You Say Tomato …

My husband, the produce expert (left) with recent acquisition
My husband, the produce expert (left) with recent acquisition

My own father – a physician and man of science who spends his days treating critically ill patients at a world-renowned medical center – could not pick a pasta strainer out of a kitchenware line-up and would rather buy a whole new set of unmentionables than figure out how to do laundry. Once and only once did Lew do the grocery shopping when we were little (at the Kings in Garwood). Needless to say, we left with $100 worth of Pringles, Chips Ahoy, Tastykakes, Cookie Crisp cereal and bubble gum-flavored Kissing Potion, a very delicious rollerball lip gloss. Most. Awesome. Supermarket. Trip. Ever.

In short, Lew is a great man who is not such a great help to my mother. As such, I witnessed — on many a childhood weekend — a meltdown during Jan’s Saturday morning cleaning process. I would start to hear angry but unintelligible muttering whilst eating my bowl of Honeycombs. The volume would increase and Jan would start naming random New Jersey countrymen who didn’t get their hands in hot water because they were pritzas.  (Pronounced “preet-zuhs.” I don’t know what this Yiddish word really means, but Jan and Grandma Ethel used it as a derogatory term for  women who were thin, pretty and/or rich). Soon she’d be full-fledged yelling about the lack of help she had around the house, referring to herself as “Tillie the Toiler.”  Meanwhile, “Tillie the Toiler” was actually a smokin’ hot cartoon office worker and part-time model who, according to Wikipedia, had no trouble finding men to escort her around town. Some would argue that Tillie was even a pritza.

The whole thing was most unfortunate.

But I was used to it, and assumed that all households functioned like this. So when Keith and I moved in together, I was shocked to learn I was wrong: not all men drove their wives to faux Tillie the Toilerhood.  If I start emptying the dishwasher, Keith feels guilty and immediately comes to help. Sometimes he even does it before I get out of bed. He also does his own laundry, irons from time to time and assists with fitted sheet folding. And by far the most helpful contribution Keith makes is food shopping. He says he finds it satisfying. I give him a list, he adds to it as needed, then heads to the store and calls me if he has any questions. Rather cutely, he then presents me with the groceries and eagerly waits for me to approve his purchases, which I always do.

Last week, one of the items on the list was iceberg lettuce. When I took it out of the bag, it felt really heavy and was so big I had to clear a shelf in the refrigerator  to accommodate it.  Keith looked very proud. The next eve, I went to prepare our salad. The lettuce was freakishly hard to cut. Its leaves seemed thick and rubbery and as I struggled to get the knife through them, the mysterious scent of Brussels sprouts wafted up to my nose. At first, I attributed the cutting difficulty to a sudden onset palsy that was obviously causing me to lose muscle control. The smell had to be a side effect – didn’t stroke survivors report experiencing strange aro… wait a minute. This wasn’t palsy. This was CABBAGE!

Frick on a leafy green stick.

I jumped away from the counter immediately, afraid that even the slightest contact with it would cause global thermo-gastrointestinal disaster.

Keith apologized profusely, but I told him it was an honest mistake and not to worry. Iceberg and cabbage bear an uncanny resemblance and really, only a seasoned shopper and vegetable-chopper would easily recognize the difference. Frozen green beans to the rescue.

This week, I put zucchini on the list. Keith handed me the bag, which also seemed heavier than it should have. A quick look inside revealed what appeared to be three ginormous … and purple … zucchini. Or, as you might know them, EGGPLANT.

Le sigh.

There would be no roasted zucchini with olive oil and breadcrumbs for dinner that night. I knew Keith would feel terrible if I told him, but I also knew he’d feel bad if I just left the purple “zucchini” I’d requested rotting in the refrigerator. So I did what any good wife would do. I made a lifetime supply of mediocre eggplant parmesan. And baba ganoush. And ratatouille (sans zucchini).

Keith is an amazing husband (especially for letting me make fun of him in this post) and never, ever causes me to refer to myself as Tillie the Toiler or to anyone else as a pritza. But no man is perfect – and clearly, he needs a bit of tutelage in the produce department. Perhaps I am at fault here – perhaps I failed him by not preparing him better for the world of supermarketry.

