What’s Cooking? #Tuesday Tidbit

I was never much of a cook. But after I married Bill, I had to learn. Originally, we agreed he would do the coking, and I would help with clean-up. But three months after we were married, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side, and he was never able to cook again. The following excerpt from My Ideal Partner details my ill-fated attempt at preparing oatmeal under Bill’s guidance.

***

Following his instructions, I poured a generous amount of oatmeal into a saucepan and added enough milk to cover it. “How long do I cook it?” I asked after I placed the pan on the stove and turned the heat to medium.

“I don’t know. Till it’s done.”

When Bill did the cooking, he had a sixth sense that told him when food was cooked, I thought as I stirred the pan’s contents. A few minutes later, when it seemed to be done, he said, “Ooh, I gotta pee. Oh, it’s too late. I wet my pants.”

With a sigh of resignation, I turned off the stove and took Bill into the bathroom. It took another fifteen minutes to remove his soiled jeans and underwear and replace them with clean ones. After I settled him back at the kitchen table and returned to the stove, I discovered that the oatmeal had congealed to the consistency of cement.

I added more milk, turned on the heat, stirred vigorously, and served it up a few minutes later. It didn’t taste very good, even with added sugar, but we were too hungry to care. We ate in silence. Finally, I said, “Honey, maybe you should have married a woman who can cook.”

“Come here, woman.” This was what he said when he wanted to hold me, and I wasn’t within reach. I got up and walked around to his right side, and after we embraced, he said, “You’ll learn, sweetie. I love you.”

***

This inspired a scene from The Red Dress in which my main character Eve’s attempt at making oatmeal has similar results.

***

She poured two and a half cups of oatmeal into a saucepan, covered it with four and a half cups of  milk, and turned on the stove burner to medium heat. As she was stirring the mixture, her cell rang.

The caller was Charlene. Oh, great, Eve thought, but she couldn’t send her to voicemail. Charlene  didn’t always have the strength to talk. Thinking she could let the mixture simmer for a few  minutes without stirring it while they chatted, she answered the call.

“Hi, did I get you at a bad time?” asked Charlene in her usual raspy voice.

“Not really. I’m making oatmeal.”

“Oh, God, remember the stuff they served at CU that passed for oatmeal?”

Eve laughed. “The problem there was that they made it with water. I make it with milk, the way my  mother did.”

“Oh, yeah. My mom did it that way, too. You have to keep stirring it, though. Otherwise, it’ll turn  into cement.”

“I know, but I wasn’t sure when you’d be strong enough to talk again.”

“I hear you. It seems that lately, the times when I’m strong are getting few and far between. By  the way, Brenda and I are getting excited about seeing you and Ashley. My husband, Jon, is also  anxious to meet you. There’s plenty of room, so if you all wanted to stay here, you could. And we  have a swimming pool.”

Eve chuckled. “Greg and the kids just might take you up on that. Of course, Greg will want to see  his family. They’re in Pasadena.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s not far from Valley Village, where we live.”

They chatted a while longer. As Eve was putting her phone away, the kids trooped into the kitchen.

“Ugh! What’s that you’re making?” Julie said, pointing to the congealed mixture on the stove.

Eve sighed. “It’s oatmeal. I’m sorry. I got tied up on the phone.”

“With Charlene?” asked Ashley as Eve poured more milk into the saucepan and stirred.

“Yes, Charlene. They want all of us to stay with them when we go there next week. They have a  swimming pool.”

“Cool!” said Thomas.

“Maybe we should have leftover meatloaf for breakfast,” said Julie. “Dad says it’s pretty good.”

“It is good,” said Ashley, “but not for breakfast. Yuck!”

“Ashley’s right,” said Eve, continuing to stir the mixture. “It’s getting better, now, so all is  not lost. Ashley, get me the cinnamon out of the cupboard above the microwave, will you?”

***

Who is Charlene? Why is she not always strong enough to talk on the phone, and why is she inviting Eve’s family to California? Read The Red Dress and find out.

By the way, from July 1st through 31st, you can download My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress absolutely free from Smashwords as part of its annual summer/winter sale. Click here to visit my Smashwords author page.

Also, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. Thank you for reading.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Her First Turkey (Fiction)

The dining room table was covered with a white cloth. Linen napkins adorned the eight place settings that each contained a plate, silverware, and a glass. Two of the glasses were plastic and had milk in them. The other six wine glasses were empty. A bottle of wine and corkscrew were placed in the center of the table.

Pat admired her handiwork with her limited vision and hoped her mother-in-law would approve. This was her first Thanksgiving with her in-laws, and she willed everything to go smoothly. With a sigh, she sauntered to the dorrway and called, “Okay, dinner’s ready.”

