Real Cooking

For me, it has been one of those weeks that just flew by in a cloud of dust. And unfortunately for my family-and any hapless guest that chanced to drop in-I haven’t had time to get out the Pledge and the polishing rags to make any attempt at cleaning up the debris that the week has left behind.

My time seemed to be swallowed up by driving the kids back and forth to town, work, committee meetings, work, household errands, work, shopping, work, helping with homework…and work.

Well, those things and, oh yeah, I made dinner for 250 women at a church in Wichita.

So, this week I haven’t really had the chance to contemplate on any one given subject on which to base this column. But a few random thoughts have popped in and out of my head, so with your indulgence, I’ll share a few things I have observed, overheard or wondered about this week.

On Thursday, the kids and I had an afternoon off of school, so we thought that would be the opportune time to make a quick trip to Wichita to see about the dinner I was preparing for and to pick up some new jeans for Meghan.

We decided to run through McDonald’s drive-through on our way out of town and pick up lunch, and it seemed that everyone else who had a child out of school that day had made the same plans.

While we waited our turn in the drive-through line, my eyes were drawn to the car directly in front of ours. The driver was a man I knew and with him were several children. As he neared the speaker to place his order, out came a list that he systematically read off to the McDonald’s employee listening inside.

It made me laugh. I turned to Meg and said, “There’s another dad with a list.”

She laughed, too.

You see, we never let Keith out the door to go pick up any kind of carryout food without a list. If we don’t write it down for him, there’s no telling what he might bring back. Or how long it might take.

My husband, bless him, does not do fast-food menus well. He’s the guy who’s holding up the line because he can’t decide what he wants to eat even though he’s been standing there for five minutes and the menu hasn’t changed in 10 years.

I mean, it’s hamburgers, chicken or fish. Filet mignon has not sneaked onto the menu. There is no fresh catch of the day. Get on with it.

The fast-food chains, like McDonald’s, have even made it easier for people like Keith by narrowing the ordering process to just a number. Say a number, any number, 1 through 10 and you’ll get food. It’s that easy.

But he is getting better. There was a period of several years where he would always order Teem, a lemon-lime soft drink that hadn’t been in wide circulation for 30 years or more. The process went something like this.

Keith: “I’d like a hamburger, fries and a Teem.”

Fast-Food Person: “We don’t have…. What was that sir? Teem?”

“It’s like Sprite. How about Sprite?” That’s me trying to speed things up.

Keith: “No, it’s better. I’d like a Teem.”

FFP: “We have Mountain Dew. Would you like that?”

Keith: “No. What else do you have?”

FFP: (pointing to the menu board) “Coke, Diet Coke, Orange, Dr. Pepper….”

Keith: “I’ll have a Dr. Pepper.”

FFP (now sighing): “What size, sir?”

Keith: “Regular.”

Of course, there is no “regular.” There’s small, medium, large and bladder buster.

Now, before we go into any fast-food restaurant, we make him look over the menu and make his decisions before he steps up to the counter. I don’t know why he has this reaction to fast-food menus because he does very well in proper sit-down establishments. Go figure.

Another laugh I had this week came from some advice 9-year-old Mieka Serene shared with me at the homecoming game this past week.

“Always ask your grandma for money,” she said. “Your grandma will give you money even when your mom won’t.”

She was so solemn when she told me this that one would have thought she was bestowing on me the wisdom of the ages.

Perhaps so. God bless grandmas everywhere. Especially the ones who love a child enough to slip them an extra 50 cents for popcorn even after they’ve spent the money that mom had allotted for snacks. Every child needs to be indulged…once in awhile.

And here’s one more observation for the week. Some of my time lately has been taken up with driving my son back and forth to play practice, which has become a real labor of love.

I think Alex has become a theater addict, and I can’t think of a better person to guide him in his passion than Judy Harder, who is currently directing the rehearsals of Tabor College’s production of “The Music Man.”

When I come to pick Alex up from practice, I usually sneak in and watch rehearsals for awhile. It’s been great fun to see how the musical is taking shape, how the actors are growing more confidant in their parts and how the sets, which are nothing short of works of art, are coming to life.

I really hope that many of you will take the opportunity to come and see what I’ve been enjoying for so many weeks now. Everyone involved is doing a bang-up job.

Not everything this week has been so delightful. We did finally manage to get the cat down from the attic, but she ended up being put to sleep. She had a long, good life and I still look for her at the back door or in the window sill, where she would come to be let back into the house. I’m sure our house will soon have another kitty. I’ll let you know.

For now, I’ll just try to concentrate on the week ahead of me. Perhaps I can even get to the dusting.

* * *

This week I received a copy of Taste of Home’s Annual Recipe Book in the mail. Its arrival brought to mind the song from “The Music Man” that announces the Wells Fargo Wagon coming to town and bringing goods from afar to the people of River City.

My mailman, Eddie Weber, doesn’t drive a wagon, but he did bring “something special…just for me!”

This recipe, one that our family has already enjoyed, was taken from that cookbook.

Roasted Fan Potatoes

12 large baking potatoes

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup butter, divided

6 tbs. dried bread crumbs

6 tbs. shredded Parmesan cheese

With a sharp knife, slice potatoes thinly but not all the way through, leaving slices attached at the bottom. Place potatoes in a greased shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with salt; brush with 1/4-cup butter. Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Brush potatoes with remaining butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 20 minutes longer. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake five to 10 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender and golden brown. Makes 12 servings.

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