Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
What do you want?”

“I don’t care, what are you in the mood for?”

I had just come home from a two-day workshop and was in no mood to cook. It was suppertime, and our family had just over an hour before we needed to be out of the door and heading toward the high school auditorium for the Saturday night performance of “Clue.”

“Let’s ask the kids what they want,” suggested my husband.

“Meg, Alex!” I shouted at the top of my voice. “Get to the kitchen, we’re having a family meeting.”

My son came sliding across the linoleum in his stocking feet. “About what?”

“Supper.”

“I’m here.” My daughter appeared in the kitchen door, her wet hair still dripping from the shower.

“What do you want for supper? I’m not cooking so we’re going to pick something up before we go to the play. Any ideas?”

“What do you want?” My son looked to me for guidance.

“I don’t care.”

“How about pizza?” Alex is a pizza-holic.

“Sorry, they served us pizza for lunch at the workshop, so I’ve had my fill of that for awhile. How about McDonald’s?”

I knew this usually was a popular choice among the younger set.

“Dad took us to McDonald’s for lunch this afternoon.”

“And Dad fixed us hamburgers for supper last night,” added my daughter. “I’m just all hamburgered out.”

I took a quick glance at the clock and opened the refrigerator door, looking for a miracle. Buttermilk, wilted lettuce, some cheese, a partial gallon of milk, some green onions, a half-used package of flour tortillas. Not much to work with and no time to entertain the idea of going to a real “sit-down” restaurant.

“How about Chinese? We could carry out.”

“I could eat that if we could have sweet-and-sour something,” said Alex.

“Fine with me,” said Meg.

“You call it in and I’ll go pick it up,” said Keith.

“Great. Now what do we want besides sweet-and-sour something?” I asked.

“What do you want?”

Deja vu.

I pulled the China Buffet carryout menu from the desk drawer in the kitchen and everyone came to look over my shoulder. After some discussion of who liked what, we finally agreed that each person could make one selection.

“Sweet and sour chicken,” said Alex.

“Chicken wings,” said Meg.

“Orange beef,” said Keith.

And I chose chicken chow mein with crispy noodles.

About 15 minutes later, it was on our table, steaming hot and ready for immediate consumption. Soon, we were on our way to an evening of theater.

Which was, by the way, terrific. If you passed on the high school’s production of “Clue,” you lost out on a wonderful night of entertainment. Talented students, under the direction of Terry Bebermeyer, did a bang-up job bringing the super sleuthing Milton-Bradley board game to life. And hilariously so.

When Mrs. Peacock, alias Adrien Bebermeyer, crossed the stage dragging a trail of toilet paper, I snorted so loudly I embarrassed myself.

And what can I say about Casey Reece and Caleb Dirks? What gems. Their parents should be so proud, for not only are they both talented fledgling actors, but they are such nice young men as well.

It was great to be able to join some friends and watch the comedy that evening.

The workshop I had attended was a real “hands-on” event, and I was thoroughly exhausted when I returned to Hillsboro from Salina.

Four of us who work at the elementary school attended the workshop in order to be trained in Balavisx, which is a program that, through the use of bags and balls, stimulates the brain into functioning more efficiently.

For nine hours we learned how to bounce balls and throw bags in rhythmic patterns, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes with partners or in groups, and all the while keeping our eyes glued to the object that we were tossing about. As the workshop progressed, the patterns became more and more complicated and required an increased awareness and ability.

This program has been shown to aid children with learning disabilities and behavioral problems, so that’s why I was in attendance. I learned a lot.

One thing that became apparent by Sunday morning was that someone with a gimpy shoulder probably shouldn’t spend two days bouncing balls over and over and over again.

Message to masseuse: Carolan, my right shoulder is killing me. I’ll be in at my regular time.

Another thing I learned-well, re-learned-was that water is essential for the body to thrive.

Our instructor, Bill Hubert, spoke on the benefits of keeping our students well hydrated. And not with juice, or milk, or heaven forbid, soda-but with water.

The brain, he explained, needs water to function-and lots of it. When the body is dehydrated, the brain doesn’t perform as well as it could, and we Americans don’t drink enough water. Therefore, we’re all working at a lower level than what might be possible.

Message to masseuse: Carolan, you are right. I should drink more water.

Ideally, I guess every kid should have a bottle of water at his or her desk and encouraged to drink up. But then there is the pesky problem of “what goes in must come out.” And how many trips to the bathroom can a teacher allow a child to take during class time?

Anyway, I’ve decided to try it out and drink more water. I want to see if my brain functions better “wet.” Maybe then I’ll be able to figure out quantum physics, the world trade deficit or the meaning of life.

Who am I kidding? I’d just be happy if I could figure out what to eat for supper.

* * *

Now that the end of the school year is drawing nigh, it seems that time at home is becoming more and more precious. Meg has started softball practice and Alex is still stalking turkeys, so meals that can be thrown into the oven and take care of themselves for an hour or so are really popular with me. Team these chops up with baked potatoes, buttered corn and a leafy green salad for an easy supper.

Barbecued Pork Chops

8 pork chops

3 T. vegetable oil

1/2 cup catsup

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. celery seed

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/3 cup vinegar

1 cup water

1 bay leaf

Brown chops in hot oil. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over pork chops. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 11/2 hours. Serves eight.

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