They all trooped in: her husband Steve, his parents Harry and Lee Ann, his brother and sister-in-law Rob and Linda, and their two children; Jayson, eight, and Ella, five. As Pat hurried to the kitchen to bring out the platters of food, she heard her mother-in-law say, “All right everyone, this is Pat’s first turkey. I don’t want anyone to say a word if it’s dry.”

“Do I have to eat the turkey if it’s dry?” asked Jayson.

Linda appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Can I help?” she asked.

“Sure,” answered Pat with a sigh of relief. “Take the turkey to Steve so he can start carving it.” She carefully removed the electric knife from a nearby drawer and placed it on the platter next to the bird. “Then you can come back and get the potatoes and gravy. I’ll get the stuffing, salad, and cranberry sauce. Oh, I still need to take the rolls out of the oven.”

“Take your time,” said Linda, placing a reassuring hand on Pat’s shoulder. “This all looks wonderful.”

After the turkey had been cut and the wine opened, and all the food was served, Pat was relieved to hear the satisfying sounds of cutlery scraping against plates. Still too nervous to eat, she stared at her food.

“Ummm, this turkey is nice and juicy,” said Lee Ann.

“I knew it would be,” said Pat with a smile. She picked up her fork and took a bite. It was delicious.

“Have you cooked a turkey before?” asked Lee Ann. “I’d think that would be hard for someone who can’t see.”

“This stuffing is delicious,” said Linda. “I’d love the recipe.”

The room fell silent, and Pat could feel everyone’s eyes on her. She didn’t want her in-laws to know that she hadn’t prepared the meal, but now that someone had asked for a recipe, what could she say? She didn’t know the first thing about making stuffing. Her mother had never shared her recipes with her.

She took a deep breath and said, “To be honest, I’m not much of a cook. The turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, salad, and rolls came from Albertson’s. The cranberry sauce came out of a can. I ordered the pumpkin pie from Schwan.”

“Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!” came Ella’s sing song voice from the opposite end of the table, breaking the tension. “We sang that at school yesterday, and I told everyone we were going over the river and through the woods to Uncle Steve and Aunt Pat’s house, but it doesn’t fit into the song.”

Everyone giggled, and Pat said, “You’re right, sweetie. It doesn’t, and I’m sorry I missed your program yesterday. I had to work.”

“That’s okay,” said Ella. “I really like your turkey.”

“I do too,” said Jayson. “It’s not dry at all.”

“The potatoes are great,” said Steve. “I think they’re just like Mom’s.”

“Oh you,” said Lee Ann with a laugh.

“I like the salad,” said Rob.

“The rolls are wonderful,” said Harry. “Excuse me. I’m going to have another.”

“This was a great idea,” said Linda. “Maybe the next time I host a holiday dinner, I’ll do the same thing. It would save a lot of time.”

Lee Ann cleared her throat. “Linda, surely you realize that nothing compares to a home-cooked meal. However, this is rather nice. Pat, I’m sure it would have been next to impossible to prepare a meal like this from scratch when you can’t see.”

There it was again. Pat’s mother-in-law expected less of her because she was visually impaired. Maybe she should have tried to cook a turkey. She’d seen plenty of articles on cooking in Dialogue and other magazines for the blind written by sightless cooks. In fact, there had been step by step instructions on how to cook a turkey with no sight.

The rest of the family continued eating and chatting as if nothing were wrong. But Pat put down her fork and hung her head, as shame washed over her. Her appetite was gone.

***

“What are you smiling about?” asked Steve a month later, as they were driving to Rob and Linda’s house for Christmas dinner.

“Promise me you won’t say a word,” said Pat. “I told Linda I wouldn’t tell anyone, not even you.”

“You and Linda can trust me. My lips are sealed. Now spill.”

“Okay, Linda ordered the prime rib, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, and apple pie from Warehouse Market.”

Steve burst into loud, uproarious laughter. “Mom’s gonna be pissed.”

“Not if she doesn’t know,” said Pat. “If she or anyone else asks for a recipe, Linda will promise to email it to them and send them a recipe she finds online. I wish I’d thought of that last month.”

“I do too. I didn’t think Linda would ask you for that stuffing recipe. It was pretty good, though. But I think this Jell-O salad you’re bringing is going to be a hit.” He tapped the Tupperware container she held securely in her lap.

“I figured if my friend Jackie could make this recipe with no sight at all, I could make it with some vision.”

“I think you’re right, honey.”

“If anybody asks for the recipe, I have it right here.” She tapped her pants pocket that held the printed recipe. “I saved it on the computer so if more than one person wants a copy, I can email it.”

“Good for you,” said Steve. “That talking computer of yours sure works wonders.”

