When I came to live with Grandma and Grandpa I came to help Grandpa by taking care of him, and I came to help Grandma by taking care of Grandpa and cooking. Grandma has never enjoyed cooking, and now that her health has declined enough it is physically too tiring for her to cook. Since Grandma never liked to cook she never put much effort into cooking good things to eat. For Grandma, my arrival has meant better eating for her.
For me, cooking is a balancing act. I want to
- Make something I enjoy eating
- Make something Grandma enjoys eating
- Make something Grandpa enjoys eating
- Make something, if possible, that Melinda and Arlan enjoy eating
- Make a variety of good and interesting things to eat
- Make something that doesn’t take very much of my time
This is a balancing act where not all things can be balanced equally. Grandpa likes eating so few things that it is very hard to completely satisfy him. For him I am pretty much reduced to trying to make sure there is a dessert for him on the meals he really doesn’t like.
In the end I primarily balance making something Grandma likes to eat against what doesn’t take a lot of time to make. Grandma doesn’t have refined tastes, so it is actually easy to make her happy. Basically, all she cares for is sweet and sour, meat and mashed potatoes. I have been slowly adjusting what I make for meals to more align with her tastes. Since she has such mundane tastes satisfying her doesn’t take an undue amount of work from me, and she thinks I’m the greatest cook.
I have two basic points of guilt relating to my cooking. After supper I lose what little energy and ambition I have so I try to squeeze in what work I can on my own projects and goals in what part of the afternoon I can get to myself. If I were to get supper on the table at a decent hour I would clean up after lunch, maybe have an hour to myself and then start on supper. It’s hard to get much done in an hour or less, so I usually very deliberately put off working on supper so I can have two or three hours to do something for myself. I don’t start on supper until 5:00 PM and this means supper isn’t served until 6:30-7:00 PM (and of course if I didn’t make such quick and easy suppers I wouldn’t even be able to pull this off).
I feel a bit guilty because this is a blatant act of selfishness. To get something done for myself I put off everyone’s supper. I guess somewhere done inside me I must feel that this might be a legitimate compromise because I don’t feel so guilty that I start supper at 3:30 to get it on the table by 5:30 . . . most of the time. But if I feel it is truly necessary I will.
My other point of minor guilt is that I feel a bit like an accessory to Grandma’s attempt to kill herself by eating. She likes to eat salty, sweet, and fatty foods. As a diabetic with severe heart disease should be eating nothing of these three “food groups”. But Grandma has an elaborate delusion going over what she can and cannot eat and I am feeding it (pun intended).
I make things that taste so good (to her) that not only does she not want to give them up, but she wants to have them every week. Eat and drink today, for tomorrow we may die. I find her relationship (or attitude) toward meat particularly appalling. Grandma’s kidney’s are failing and around a year before I came to live with them her kidney function became so bad she had to give up all meats except fish for awhile. I guess her kidney function recovered to a degree because eventually she returned to eating meat. But since I’ve arrived we’ve started to go hog-wild. Grandma has discovered that I can make meat taste so darn good she don’t want to stop.
It seems I am constantly surprising her with the delicious methods I come up with to prepare food. In truth, I’m doing nothing any moderately trained cook would know as the basics. It all started with a steak Grandma said was in the freezer and maybe I could cook up. Apparently she always cut the meat into thin strips and then broiled it in the oven. It wasn’t a very good cut of meat to begin with (which meant I had to deal with toughness at the start) and I knew broiling often can make meat even tougher. So I marinated the steak for several days and then cooked it whole in some liquid. It turned out much more tasty and tender than her preparation of the meat, and Grandma pronounced that she wanted to have this every week.
That was the beginning. Eventually Grandma got tired of having that particular steak marinate, but she still wanted to have her piece of beef each week. I, knowing that beef was hard on her kidneys and all round not the most healthy thing to be eating, was willing to let it simply drop out of the menu. For awhile I managed to keep the beef to simply a bit in a stir-fry, but soon Grandma got her hankering for a hunk of meat again. So she had me buy a huge chunk of cow which I split for two separate meals and slow cooked the first portion and finished it off in a savory sweet and sour red sauce. One thing you have to give me, I know exactly what Grandma likes to eat.
Grandma was practically walking on air after she tasted that meal. It was pronounced as another meal to have every week.
And now she has decided to add pig to the menu. Last week she asked me if I could find some pork that I thought I could cook in a nice way, and spare ribs was the chosen cut (Grandma considered them sufficiently cheap and tasty). I accomplished the spare ribs with such success we’re having them this week, too.
The cook in me is pleased that Grandma enjoys my cooking so much, but the other part of me knows that as a diabetic with failing kidney’s Grandma should not be eating beef or pork–at the very least she should give those things up, and if she was really wise she would content herself with eating beans and gruel.
But I tell myself it is not my place to tell Grandma what she should eat, so I have kept my mouth shut. Grandma is well read about health foods and health matters so it isn’t as if she doesn’t know what she is doing–whether she is trying to delude herself or not. Grandma is a competent adult, and the grocery money is hers to spend as she pleases, so if she wants to have roast beef, pork spare ribs, and pizza every week no matter the consequences for her health, then we’ll have them. But I know it is a bad decision based upon the enjoyment of passing pleasures.
Grandma likes to eat every week the same things that she like so much lot. This is a convenience to me because it means I must do less thinking about what I cook. Dinner preparation becomes a simple repetition. However, unlike Grandma, I do get tired of the same food over and over again. The cook part of me likes to eat different things, and to experiment with something new. Most of the time I keep to the same old foods because this means I have more time to do the other things that I want. But sometimes I break down and make something different like this past week when I got tired of making pizza pizza pizza every Thursday and instead made pizza roll ups. It took more of my time, and more effort, but I wanted the change.