Kitchen Mystic by Paulette Licitra

The Deconstruction by Karen Cantrell

Patisserie de Pakistan by Gregors Johnson

Meals of a Lifetime by Rebecca Keller

Ode to Risotto by Donald Newlove

Fully Committed by Doug Sovern

Biscuits and Gravy by William Blomstedt

Keeping It Tidy by Alan Linton

If I Knew You Were Coming by Alisha Lumea

On Your Only Day Off by Nicole Edwards

Bagpipes and Pan Fried Smelts by Ted Radakovic

Joseph Conrad’s Dark Linguini by Giovanni Berchtold

Missing Something by Jean-Luc Bouchard

We Love You, Mayonnaise! by Alona Martinez

Japanese Food by Esther Cohen

Raw Köfte by Hardy Griffin

Proust's Soup by Giovanni Berchtold

A Sacred Virgin by Paulette Licitra

on a friday evening by Keith Leidner

Ropa Vieja by Raul Palma

Deidre's Last Meal by Esther Cohen

Wired by Alan Linton

Chestnut by Katherine Gleason

The Moon is an Outdoor Sandwich by Patty Houston

Garlicky Greens by Lois Marie Harrod

First the Shell, Musical; Then the Custard, Irrevocable by Sarah Begley

Meals of Choice by Dorian Fox

A Low Table by Christian Aguiar

The Sylvian Fissure by Rosalie Loewen

Two Versions of Eating Potatoes by David Spiering

Conch Salad by Michele Ruby

Hopper by Michael Onofrey

Caution: Coffee is Hot by Gary Scott

The Fairy Part by Alberto Giuseppe

Foie Gras by Judith Edelman

Rosemary and Olive Oil by Gail Gauthier

Mario's Shoes by Natalie Parker-Lawrence

Cake by Marianne Villanueva

Retreat: October on Copper Mountain by M.E. Parker

The Sandwich Diaries by Angus Woodward

But There Was No Star Anise by Andrew Martell

Fruit Route by Susan King

Meals of a Lifetime

by Rebecca Keller

September 2015    

J. Alfred Prufrock measured out life in coffee spoons.

But Nora knows a woman's life is measured by the meals she makes.

Like the cheap spaghetti and rice and beans, when she is in her first apartment and doesn't know how to cook and only has three pots and no way to get to the market that has decent meat–not that she'd know how to choose good meat anyway, to say nothing of decent fruit–made in a tiny kitchen with a leaky crooked stove where cakes bake lopsided and the only cupboard is hung so low that she always knocked over the things she set beneath it when she opened the door, to get the one nice dish she used for company, to mound the overboiled pasta on and pour the sauce with bits of too-brown onion speckling canned tomatoes and dried garlic, which she will make festive with a sprinkle of cheese and cheap wine when her boyfriend comes over.

Then comes the small house, with the serviceable kitchen, and a husband to cook for, and entertaining family: Sunday dinner, or even holidays–not of course, the big ones–not Thanksgiving or Christmas or major birthdays, but the smaller events, yes: a kid birthday, or dinner after a niece's recital or nephew's ballgame: a simple roast, say, with potatoes and carrots alongside, with a green salad and her mothers' easy chocolate cake, made from scratch–yes, completely homemade, she answers, topped with powdered sugar and whipped cream–easier than frosting, and who doesn't love whipped cream?

Then the kids, and cooking becomes daily, required, complicated: nutrition for pregnancies and children with touchy stomachs and arcane rules: that things may not touch, or be mixed together, and how one likes meat and one hates red things, and it needs to be ready at the same time everyday, and as soon as these capricious laws are learned they change, and suddenly one loves spicy food and one will not eat cheese. And yet there are special dinners, company dinners, even the big holiday dinners, even Thanksgiving. For these the good dishes come out, the wedding gifts, and recipes are studied, lists made. And because the kids are still young and she cannot work on other things, and because cooking allows her creativity and ambition, she grows more confident and adventurous: forays into Indian, or Japanese, or Moroccan cuisine, and field trips to special markets dragging the kids, bribing them with foreign treats with funny names, and the whole clan remembers her suckling pig and rustic apple-ginger tart, that one Easter.

Then, the kids are not around so much and the food goes cold on plates and is not eaten at dinner because they’re not home or hungry, but later is wolfed down, in quantities that astonish, along with pizza from the freezer and burritos delivered late at night, and no mom, homemade and healthy is not as good and no one eats that, but the husband continues to eat, praise God, but less butter, more salad and it should be organic, and one day she finds herself saying there are people coming for dessert but who wants to make a big deal anyway: I’ll pick up pie at the bakery and some nice cheese and fruit and that is enough, and on Thursday she works late but be sure to get the good bread from D'amatos and if you get home before I do there’s soup in the crockpot–just slice up a tomato and I will be home late but the soup is done.

And then working less and less, but travel and deli rotisserie chicken and let's order in, I don’t feel like cooking and I got reservations at the restaurant the food blogger went nuts over. The kids and little ones might come by Saturday, lets do burgers outside.

And then, suddenly, it must be food that doesn't upset the stomach, that boosts the immune system, that doesn't conflict with chemo, that doesn't cause nausea. That is easy to swallow and still makes him gain weight and feel happy. As long as he can.

But still, the once or twice a year production, getting out the large roaster, how big a turkey do we need, I wonder, and then the pleadings for her greatest hits: Mom you have to make your homemade gravy, the kids will be disappointed if you don't make your famous apple-ginger tart, and she is flattered and also annoyed because also there are warnings; don't lift that heavy platter by yourself, someone will come early to help set the table, and find the good napkins and make sure she doesn't feel too bad or tired or too sad, and of course, she must, I insist we must get out the silver from our wedding and the pitcher we got for our last anniversary last year.

Two years ago, I mean.

And then: Now. Very simple, but not so many carbs; the doctor says lean protein is best: she measures the days of how many dinners to a package of quick-frozen chicken breasts, and ground sirloin she forms into patties when she brings it home, four to a pound, wrapping each in its square of tin foil. She keeps on hand a couple tomatoes at a time, two onions, some carrots, but makes sure there are things are in her freezer in case she doesn't feel like taking out the car. Sometimes, when she is particularly tired, she just opens a can of soup. She always sits at the table with a bowl and napkin, it is a matter of discipline, to not stand at the stove and eat it out of the pot. She forces herself to sit alone at the table, and eat her soup and a piece of fruit, so that when her daughter calls, she can answer truthfully and say, yes, I made a good dinner.

  Rebecca Keller is an artist and writer. Her book, Excavating History, was published in 2012. Her fiction has appeared in New Fairy Tales; Calyx; Public Historian and MainStreet Rag. She’s been honored with a Fulbright and NEA grants, the Betty Gabehart prize, a Pushcart nomination, and was a finalist for the 2013 Chicago Literary Guild Prose Award.


Photo used under Creative Commons.