September 15, 2010

Cooking With Marge

"Fix me a chicken pot pie, wouldya? And not that frozen shit. Make one of those with the flaky crust like you do for company sometimes," he calls from the back bedroom.

"Sure, Frank," she yells out  as she slowly gets up from the couch. Her knees aren't so good anymore but the extra 50 pounds she kept on after having two kids will do that over time. She turns the television off. They have to be pretty mindful of money these days since he has been out of work on disability for the better part of 2 years now. She grabs her reading glasses and waddles towards the kitchen.

She walks to the freezer and pulls out a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well as 2 pre-made pie crusts. If she'd known ahead of time she would have thawed the breasts in a pan of tepid water but his whims aren't known to wait for such things even if it means the final product turns out all the better for it. As it is, she hobbles to the sink using the counter to support her weight and alleviate some of the pressure on her worn out joints. She steps over to the sink and puts the package of chicken under the tap letting hot water work on the ice crystals while she gathers the rest of the ingredients. As she moves around the kitchen, she wonders what life could have been if she'd taken the old cliche road--the one people named Less Traveled. As quickly as the thought forms, she dismisses as she's always been told there's no use crying over spilled milk.

She pulls 2 cans of mixed vegetables and 1 can of condensed cream of chicken soup from her cabinets. If she were cooking for guests, she would labor over handmade crusts and and slowly steam fresh vegetables instead of using canned ones. The condensed soup would  be exchanged for chicken broth slow cooked with fresh herbs for flavor added to flour for a thicker texture. None of this is necessary tonight, of course. Even if she felt like it, he wouldn't have the patience to wait. Even though he was too sick to be much of a threat anymore, she was trained to do things to his liking and could be broken of it now.

She moves slowly around the kitchen putting the still mostly frozen chicken on to boil and preheating the oven to 375 degrees. She presses one crust into a pie pan then goes ahead and mixes the soup and vegetables in a blue glass mixing bowl. She takes down a few spices and sprinkles them in. Just as she thinks she's making good time, she hears him call from the back, "where the hell is that pie? what's your fatass up there doing? watching the idiot box as usual?"

"I had to thaw the chicken first. It'll be a little bit longer."

"You're a fucking moron, Marge. I ever tell you that?"

"I know I am, dear."

"Hurry your waddlin' ass up."

None of this particularly bothers her. She's heard worse and felt worse blows. She pays it no mind and sits down at the kitchen table to wait for the chicken to finish. Thinking back to years before he became sick, she reckons she would have been slapped around the kitchen a bit for not having the chicken in the refridgerator already. But there had been times she'd been slapped around the kitchen for not using items like that out of the fridge before they ruined. There was never any winning with Frank. She'd wasted most of her life trying and stayed miserable because she couldn't do it. Ever since her youngest moved out and left for college, she just gave up and settled into a routine. She wasn't anything close to what she thought could be happiness but she wasn't miserable anymore either.

In the midst of her thoughts she hears him again from the back, "If you'd lost some of that gut of yers, you wouldn't waste my time waddlin' around like a hog." She doesn't bother answering him and pushes herself out the chair. She walks to the stove to check on the chicken. It isn't done but it's done enough so she turns the burner off and sits the pot on a cloth pot holder on the counter. She pulls down a plate from the cabinet above her head and grabs a couple forks from the drawer in front of her. One by one she stabs the pieces of chicken and places them on the plate. They're still hot but she doesn't want to take the time to let them cool. She uses one fork to hold a breast in place and the other to shred the meat into a pile. After all 4 pieces are shredded, she mixes the pieces of chicken into the bowl with the soup and vegetables then pours it all into the pie pan. She takes the second pie crust and fits it over the top of the pie finishing up by making 4 slits in the top with a knife from the cutting block in front of her.

Having a knife in her hand always reminds her of the times he has threatened to cut her tongue out and those drunken nights when he's actually nicked her here or there in mid-threat. Since he's been sick, she has thought a time or two about stabbing him, about slitting his wrists, cutting out his awful tongue...all of it. But they're just thoughts. She could never do it. And if she hasn't slit her own wrists by now, she may as well wait it out. He'll be gone before she is, it seems.

She puts the pie in the oven and sets the timer for 45 minutes. She'll know it's down by the smell but she sets the timer anyway. She moves towards the fridge and gets herself a Diet Coke before sitting at the table again. He calls from the back, "Are you trying to starve me to death, you fat cow?!? Did you eat it all yourself??"

"It won't be too much longer."

"Better not fucking be."

She has often thought of smothering him with one of the pillows on this bed. He's gotten too weak in the last several months to fight back really. But even though she often feels the urge, she knows she can't. The kids would be devastated by the horror of the headlines and she can't do that to them. They've gone through enough in their lives growing up with Frank as their father. She absolutely won't cause them that kind of sensationalized grief. She sips her coke and gets lost in happy thoughts of her children and grandchildren. She lives for them and the days when they stop by to see how things are going. She knows both her kids worry about their mom  and dad. She's only in her early 50s but has heart and blood pressure problems, diabetes, high cholesterol, and the bad knees. Frank is only a few years older than her but his health failed rapidly. Everyone thought it was cancer and most people still assume it is--just undetermined--but doctors really haven't been able to explain it at all.

The smells circulating the kitchen tell her the pie is done and she starts her slow journey to the stove. She grabs a couple pot holders from the counter and opens the oven door. Grabbing the pie with both hands is a difficult task with her knees as bad as they are but she manages alright. She doesn't fall anyway.

She's actually surprised he asked for food. He hasn't had much appetite beyond broth here and there. Mostly he's nauseated and taking medicine to keep him from vomiting all the time. It's the sort of pill chemo patients have to take to battle their nausea. But, he doesn't take anything. He just stays sick on his stomach around the clock. She really hopes this isn't a sign he's improving though taking care of him like this day in and day out hasn't been a picnic.

She cuts into the pie and dips out one portion--just one heaping portion for Frank. She places his plate on a tray and makes him a glass of ice water to wash it down with. She knows if she takes it to him this hot, he is liable to throw it in her face and demand more, so she cleans up the kitchen some while she waits on the steam rising from the middle to dissipate a bit. She throws the chicken wrapper away along with the cans. Then picks up the salt, pepper, and mixed spices bottles and starts to put them in the cabinet. She notices her concoction of spices is getting a little low and makes a mental note to pick up some more rat poison at the farm supply store on her next trip to town.

"Where's my fucking pie, you fat bitch?"

"I'm coming with it right now, Frank. Be there in a jiff," she says as she walks down the hallway smiling.

about me. not really.

dear you,

i don't talk about my child or being a mom. i don't talk about my garden. i won't mention my craftiness (often) or how much i save each week with coupons. if you're looking for that sort of thing, you're in the wrong place.

instead, let's abandon the tethers of domestication for a moment and remember what it's like to laugh at vulgarity and the world at large.



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