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.