It all started with a kitchen timer. My parents were visiting for the holidays and my mom brought several food items to fix for Christmas Eve dinner. The turkey is in the oven and she is starting on the mashed potatoes, corn and gravy. I explain to my mom that I don’t own a kitchen timer. I either use the clock on the wall or I set an alarm on my PDA. Minutes later she asks for an electric knife to slice the turkey. Again, I own no such thing and offer her my best non-electric carving knife, and a plastic cutting board.
Now, before anyone lectures me for letting my mom do all the cooking, let it be known that while she is cooking, I was updating her computer with the latest software and anti-virus protection. That’s what I do. I am a geek. I don’t cook. In fact, I think my mom is convinced that I am a domestic slouch and that we eat nothing but macaroni and frozen pizza. Not exactly true, but with our busy schedule, we do keep those items on hand for convenience. It doesn’t help that my sister shows up for the festivities with homemade cookies. So begins the saga of the Christmas generation gap…
Next up were plates. I have one set of dishes that serve eight. There are only four people in my family and if we have more than eight guests, we typically resort to paper or plastic. Mom informs me that she can only find seven plates and there will be eight of us for dinner now, including my dad, sister and brother-in-law. I looked in the usual spots but I came up empty-handed, which really bugs me because I am a super-organized neat freak. Figuring the missing plate is lost in the shuffle of dishes on my counter somewhere, I tell her just to use a plastic kids plate for my youngest child. My sister asks about using my “good china”. I laugh. I don’t own any of that either.
Next, comes the gravy. My mom insists on making it from scratch from some turkey drippings. She asks me to come in and stir it so I oblige, thinking I can spare about five minutes while her laptop reboots. She puts some kind of “starter” stuff in the pot, tells me to grab a whisk and stir. So I do. Five minutes later I am still stirring and it looks the same…clumpy little white things floating everywhere. I told her it’s taking too long and she says “keep stirring”. So I stir. Five more minutes go by and I’m still stirring. I explain to my mom that you can buy these nifty little packets of gravy at Wal-mart where you just add water and stir for five minutes and it’s done. She says “It doesn’t taste the same. Keep stirring.” Ugh.
“Do you have a meat thermometer?” Mom asks. Here we go again. Another kitchen gadget I have no use for. I am not a big fan of meat, and the meat we do eat doesn’t require a meat thermometer. “If it’s pink, don’t eat it,” I say. Works for me. I don’t think she liked that idea.
On to the can opener. You would think this would be a simple thing. I mean, everyone owns a can opener. In my house, though, my oldest daughter and I are left-handed, so last year I bought a Pampered Chef can opener that works for either hand by allowing you to turn the handle on the top instead of on the side. I explain to mom how the new can opener works and she insists that my daughter would be able to use a “regular” can opener if she used it on a lower surface like the table instead of the counter. Yeah, right. So mom gives up and I end up opening all of the canned goods for her.
All this time, I am still stirring the stupid gravy. I’m about 30 minutes into it and, it is finally starting to look like gravy. In that half hour of Martha Stewart bliss (heavy sarcasm here), I started thinking about the generation gap. My mom is spending most of her holiday in the kitchen, on her feet, preparing food for us to scarf down in a few minutes time. Granted, she appears to enjoy it, but I am betting she would have much rather spent that time playing with her grandkids or working on one of her many craft projects. Me? I would much rather have ordered a pizza and spent the extra time playing board games with my sister or talking about music with my dad….not standing in my kitchen stirring a lumpy pot of gravy. I look around at the mess in my kitchen…aluminum foil wadded up behind the sink, grease splattered all over the stove, crumbs on the floor and a huge pile of dirty pots and pans across the counter top. Yuck. Pizza would have been much less mess, and clean up would have been easy. We could even use real plates and everything would fit neatly in the dishwasher. Is this the difference between the 1950′s woman and the woman of today? It’s not that I don’t have any appreciation for a home cooked meal, but nowadays, I can get the same meal from a variety of local restaurants anytime I want. And I don’t have to cook or clean! Spoiled, I know, but it’s true. I value my time and I would rather use the time I do have to improve the world around me. Why spend hours in the kitchen when I don’t have to? It makes no sense to me.
The gravy is not yet thick enough so mom asks for cornstarch. I think I have some of that leftover from a one of my kids’ science projects, but I have no idea what to do with it. Mom tells me how to mix it with water and add it to the gravy. More stirring. Finally after a total of about 40-some-odd minutes, the gravy looks like it is done. Mom asks for food coloring. Food coloring? Yellow? “For the gravy…it gives it a prettier color”. I roll my eyes. It looks fine to me.
Gravy boat. Ok – to my credit – I know what that is, but I don’t own one. I don’t want one either. I have streamlined my kitchen so that I only have the few gadgets I need for everyday meals and a few extras stored up high for some reason I can’t recall. Like I’m ever going to use that other stuff? I found a bowl and a ladle (I do have one of those!) and pass it off to my sister so we can finally sit down to eat.
After dinner, I wander back into the kitchen and cringe at the mess. I’m one of those nerds that puts things in the dishwasher immediately after I use it. You will rarely EVER find a dirty dish on my counter or in my sink. Everything goes in the dishwasher and it gets run every night and emptied every morning, so the piles of dirty dishes I see are enough to give me a heart attack. I manage to spend the next half hour getting things back in order…hand washing dishes, dealing with leftovers and wiping off grease. Everything has been cleaned up except the pan with the remainder of the turkey. Mom asks me for the large pot I just washed. I say “what for?” and she nonchalantly tells me that she’s going to “cook down the turkey”. There goes another 20 minutes of her time. After getting the turkey chopped up and in the pot, she tells me I can use the leftovers to make turkey and noodles. Thinking that would be a good meal for the next day, she asks if I have any noodles. I sure do…in the macaroni box.
Fast forward to today. We still have two plastic containers of turkey and gravy in my freezer. Mom had explained to me how to fix it before she left, but I wasn’t paying attention. So I called her to ask what I was supposed to do with it. She says to add one of those Wal-mart gravy packets to it and heat it up. What? I’m expecting another hour of stirring and she says to add instant gravy to it? Unbelievable. I open my cabinet to get out some plates…hmm…all eight plates are in there. Strange.
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