Real Cooking

It was about three o?clock in the morning when the cat wandered into our bedroom meowing a plaintive cry that awoke me from a deep sleep.

?What do you want?

?Meow, meow, meowwww,? came the urgent response.

?OK, OK,?I said, arising from my bed. ?Do you need to go out? Are the smoke detectors going off? Is Timmy in the well? What is it??

She led me out of my bedroom and across the living room. Through the darkened house we went, Whiskers determined to alert me to some problem in the night. We finally arrived in the utility room where she stopped and let out a most piteous yowl. Her food dish was empty. She wanted more kibble. Oh, brother.

I filled her dish and stumbled back to bed. As I crawled in next to my sleeping husband, I realized he hadn?t even heard the cat enter our room. I also realized the cat didn?t come to his side of the bed either?she came to mine.

?Of course she came to me,? I thought as I drifted off, ?Feeding the cat is my job. No one else does it. I?m the mother.?

At our house, the mother feeds the cat and cleans the toilets. The mother packs the school lunches and loads the dishwasher. The mother remembers the birthdays of every niece and nephew and does the ironing. Only the mother has the ingenuity to change the toilet paper roll and correctly sort the socks.

This isn?t to say that the father and the children don?t pitch in to help?they do. But some jobs just seem to fall to me. I don?t think it?s because I?m more adept at swishing Lysol around a toilet bowl. But I?ve noticed when I?m cleaning a bathroom, no one ever leans over my shoulder and says, ?Oooo, can I help?? Hence, the job is mine.

I?m not the only woman locked into these ?mother jobs.? The other night I was with a few friends and we were comparing notes. Bathroom cleaning ranked right at the top of the list, followed by grocery shopping and the laundry. In fact, one of my pals told of an epitaph on a woman?s headstone: ?Her laundry is finally done.? Right then and there, I knew she was a mother, too.

I know some of my ?mother jobs? come to me by choice. Loading the dishwasher, for example. For some reason, I?m the only one in my family who can configure the dishes into a pattern that will not only fit the most dishes in the racks, but also aim them all in a manner so they will come out clean. When others have attempted to load, I have been known to empty it out and reload everything, so now everyone just piles their dishes in the sink.

Sorting socks, ditto. After my husband and daughter folded socks one afternoon, we had a week of playing ?Sock, sock who has the sock?? I would reach for a pair and find one of mine and one of my daughter?s bonded together.

?Well, they were both white.?

?Yes, dear, but don?t you see the difference in size??

It?s sometimes easier for me to do it by myself and do it the way I want than spend the time revamping someone else?s work.

And I?m fully aware of what that teaches my children about housework. It teaches them nothing.

My husband and I both grew up with mothers who are beautiful housekeepers. My husband always helped on the farm, so he wasn?t expected to learn the domestic ways of life and my mother wouldn?t let her children help with the chores; it was easier to do it herself.

So it takes real effort on our parts to get household cleaning done and done well.

?When did Dan Rather grow a beard? It suits him.?

?I don?t think that?s a beard, dear. I think we need to dust the TV screen.?

So, I need to be alert to teach my kids, both my son and daughter, the art of homemaking. Both should be equally proficient at scrubbing old toothpaste out of the bathroom sink.

But only my son should learn to handle mousetraps. After all, that?s a ?father job.?

* * *

This chicken lasagna was a dish that the Free Press staff enjoyed not long ago at a party hosted by our publisher and his lovely wife. Nancy Klaassen gives credit to Carolyn Kleiber for this tasty entree.

Chicken Lasagna

1 pkg. 8 oz. lasagna noodles; 3 cups cooked chicken; 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded; 1 can cream of chicken soup; 1 can cream of mushroom soup; 3/4 cup parmesan; 1 cup chopped onion; 2 cups sour cream; 1 cup black olives; 1 tbs. pimento; 1/2 tsp. each of garlic salt, parsley, paparika.

Cook and drain noodles. Combine all ingredients except chicken and cheese. In a 9x13pan, alternate noodles, sauce, chicken and cheese. Sprinkle with parsley and paprika. Cover with foil and bake at 3500 for 20 minutes. Uncover & sprinkle additional cheese if desired. Continue baking 10 more minutes.

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