The Casserole

I stood staring at the raw chicken carcass on my kitchen counter a few moments. Watching Mom cook meals while I was growing up wasn’t the same as actually doing it myself. There were, I knew, certain joints between the legs and thighs, wings and main body that would be easy to cut through. Frowning, I wondered, “Where in the world am I supposed to cut after that? The back, tailbone, ribs and breast must be separated, too.”

A month earlier, following the two simple words, “I do”, I’d mysteriously changed from the person being fed, to the person feeding everyone else. Being newly married meant my husband and I pay pay the mobile home mortgage, electricity, telephone, groceries and whatever other bills found their way to our mailbox, so eating out every night was not an option.

Grasping the clammy, goose-bumped chicken flesh, I sawed off its legs, thighs and wings. Peering into the body cavity, I noticed fewer bones in certain areas and cut accordingly. Shrugging, I thought, “So what if it isn’t the way Mom does it. I’m not doing surgery, so the chicken can have a better life. I’m doing surgery, so we can eat it.”

As a new bride, I thought it would be sweet if Arnie helped me do the dishes one night. He made it perfectly clear he wanted nothing to do with the kitchen, announcing irritably, “As a kid, I did all the kitchen work I ever plan to do in my lifetime.”

It’s a good thing I hadn’t threatened to hold my breath until he helped. I would have died.

Making meals, I quickly discovered, was a time-consuming project. When I wasn’t actively making them, I was planning what to make, how to make it, shopping for the ingredients, or cleaning up afterwards. Arnie didn’t understand any of this. As we finished eating lunch one day, I asked, “What do you want for supper?”

Looking at me with astonishment on his face, he asked incredulously, “Good gosh woman…don’t you think about anything other than food?”

One day while visiting my Mom, I noticed a pan in her refrigerator with some white-coated leftovers. “What’s this?” I questioned, poking at it.

Mom answered, “Do you want to try it? It’s an easy-to-make creamy seafood casserole.”

From what I could tell, the tantalizing dish contained shrimp and whitefish in a thick, creamy sauce. The taste was pleasing.  I said, “It’s good. I want this recipe.”

The following Friday I had the day off, so I spent the afternoon making the seafood casserole. It turned out looking and tasting just like Mom’s dish. I couldn’t wait until Arnie came home for supper.

A frown appeared on my young husband’s face the minute he stepped into the house after work. He asked, “What’s for supper?”

I answered, “Something special. I got the recipe from my Mom.”

After washing his hands, Arnie came back and sat down at the table. I pulled the seafood casserole out of the oven and set it on a trivet next to our plates. Arnie leaned forward to inspect it. Then, giving me an angry glare, he grabbed a slice of bread and viciously slapped butter on it and stalked off to the living room sofa…a whole ten feet away from our kitchen table.

My feelings were hurt. I was angry. We had a big fight. Eventually, deciding not to divorce over a seafood casserole, I promised to never make it again.

As the years passed, I discovered that casseroles in general, wasn’t anything my meat-and-potatoes man ever wanted me to make. Fish, I discovered, was only acceptable if rolled in cornmeal and fried.

Eventually I learned what would do and what wouldn’t. My immediate take-away from the creamy seafood casserole night was, “Just because you can make it, doesn’t mean you SHOULD make it!”

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