“I downloaded a book from the National Library Service for the Blind called Cooking without Looking. Maybe next year, I’ll feel more confident about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.”

“Maybe we could do it together. It’s about time I learned how to cook.”

 

THE END

 

The above story was published several years ago in Magnets and Ladders. It also appears in the November issue of The Writer’s Grapevine.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Essays Offer Glimpse of Life as Blind Parent #Thursday Book Feature

Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark

By Jo Elizabeth Pinto

Copyright 2019.

 

In this collection of short pieces, the author describes what it’s like to be a blind parent to a sighted child. The title was inspired by her daughter’s response when a teacher asked her what it’s like to have a blind mother.

She talks about little cooking mistakes she made like using apple sauce instead of spaghetti sauce. She explains how she educated her daughter’s classmates and others about her blindness. She discusses cooking, gardening, and doing art projects with her daughter and provides recipes and craft ideas. She reflects on school violence after her daughter endured lock-down drills in elementary school and actually became involved in “the real thing.”

Even though I’m not a parent, I enjoyed reading this book because it brought back memories from when I was a visually impaired child and when I was a visually impaired adult married to my totally blind husband Bill. The author’s cooking disasters reminded me of the time Bill, before his strokes, put what he thought were muffins in the oven, and they turned out to be fully cooked sausages. The scene where the author fell and her daughter chastised a  passer-by for laughing instead of stopping to help reminded me of how my younger brother, when we were kids, said to other children, “Stop staring at my sister.”

As a caregiver to my late husband, I could relate to her feelings of inadequacy and fear of being turned in for neglect or abuse. I loved the last piece in which she explains how she accidentally put garlic instead of sprinkles on her daughter’s ice cream sundae. It was a great way to end the collection with humor.

Some people, especially those in the social work industry, are under the misconception that blind people cannot be parents. As a result, blind parents have been forced to fight for their children after giving birth. This book should be required reading for anyone training in social work and other professions that require working with disabled people on a regular basis.

In fact, everybody should read this book. You never know when you will encounter a blind parent. Before you shove them aside in a grocery store, laugh at them because they’ve fallen on the ice, or call the Department of Family Services because you think they can’t cope, read this book and realize that blind parents are no different from sighted ones.

 

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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My Amazon Author Page

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

Stepping and Cooking

The poem you’ll hear me read when you click below appears in My Ideal Partner. It describes how my feet traversed through the house many times, as I cooked, cleaned, and cared for my late husband Bill, who was partially paralyzed. I swear if I’d been wearing a pedometer during those six years after his strokes, it probably would have been overloaded. The text of the poem is below.

The song I’ll sing is one I sang to Bill many times before his strokes. He loved to cook, so whenever I found him stirring something on the stove or peeling potatoes at the kitchen counter, I sang this Hank Williams standard. If I’d known he would have two strokes and I would have to do all the cooking, I would have paid more attention while he was preparing meals instead of flirting with him. I hope you enjoy my presentation of poetry and song.

***

***

MANY STEPS

From counter to wastebasket, back to counter

to wheelchair, to bathroom, to recliner, to bed,

my feet pound linoleum and carpet to cook his meals,

dress and transfer him from one place to another.

At the end of the day, weary, footsore,

I hold him in bed, enjoy the fruit of my labor.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

***

Novel Brings Generations Together

Francesca’s Kitchen

by Peter Pezzelli

Copyright 2006

 

In Providence, Rhode Island, Francesca is an Italian widow who misses her grandchildren. She finds a job baby-sitting for Loretta, a single mother with a boy and girl in elementary school. Francesca becomes a grandmother figure to the children, who appreciate her culinary efforts. As an added plot twist, Francesca’s son Joey develops a relationship with Loretta, and Francesca becomes acquainted with Loretta’s boss. The book includes an interview with the author and family recipes.

I enjoy positive family stories like this one, but the pace is too slow. The author devotes too many chapters to the development of Francesca’s character as a despondent widow whose grown children live elsewhere. He also inserts too much description and back story in places where the story needs to move along. This is one of Peter Pezzelli’s earlier works. I may try one of his more recent books to see if his style has improved.

Despite the slow pace, some parts of the book brought back memories for me, like the scene when Francesca and the children are playing spoons, a card game my family used to play around Grandma’s kitchen table. I was right there in the kitchen with Francesca, as she prepared mouth-watering Italian delicacies and shared them with the children.

I like how the author uses this book to emphasize the importance of families coming together. I rarely see any of my relatives anymore. Maybe I need to be the one to bring everyone together once in a while, but that’s a lot of work. However, Peter Pezzelli says in his interview that if you take one thing away from this book, it’s the idea that any effort you put into bringing generations together is worth it. He makes a good point.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.