I have arrived.
Today I received unexpected high praise, and hours later, I'm still checking my glory in the mirror. My grandmother, Ladybug, who moved in with me this week, said something to me I never dreamed I'd hear from her. She told me my hamburgers are the best she's had since she's been out here. "Out here" means the state of Utah. "Since" means from 1998 on. For six years she's complained bitterly about the local cuisine. The chicken doesn't taste like it does in North Carolina. The beef doesn't taste like it does in North Carolina. The FOOD in Utah is awful. You can't get anything decent to eat around here. Nobody out here knows what good food tastes like. We can't help it; that's all there is and anyway, we're just used to it. We're blind to the truth. Even I, who grew up in North Carolina, can't tell good food from bad food because I've been out here so long. That's the way it sounds. Only Pizza Hut and McDonald's are the same. (Exaaaaaaactly!)
So, nearly every day that I've talked to Gram for the past 6+ years, I've had these things explained to me with varying degrees of scorn. One of my biggest concerns in moving her in here has been feeding her in a way that (a) pleases her tastebuds as much as possible and (b) will keep her alive and relatively healthy. It's a delicate balance between ambition and realism. The only way I've dreamed up to do this and not kill Rob and me off in the process is to use a double-menu. That's right, a total of six different meal plans every day. For only three adults. I can't see any other way to do it, if Rob and I want to stay predominantly vegetarian, and Gram wants to stay Gram. I try to come up with dishes that are similar enough in structure that it's not a big fat deal to prepare them all in tandem. Still, I'm spending a great deal of time in the kitchen, both physically and mentally. But so far so good. She's been mostly positive and has been eating better overall than before she moved in. She hasn't binged on salt water taffy or made a meal of popsicles yet. I have to admit there are none in the house, but still . . . she's only mentioned taffy once. Dark chocolate Milky Ways, only once. I'll get around to buying that stuff, but I'm not in a huge hurry; I'm hoping she'll ease back into the habit of eating real food before and that her sweets addiction can be minimized. Anway, we're taking it a day at a time.
A few times in the last couple days she's told me that I'm turning out to be a good cook. You really have no idea just how huge a statement that is, coming from her, when she means it. Food is her life. Truth. And as far as cooking for an old southern country cook goes, I am flying by the seat of my pants, anxiously studying Fannie Farmer like it's holy writ, like my soul's salvation depends on it. I am NOT genuinely a good cook in Gram's world. There, I'm a total poseur. It took me most of the night to make a beef stew for tomorrow.
I am a good cook, however, in Mollie Katzen's world.
So today you might say I was named Burger Queen by the reigning local food critic. Would you believe I had to look up a recipe for hamburgers to make sure I was doing it right?
She ate a whole quarter pounder, with onions and mustard and a toasted sesame seed bun. That never even happens at McDonald's. In your face, evil Ronald!