabbs (I consumed at least three plates full). A providentially late BCS Christmas Party (Swedish meatballs from Anita. And a plate to go, to boot). But I knew it wouldn’t last. How much food could a food-mooch mooch if a food-mooch could mooch food? Friday, and the homecoming of my bride, was too far, and hope was dying on the vine.
I fell to my knees, and cried. Something must be done. But what? And then I remembered the Book. No, not the Bible. The Cookbook. Or rather, the Cookbooks. The shelves of them in the kitchen. They were for more than decoration, were they not? Surely one of these might be able to instruct me, even me, the culinary-challenged, in the arts of procuring edibles?
I surveyed the titles.
The Ultimate Cooking Course (Cooking course? What? Do I look like I have a semester?)
Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes (Never trust a felon, I always say.)
Cooking with Your Slow-Cooker (‘Slow-Cooker’? I won’t make it.)
The Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, & Dairy-Free Cookbook (Sounds taste-free. Even I’m not that desperate.)
And then I saw it: The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Here is someone who might understand my challenge. Home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play. Images filled my mind. Searching for water in the desert of Arizona. Foraging for wild berries in the forests of California. Hunting the buffalo in Comanche Territory. This sounds promising.
I removed the book from the shelf and began to peruse, skimming its pages for something, anything that would catch my eye.
Huevos Hyacinth (I don’t eat anything I can’t pronounce.)
French Breakfast Puffs (Baking was out of the question. And the French! Don’t get me started.)
Perfect Pot Roast (I’m an amateur. No way I’m pulling off something ‘perfect.’)
My eyes fell upon p.88. Marlboro Man’s Favorite Sandwich.
“Hmmm… I’ve never had a cigarette. But the sandwich looks good. Really good. And if I look for too much longer, I will eat the paper.” So began my journey, my exploration of the culinary arts.
I journeyed to the Rainbow. I sought the cube steak, tenderized by the butcher. The onions (1 larger or 2 medium). The sliced mushrooms. The unpronounceable ingredients (Does anyone know how to say ‘Worcestershire Sauce’?). And the butter. Oh, the butter. ‘Lots of butter,’ says the Book, and I obey.
The following pictures, grainy and imperfect as they may be, document my efforts. With my trusty sidekicks, Dirty Stache and Joshua the Man-Child, I ply this new trade, following the directions of the Pioneer Woman.
So ends this expedition. With full bellies, the Stache, Man-Child, and I collapsed in heaps, thankful to the Lord of hosts for this provision of daily bread (and onions and mushrooms and steak). We came, we cooked, we conquered.
But the question remains: Is this the end? Will there be more expeditions? Only time will tell. Until then, I have enough leftovers to last me the weekend.
We now return to your regularly scheduled blogging. No animals were harmed in the making of this post. Except for the cow that we ate.