I call up J as I drive home, hoping that he can take out the fish that I forgot to take out and magically it will be thawed in the ten minutes it takes for me to get home. I hear the wheels click into action over the phone. “I will get everything ready for you!” he says and I hear a cascade of crashes.
“Okay, the mac and cheese is in a purple box,” I say.
“That is beef stroganoff,” he laments.
“Keep seeing beef stroganoff.”
“Darker purple, rectangular – ”
“Stroganoff. Oooh, pasta salad.”
“Purple box with the – ”
“Oh, there it is!”
I clutch the steering wheel in frustration. In said frustration, I turn to the matriarchal stereotype of yore: a man is in my kitchen and up to no good.
“So it says six cups per every…”
“No!” I inadvertently slap my foot on the gas pedal.
“No! Put the pot down!”
“But, six cups…”
“No!” I sigh. “I’ve been eyeing the water amount in conjunction with our usual pasta pot and six cups is way too much.”
“I can just see if…”
“NO!…Get the cauliflower out, please?”
Thusly keeping him distracted, I pull into the parking lot, grab my backpack and race inside. [Before J reads this and gets grumpy, he really can be a decent cook. I am just very territorial.] We finagle the fish and the cauliflower, from which J backs off claiming to have no such experience. I put him charge of buttering the fish. After having a glob of butter stuck to the sharp edge of the knife and muttering under his breath while working on one slab of meat for about a minute, I drop the cauliflower, take the knife gently out of his hands, and get a plaintive, “It just won’t spread.”
I tilt the knife on its side and quickly finesse most of the butter into layers onto the fish strips. J gets giddy and applauds me. He was in awe of my spreading power about a week ago as well, when I spread some Nutella on some rye bread. Instead of mushing it down into flattened piles, with one flick of the hand I smoothed a consistent layer over the bread. He marveled at my skill; I randomly thought that this is one more Mom power I Had Down.
I remember then wanting to ask if we can test the theory further (proving that I am somewhere deep down an academic) by him getting on his knees, tugging at my pants and T-shirt, and howling that he’s hungry. If I could do the spreading in that type of trial run, I should be good. …I’m a bit competitive sometimes.