By Sallie A. Rodman
It's the company, not the cooking, that makes a meal.
~Kirby Larson, Hattie Big Sky
"Hey Sallie, what do you want for lunch?" my husband Paul would call out to me.
"Oh, is it that time already? Well, let's see... I'd like an egg salad sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes, pickles and onions, and toasted lightly, please," I would reply.
At dinnertime we would repeat this scenario.
"Hey Sallie, what do you feel like eating for dinner?"
"Oh babe, whatever you want to cook is fine with me, but orange chicken with jasmine rice sure would be yummy. Maybe artichokes with lemon butter on the side?" I would reply.
Paul and I had developed this routine. He never seemed to mind that I asked for exactly what sounded good to me and he was always willing to comply with my requests. Paul delighted in making my palate sing. He loved to cook and I hated it. We were nicely matched. We often laughed about our younger years when the children were still living at home. I said, "The children grew up in spite of my cooking." He would just laugh and nod.
A few years after the kids moved out, Paul took on the cooking and I was thrilled. I would rather be in my studio writing or doing artwork. He also loved to grocery shop, always bringing home new food items he found that he thought I would like.
I took the love he poured into this chore for granted until Paul passed away suddenly last December. My world crumbled. My sweetheart of forty-six years was never coming back. I found myself lost, broken-hearted and alone.
Everyone keeps telling me to keep up my strength and eat healthy. Not only do I not have an appetite, but I have no clue how to cook anything.
I buy all the wrong items at the grocery store. I am still shopping for two but there is only one of us now. I want to have some friends over to keep me company on the lonely Sunday nights but I can't even make them a decent meal.
I'm overwhelmed with the long list of things to learn to do for myself, like when to take the car in for a tune-up, how to invest my money and how to file my income tax. Now I also have to learn to cook.
I bought a simple cookbook and I'm happy to say I'm feeling my way with mixed results. I've had some catastrophes, like burned biscuits and tough rice, but I'm not giving up. I keep trying and have mastered a couple of simple dishes. I even served my sister-in-law, Joan, a halfway decent Sunday dinner.
I can still hear Paul humming in the kitchen as he cooked my favorite meals. I remember his daring way of just throwing in seasoning, while I have to measure everything. I think of his kindness in the little touches, like adding parsley to a plate. So I make myself sit and eat each meal at the table, not on the run, or standing at the counter. I set a full place with a fancy napkin and plate.
My husband showed his love by cooking my meals, so I can honor his memory most by learning to cook. He would be so proud.