Oh, for a piece of Lemon Chiffon Pah.

The barbeque grill was put into commission the second week we moved to Colorado. As the afternoon’s heat dissipated, we relaxed on the patio and surveyed our new view while chicken seared over the flames.

“Is that a cloud?”  I asked, finding a bit of grey sky between the neighboring townhomes.

“That’s a mountain,” Jim assured me.

We argued casually about the mysterious mass as we ate dinner, even walking out to the driveway at one point to get a better look from the street.  Nothing was settled and we headed back to the table.

Jim grabbed our new pair of extra-long SAF-T barbeque tongs and headed for the last piece of chicken off the grill. As the man of the house he feels entitled to every extra piece of meat I manage to fry, bake or bring home in a box.

Any barbeque lover can imagine the ensuing horror as Jim fumbled the saucy thigh with the tongs. With a tell-tale “ting” of the metal, the chicken was airborn, completing a perfect Immelmann maneuver as  we watched it all in slow-motion.  The piece, just the size of a Cedar Pine Bark Nugget hit the concrete patio with a slapping, wet softness. Quick on the uptake, I grabbed the tiny thigh, inspected it for any dirt that may have penetrated the flesh and decided it was salvageable.  In a minute it was rinsed off and tossed back on the grill. Disgusted, Jim wouldn’t eat it, so I stuck it in the fridge for later.

Little does Jim realize, but the average lunch for me consists of food no one else will eat. Perhaps the pizza is stale, the salad wilted, or the beans shriveled up. Doesn’t matter, it’s lunch.  This is quasi-edible food and as the one who is home the most, I am forced to scavenge.

I nuke cold bowls of abandoned plain noodles and containers of dried out rice, all the while pondering the percentage of women who risk health and reputation by eating food that others refuse to touch. Last week alone I devoured the remains of mud-colored lentil soup, leftover California Pizza Kitchen salad, and extra hard-boiled eggs, the kind with gray around the yolk that stick in your chest and take 20 minutes to maneuver the length of your food tube while you honestly think you’re having a heart attack.

The next day as I gnawed the chicken, I remembered dinner conversations when we were growing up.  In addition to having to report to the table with some sort of interesting topic in mind for friendly discussion, we always made sure to ask my father what he ate for lunch that day, which was way more interesting than current events.  Clearing his throat and rearranging the place mat, he’d smile and say, “I had a roast beef sandwich, corn on the cob, and a piece of pah.  Lemon chiffon pah.

The way my Dad emphasized the word pie with a southern drawl irritated my mother every time, but we’d laugh and imagine the glorious bounty of fresh food on white cafeteria plates. Dad must be pretty important. My mother would then set a tuna casserole the size of a tire onto the table, and fall into her chair, exhausted.

History repeats itself and my little family is not exempt from its culinary woes.  Some days, when dinner looks small and sad even before it hits the table (or floor), we ask Jim what he had for lunch.  He answers, trying to minimize his office lunch with brevity: “A sandwich. And a pickle,” which we now know means a hamburger, fries, a pickle, pop, and maybe a cookie.  I put down a bowl of soup in front of him and sit down, exhausted, realizing that whatever we don’t eat, I will dutifully finish the next day.

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19 Responses to Oh, for a piece of Lemon Chiffon Pah.

  1. love it, Mimi! I thought I was the only mother who was relegated to burnt toast! Who knew?? Clever and very relatable post. thumbs up!

    • Mimi says:

      Thanks Jeanne. Who knew that burnt toast would spawn a slew of restaurants under the same name. Only the waitresses do not look beleaguered moms, but their sassy daughters.

  2. Elisa Broihier says:

    Oh my goodness, I laughed so hard when I read your description of the huge tuna casserole! And I remember so well our eager interest in Dad’s lunch menu. Why was the idea of eating at a corporate cafeteria so intriguing to us? I guess part of it was that we knew his “piece-a-pah” routine irritated mom, which was always amusing.

    I also totally relate to left-over food being designated as the mom’s fare. I’ve become a fan of cold corn on the cob and wilted Italian salads, but I’m the queen of creating new dishes from old. My kids grew up hearing “You’ll probably never have this again” on a regular basis, since whatever we were eating was the random result of whatever was in the fridge.

    Thanks for starting this blog, Mimi. It’s so fun to read.

  3. Kit says:

    This made me laugh so hard, Mimi! I do remember Dad talking about his pie at lunch, though by the time I was actually paying attention, it seemed that ALL he consumed at lunch was pie. The whole answer to “what did you have?” was “Piece of pah.” what varied was the flavor 🙂

  4. davmills46 says:

    Sounds like growing up in Maine.

  5. Jim Foulkes says:

    That chicken must have been a fighter pilot in another life.

  6. Bryce Culverhouse says:

    I can attest to Elisa’s ability to make something wonderful out of nothing. I see her fridge and pantry on a regular basis and what an eclectic mix of nothings it is. So much so that my box of green tea bags has been banned since supposedly contaminating the powdered sugar of which seems to be a main staple in her arsenal of gourmets tasties. I’m amazed at the things she makes and always wonder if that talent comes from those famous Broihier women baking marathon’s that frequented their childhood. Mimi, you may feel you get stuck eating the least desirable leftovers but I frequently am offered the leftovers of the ldftovers

  7. Kris says:

    I love me some pah and your blog!

  8. LOL! Love it. Been on many a scavenge myself. Someitmes there is something good left over though. Like that one time there was a divine little homemade cake that a friend had made for a party at our house. I knew my husband wouldn’t eat it even though he was at home all day and I was out. I anticipated the pleasure all day. When I got home I rushed to the fridge, salivating. The damn man had thrown it out! He thought that because it was a day old it was no good. Can you believe that? I was not amused.

    • Mimi says:

      I cannot imagine the horror! Better teach that man a few of the basics of the day(or two)-old-lunch. Thanks for the funny story! -Mimi

  9. dinkibass says:

    I always just thought my mum liked shit food. Enlightening

  10. Kit B says:

    Just re-read this post. Laughing again. Thanks for writing this, Mimi. Some folks do NOT do this. I know people who go out for lunch nearly every day just to avoid eating leftovers. Of course, the amount of money they spend on food astounds me, frankly, and I cannot do the same for budgetary reasons. Plus, it’s kind of a hassle to always be going OUT in search of food when one is already home and doing something else.
    I, too, pride myself on the ability to make something decent out of what most people would consider “nothing” in the fridge or pantry. I know Chrissy feels the same way. Midwestern ingenuity? Now that I live in Maine maybe I’ll attribute it to yankee frugality. Either that or getting in the car during the long Maine winter is much more unpleasant (due to lack of a garage and remote starter) than getting creative with the tidbits left in my house 🙂

    • I think the “getting in the car during the long Maine winter” is key. I see a garage in your future. And I know Chris feels the same way about leftovers, but you guys are much more creative. I was at the store last night realizing I was just buying stuff out of habit. I had no plan. I buy randomly and then it is a mental exercize to come up with something edible from it. I have a feeling you do much better at that!

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