This past year, unrestricted by homework or tuition payments, Do and I have luxuriated in disposable time and income. It shows in our cooking forays. We've dabbled in homemade bread, Indian food from scratch, Food & Wine and Silver Palate recipes, etc. Admittedly, we've also learned a lot about less glamorous/pretentious kitchen activities. We can both hammer out a healthy, interesting weeknight meal without blinking (or whining). We've got our clean-up routine down pat (she washes dishes, he clears the table, puts leftovers into lunch containers, and sharpens knives). All in all, pretty predictable for a childless, two-salary, 9-5 jobs (more like 8-6, but same idea), foodie household. I suspect that none of these skills will be useful in grad school.
We know nothing about leftovers.
One of my very first blog posts was about emptying the fridge of leftovers. "It was not quite so much a Herculean event as an exercise in guilt -- all these great (expensive) ingredients, all that time and loving effort, and here we were, months later, admitting defeat." We've gotten a little bit better, better at automatically dividing "Serves 4" recipes and at re-assessing the contents of the fridge every garbage day. But still. We suck. Incorporating old ingredients into new dishes? Figuring out a use for an opened cream carton or fresh herbs before they go bad (20 seconds)? Not so much.
SuperMom looks at an empty fridge and sees a week's worth of dinners. So imagine what she sees when she looks in my fridge/freezer, which has to be empty by tomorrow. Unlike me, SuperMom needs no recipes. She knows exactly which substitutes will work, which ingredients we can do without, and how many dying vegetables you can add to a dish without killing it. If you compliment this amazingly useful skill, SuperMom will brush it aside with, "oh, it's no big deal -- I'm just cheap, that's all." The rest of us know the truth: dealing with leftovers is a SuperPower, and we just marvel, laud, and learn.
Don't believe me?
Exhibit A) Lunch for Moving Day 2: Pumpkin soup.
While the rest of your family is scampering around disassembling wine racks and folding dress shirts, you disappear momentarily into the kitchen. Take a giant Tupperware of Puréed Pumpkin (frozen last October), remove the purée by running the whole damn thing under hot water, and throw the purée into a pot. Add a chopped onion, and turn the heat to medium. Guesstimate the volume of liquid and add bouillon cubes for flavor (since there are no vegetables in the fridge). Once the soup is entirely liquid, let it cool. Throwing in three trays-worth of ice cubes will help. Purée using an immersion blender. Add leftover cream (1/3 cup-ish). Serve to your exceedingly grateful and exhausted family.
Exhibit B) Snack for Moving Day 2: Strawberry Shortcake.
You decide that your family will need a Pick-Me-Up snack in the mid-afternoon. Because you're SuperMom, you decide to make Strawberry Shortcake. Your mother (Neen's grandmother) makes a great version that calls for hot milk, so you google "Hot Milk Cake" and end up using Wikipedia's recipe (Neen's insertion: !!!!!!!!, my Mom cooks off Wikipedia!), which you divide by two in order to bake a one-layer cake. While the cake bakes, you whip leftover heavy cream, adding a couple teaspoons of confectioner's sugar just before the peaks become stiff. You then use the same beaters (why clean them?) and beat the handful of leftover, almost-dead strawberries that you found in the back of the fridge. When the cake is done and cooled, you cut it in half horizontally and spread leftover blueberry jam between the layers. You top cake slices with the strawberries and whipped cream, and serve it to your exhausted, adoring family.
Oh, and while her family eats, SuperMom packs up fragile artwork.
Does one simply become more competent after giving birth? If not, I'm afraid there's no hope for me. SuperMom has set the bar pretty damn high.