SchlemielTime

GimpelTheFool-970x710

A portion of the cover art from a 1957 edition of Gimpel The Fool, a short story collection by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Saul Bellow: Noonday Press

"A well-stocked larder seems the source of most of my supper-related satisfaction."

I have been repeatedly accused of publishing food porn photographs to my social media feeds. I suppose that I am guilty as charged, but I never post the deeper and more representative portrait of my food life. I am mostly a schlemiel in the kitchen. I cannot for the life of me follow even simple recipes. I have not yet learned how to replicate a single dish, each one a genuine original, turning out as it turns out, with repeated practice, if anything, leading me further from a perfection than my initial accidental outcome suggested I might possess the skill to produce. I cannot seem to understand all the theories governing food preparation and do not reliably intuit oven temperatures, grill heat zones, or ratios. My meals are almost universally accidental convergences, relying much more upon luck and quality ingredients than upon my skill. Still, I've accreted somewhat of a reputation as a cook, one which has done nothing to blunt my ever-deepening sense that I remain an apron-wearing imposter holding a spatula just off camera.

The Muse seems nonetheless appreciative, if only because I remain mostly a reliable preparer.
More than nine times out of ten, supper will be almost ready and waiting for her when she drags in the door from the lab sometime in the early evening. She usually texts me to report when she's on the way, a fifteen minute warning tipping me off that I'd better be getting my butt in gear. I might leave the salad dressing for her to create, or wait until her shadow crosses the door before grilling, and the broccoli rabe always remains her sole responsibility, though I've chopped the garlic, laid out the proper pan, and set out some stock to assist her. The balance of supper will already be warm and waiting in a slow oven, or very nearly so. She'll have a brief fifteen minutes to check her social media and email before the clattering in the silverware drawer announces that supper's ready.

By long tradition, I eat little of whatever I cook. When I cater a supper for multitudes, I often refuse anything until after everyone's gone home, if then. I might slurp down a quick nibble of something when cleaning up the mess, but I'll more often reheat leftovers the following morning and call that last night's supper. Sometimes, even if I'm not attempting another loaves and fishes miracle, suppertime will find me not even vaguely interested in eating. I might drink a beer, read some, then head for bed early, figuring that I could probably use one fewer meals in my system. I sleep most placidly then.

In my youth, I considered breakfast the one essential meal of the day, though I usually ate little more than a single bowl of steel cut oatmeal with skim milk, maybe with a few dried currents sprinkled in. I'd often forget about lunch and arrived home later than The Muse does now to find my supper desiccated in the oven and the sinks overflowing with dirty dishes. I'd read bedtime stories to the kids then around the edges nibble while cleaning up before heading to bed half hungry, but still too wound up from the stressful workday to swallow much supper. Now, I find breakfast bothersome. I might rise at three or four am, but not remember about breakfast until nearly nine, when, if I'm keeping the car that day, I should be driving The Muse down to the Lab. Those mornings, I might not get around to breakfast until ten or eleven or even later, usually forgetting lunch or nibbling a little around three in lieu of lunch, a snack which often spoils my appetite for supper. The doctor prescribed some medication I'm supposed to take thirty minutes before breakfast and supper, but I usually take it a half hour after, since I rarely know that far in advance when either meal's going to happen.

I keep a pot of leftover beans or steel-cut oatmeal in the back of the larder fridge. One of these most often serves as my breakfast. A quick bowl of beans with a few parboiled potato quarters and a generous dollop of green chile stirred in, very occasionally with a coddled egg or two on top, makes for what I consider to be the perfect breakfast. Any leftovers just go back into the fridge until tomorrow morning. Clean-up's a single bowl and a spoon. By noon, I'm rarely feeling very hungry. By suppertime, two hours of preparatory cooking's leached most of my appetite out of me. Meal time's more focused upon developing a strategy for quickly cleaning up than it is on satisfying hunger. I only rarely ever feel very hungry.

The Muse insists that I mostly live in my head. My head has no stomach, and prefers to be fed a decent story or a cold beer or two. Meal time's SchlemielTime for me, a part of the day reserved especially for me to demonstrate just how inept I am in the kitchen. I rarely feel very masterful there, though I often astound myself when I recognize that I've actually created some food porn-worthy creation without chopping off a finger or limb. I produce scads of leftovers which either turn into my supper-spoiling late afternoon snacks or a science project before anyone can get back to them. A well-stocked larder seems the source of most of my supper-related satisfaction. The actual food? Meh!

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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