The weeknight two-step

Marcy O’Brien

Every morning on my way to work, the last thing I do is kiss Richard goodbye. I think I usually say, ”See you tonight.” Or maybe, “Have a good day.” Sometimes simply, “Love you.”

And the last thing he usually says to me, as I turn to head out the door is, “What are you thinking about for dinner?”

I’m not. I’m never thinking about dinner.

It’s compartmentalized for me. I go to work. He stays home. In my mind, dinner is in his job description. In reality, though, I know he wishes it were not.

When we make the rare concrete plan and it’s a meal I traditionally make, I do follow through. About every third week I make one of his favorites, chicken Caesar salad. Reluctantly. Hey – at least the dressing is from scratch! Sometimes the hour dictates the enthusiasm.

I try to be home by 5:30 but mostly, this past year, it has been an hour or two later. My creativity at the sauté pan or salad bowl is just not at its stimulating best when I’m that bushed. All I really want at that hour is some comfy duds and for some wonderful person to slide a plate of hot food in front of semi-comatose me. For the past five years, that’s mostly been Richard with an occasional delivery in a white foam box as the alternative.

Honestly, if it were up to me – for just myself – supper would be very efficient. A bowl full of easily pourable Cheerios would be on the menu at least one night a week with my feeling very virtuous for the number of blueberries scattered artfully across the top.

As you read this, my first day of retirement, it suddenly occurred to me this week, that I am going to have to start thinking seriously about dinner for two. Yoiks. I probably am going to have to do my share and it’s going to be a big adjustment. Don’t get me wrong. I love to cook. I enjoy creating something new and special. But the everyday, weeknight supper? B-O-R-I-N-G.

And I know Dear Richard feels that way too. For example, when he asked me yesterday what I was thinking about for dinner and I typically said I wasn’t, he called me at the office mid-afternoon. “How about breakfast for dinner?”

My answer was, as usual, “I’d love it.” I’ve never said anything else. If I don’t have to cook it, it sounds wonderful. Richard’s bacon and eggs on a Wednesday night are every bit as good as Sunday morning. Maybe better. Once in a while, I’ll whip up an omelet on a Tuesday or eggs Benedict on a Thursday. All breakfast foods, especially hash and eggs, are comfort foods.

He is great on the grill with burgers, dogs, Italian sausages, pork chops, and steaks. He does fry some nice chicken legs and he’ll whip up a salad most nights to go with. We eat out most Fridays and now that we’re into beefsteak tomato season, BLT’s are an enthusiastic choice for both of us. If you’re counting that’s eight meals including breakfast for dinner. Add my occasional chicken Caesar and we’re up to eight and a half. That’s a pretty short rotation.

Oh, I forgot. About once a month, when we’re in Jamestown, we remember to pick up some fresh fish. Ocean scallops, freshly baked haddock, shrimp for scampi. That’s if we go to Jamestown. And if we remember.

I wonder if other couples have these uninspired conversations about supper. I’m pretty sure with most retired couples the woman is still the cook – she still has that part-time job. I’m going to break the news to Richard that I’m willing to job share. I’m going to re-enter the domestic workforce slowly.

I guess I’m going to have to put boring on the back burner and get organized for the effort. First I’ll check out the freezer and find out what really is in there that needs to be cooked. Then I think I’ll just pretend that we’re having company for dinner. Time to whip up some marinades for shish kabobs. Or make meatloaf. Or read my recipe notebooks. Or actually, go to Jamestown.

I’m thinking It might be fun getting back into cooking. . . as long as it is gradual And I know it would be a gift to Richard not to shoulder the burden of what’s cookin’ every day.

But suddenly it also sounds like work. Hmmm. I guess we don’t retire from eating.

Marcy O’Brien is a longtime local columnist of the sign of the times, and longtime executive director of Struthers Library Theatre.