Saturday, December 1, 2007

Snapshots of Retirement Living: The Food Kind of Sucks

Mom’s cooking spoiled all of us, Dad included, for the dried out, over-cooked, over-salted, quick-cook menu items that for many people pass as normal fare. Nearly every night she’d whip up a delicious, under-appreciated, nutritionally balanced gourmet delight, including at least one green or orange vegetable, warm dinner rolls and a homemade dessert. I don’t honestly know how she did it with five kids.

I remember not sufficiently appreciating breaded veal parmesan, tender swiss steak, roast chicken, homemade potatoes au gratin, always perfect homemade gravy, pristinely fluffy white mashed potatoes, and the absolute best macaroni and cheese in the hemisphere. Mom didn’t bring home the bacon (except literally), but she made sure dad’s paychecks stretched as far as possible by dressing up the leftovers so nothing went to waste. A chicken one night would be chicken a la king the next night and chicken vegetable soup on the third night.

I don’t think she ever cheated with Kraft macaroni and cheese, or Hamburger Helper, or even—to my deepest distress—Rice-A-Roni. I had to go to my best friend Jane’s house to get me some of that San Francisco treat.

(Mom did cheat with Minute Rice, though, which to this day I do not understand. Why would a person who obviously cared about real, fresh, delicious food use that nasty not-rice, when real rice is simpler and more delicious? But that was her worst culinary faux pas, and I’m a big enough person to overlook it.)

OK, so my point about all this is, dad and I are spoiled. We know what roast pork with a spicy garlic rub should taste like—moist, tender, flavorful; but here, it tastes a little like boot leather. The BBQ chicken was dry and tough, and the baby snap peas had had their snap boiled right out of them until they laid there, limp and sad, like soggy strips of faded green construction paper.

There’s nothing like crisp, bright green asparagus, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt and perfectly roasted, right? After my first dinner at Chez Telford, I vetted the asparagus before ordering it—and the server warned me that it had been steamed to soggitude. Shepherd’s pie came sans crust; it was more like shepherd’s stew on a plate. The white rice that came with my so-called pepper steak reminded me of lumpy grade-school paste—which some kids did actually eat, even though Miss Rudasill frowned upon it.

The price of mom and dad’s apartment includes one meal every day, either lunch or dinner (same menu). I’ve been trying to convince dad that just because it’s paid for doesn’t mean he has to eat it, if he’d rather go out to dinner, or eat dinner in the apartment. Since the money’s already spent, I tell him, take it out of the equation. Now the decision, in economic terms (props to my first husband) is, from which option will you derive the most utils?

It doesn’t sink in. Dad feels compelled to eat the meal that’s paid for, and they’ll be eating that meal every day, like it or not, until mom decides that she will derive more utils from making one of her own truly gourmet delights. I predict that this will happen sometime in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, avoid the asparagus.


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