Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Having My Cake and Eating It Too

My fourth child left for college with an orange frying pan and a cook book from her aunt who is a fabulous cook. The cookbook is practical. The frying pan is necessary. The orange is fun. This great desire to learn the culinary arts came quickly and urgently last spring, when she spent a weekend with her older sister at Utah State University. They lived on Hot Tamales, not the Mexican kind, the candy kind. She is now rooming with her sister (brother is down the hall) and they have not eaten a single Hot Tamale, yet.

After years of me begging and pleading to teach her how to make good food, the tables finally turned. This summer SHE begged ME to teach her. Now, I am not a great chef nor am I a naturally qualified teacher. That’s why I taught her a few basics and sent her to school with a couple boxes of Pasta Roni and the number for Little Caesars.

I remember the first time my husband and I invited another couple over to eat in our small apartment, the husband sat next to his wife and said, “Look honey, biscuits. I love biscuits.” The wife kicked the husband under the table and said with strained enthusiasm, “No, dear, I think those are rolls.” She then picked one up and took a bite and said, “Oh honey, you were right. They are biscuits. . .” Only they weren’t and it had taken me all day to make them. They tasted like hockey pucks.

Not that my husband was complaining. His tastes are simple. To be happy, he needs white bread, cereal, Oreos and additional chocolate in any form. He is the inventor of the bread sandwich. The first time he asked for one, I asked for instructions. I will now pass this family heirloom recipe to you. Take note: The bread sandwich is two pieces of bread with a piece of bread in the middle. Voila! My husband is also the genius behind homemade Oreo cereal. Recipe: Put several Oreos in a bowl. Cover with milk. Let sit for about 2 minutes. Eat with spoon. Drink milk from bowl when cookies are gone. Very easy. I’ve memorized them both. I think I will write a family cookbook.

As newlyweds, we were eating dinner with his brother and wife who were only slightly less newlywed. The wife brought out a beautiful cake and announced that she had made it from scratch. My husband took a bite and gave her the best compliment he could think of, “Wow, this tastes as good as a mix. . .” This is the man I cook for and it has been a fairly easy task. Thank heavens.

Yesterday was my birthday and I actually got a year younger. I thought I was turning 45, but my brother, on the eve of my birthday, informed me that I was only 43 turning 44. For an entire year I thought I was 44. . . I’m not sure if I feel like I got an extra year, or that I missed out on my whole 43rd year. I’ll let you know. Anyhoo—

It was my birthday so I wanted to drive to Utah State with the husband and 3 kids to be with the 3 kids that are there and make sure they got a good meal because I am also having some sort of a mid-life crisis thingy. Although my house is much quieter and miraculously cleaner with 4 of the 7 gone, THEY ARE STILL GONE and I haven’t quite figured out how to not feel guilty while I enjoy it, because a part of me misses waking up and finding them and their friends asleep on the floor, and buying groceries just to have them eaten in an hour, and having a shoe of every sort and size by my front and back door, and having a rainbow colored assortment of sports bras and spankys (spandex) drying on my family room railing.

Anyway, I took all the fixings for spaghetti because I have figured that one out after 25 years. I did garlic toast too and I miraculously burned only one pan of the three. (Why is it that 2 minutes after you’ve taken the burnt pan from the oven all the helpful voices chime in, “Check the bread? I think it’s burning.” Thanks.)

We all ate; the roommates ate. We laughed and took funny pictures. The kids commented on how well they were eating. They told me about the great dinners they’d been making. My son actually said that he was eating better at college than at home. If I was the jealous type, I would have been, but I’m not, so I wasn’t.

Then said son pulled out a birthday cake. It sagged in the middle, but it was dripping with chocolate frosting and love. They put 44 candles on it because I am not 45 this year, and tried to light them. Only nobody had a match. So we lit cardboard on the stove burner which burns quite faster and bigger than a match or candle and puts off a lot of ash and fyi-- if you light candles with a candle, it drips wax all over the cake. So, I finally blew out a mere 20 or so candles, feeling 20 at heart anyway, to save the cake from being an ashy, waxy, molten mess.

The cake was dished up and passed around. Everybody eagerly dug in. I’m not quite sure how it’s possible, but the cake tasted like dish soap. If I was the jealous, revengeful type, I would have smiled smugly, but I am not. We Campbells, generally speaking, are hardy, resourceful folk, so we rolled up our sleeves and ate it anyway. It was the best birthday cake ever.


  1. That post made me cry. It's 4 pm and I'm sitting at home with a dish towel on my shoulder and I'm crying. Thanks a lot. Life is fleeting. Now I have to go clean up the mismatched shoes by the garage door and I won't even yell at anyone about it. I'm just grateful to have them. Kerri

  2. Didn't make me cry at all, Made me think it may be really cool to go to school and visit the kids, have a big meal, then go home to a QUIET house. I don't think you are a terrible cook, that Indian stuff was good. - Your bother, Joe