I am off to enroll him in Edible Vegetation 101.

You Say Tomato …

The Age Gap

To the five or six kindly people who still remember this blog, I want to apologize for my absence. I have no excuse, except that I am lazy and unmotivated, which is why I will never write a novel, which is why no one will ever option it and make me a screenwriter, which is why no one will ever cast Sandra Bullock or Marisa Tomei as me, which is why I will never win an Academy Award and get to say, “In your face, mean high school girls,” which is why I will never be rich. Additionally, nothing all that funny has occurred of late.

However, I now wish to share an exchange I overheard whilst partaking of the evening meal at Jan and Lew’s East Side domicile the other night. I arrived a few minutes before Lew got home from work, and Jan poured me a glass of wine then joined me on the couch.  When Lew entered the apartment, he said a quick hello and headed into the bedroom to change.

Now, over the course of the past few years, I’ve had no choice but to start accepting, with great sadness and angst, that my parents are aging.  Most of their friends from New Jersey now live in “communities” for “active” adults age 55 and over (because the 300-lb Ilene Cohen is nothing if not “active”).  Their dinner hour is decreasing at a pace of a few minutes a year — they once sat down to eat at 8. They’re now done by 7 and I know what lies ahead. They’re eligible for all kinds of discounts and seem creepily PROUD to inform the movie ticket vendor or train conductor of their age.  They wear solid white sneakers.  They refer to all social networking web sites as “MyFace.”

And it goes without saying that their hearing isn’t what it used to be. Growing up, a mere sneeze from the other side of the house could awaken my sleeping father and send him into an insomniacal rage.

Now, I’ll say something completely inocuous like, “Wow. These new shoes are super-comfy,” and Lew, who blames his personal aural woes on the screaming teens at a Duran Duran concert he chaperoned in 1985, will mis-hear me and respond, “Listen — watch your mouth. It’s okay to talk like that around us.  But not everyone finds that kind of thing funny.”  I, of course, will have no choice but to ask him what on God’s green earth he thinks I’ve just said, and he, of course, is never actually able to tell me.

But this particular conversation really underscored the truth for me. I’m not even sure it can be called a conversation, as they seemed to be talking to themselves.

Sitting in the living room, I heard Lew calling my mother’s name.

“Jan.”

No response.

“Jan!”

No response.

“JAN! WHAT IS THIS?”

I intervened, informing my mother that Lew requested her attention.

“What?” she called back.

L:  What’s this bag with the dry cleaning that just came back?

J: Bag? What bag?

L: JAN!

No response.

L: JAN! What’s this bag that came back with the dry cleaning? It looks like it’s from the Gap?!

J (to me): Is he asking me about his shirts?

Me: No. A Gap bag.

J (to Lew): Gap bag? I didn’t buy anything from the Gap. I have no idea.

L: JAN! 

No response.

L: It’s like a … like a … blue Gap bag or something … where’s that big blue bag they usually give us? Are you sure this is our stuff?

The mysterious appendage
In a case of mistaken identity, this Gap bag was wrongly accused of stowing away with a pile of dry cleaning

J:  The Gap? When would I have been in a Gap?

L: I don’t think this is our stuff, Jan.

J: I’ve never bought anything in the Gap in my life! Banana Republic, sure … H&M … but the Gap …?

L: I’m calling the cleaners.

J: OH! LEW? You know what? I DID buy something in the Gap a few months back. It was that gray hoodie. Or wait, did I get that at Banana Republic? Nope. It was the Gap.

Brief silence. Jan appears deep in thought.

J: LEW? HEY! LEW? Did I put your underwear in that bag?

Big fat EW! And what is she even TALKING ABOUT? Under what circumstances would anyone put anyone else’s undies in a Gap bag, EVER?

L (walking into the living room): Nevermind. It wasn’t a Gap bag. It just looked like one.

Phew! I’m glad we cleared that up. Can we eat now? It’s pushing 5:30.

The Age Gap