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Kitchen Sanity (or lack thereof)

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One of the things that (usually) keeps me sane in the kitchen is the Clean Up As You Go Rule. When I was single, it was easy to enforce. Then I married, and my kitchen sanity took a beating.

I love to cook, and that’s been a big help at every stage of my weight loss journey. Finding WLS-friendly food at restaurants or in vending machines has rarely been an issue for me, because I’d rather cook and eat at home. Eating my way around the world during business travels was fun at the time, but the weight I gained through the years was not in the least fun. I realize not everyone shares my love of cooking (in fact, some of you hate it), so when I wrote Bandwagon Cookery, I took pains to make the book entertaining. This is an excerpt from the book. If reading it doesn’t change your thinking about cooking, I hope that at least it amuses you.


aka The Beef broth Story

One of my mom's cardinal kitchen rules was: clean up as you go.

It's possible to take this to ridiculous extremes. My Aunt Jeanne (for whom I was named) was not a great cook but she was a dedicated dishwasher. If you were cooking anything in Jeanne's kitchen and let go of it for a minute (let's say you were stirring the sauce and put the spoon down while you spent 30 seconds searching for the dried basil), she would wash it. You'd reach out your hand for that spoon and it'd be gone...over to the dish drainer.

And then there's my husband, Mr. P., who is (in more ways than one) cut from the same piece of cloth as Jeanne. In the small kitchen of our first home, the food prep area was to the left of the sink. We stacked anything that needed to be washed to the right side of the sink. After years of cleaning up after myself, I certainly appreciated it when Mr. P., would automatically, without being begged, coaxed, or bribed, wash anything that was sitting on the right side of the sink.

But one Sunday I spent something like 49 hours (yes, I do know there are only 24 hours in one day, but it felt like 49 hours) making my own beef stock. I roasted a cow's worth of beef bones, then I boiled them in huge vats (lobster pots, actually) of Water with onions, carrots, celery, and herbs. Then I drained the stock, put it back in the vats, and added crushed eggshells to help "clarify" the broth. (By now you're thinking, "You are a very sick lady, Jean", and I agree, and you haven't even heard yet all the gory details about the time I boned and stuffed a game hen into a chicken into a turkey before adding gourmet stuffing and roasting the whole thing one Thanksgiving).

Then I poured the broth into large bowls and left them to cool for about 10 minutes while I washed my hands, visited the bathroom, and had a hit of wine.

Refreshed, I returned to the kitchen ready to pour this fabulous stock into freezer containers and… it was gone! Mr. P. had discarded every last drop, carefully washed all the bowls, and was sitting virtuously at the kitchen table reading the Sunday newspaper. The kitchen counters were clean and tidy...and the stock and everything I'd used to make it had disappeared.

"Where is the stock?" I screamed.

Mr. P. looked up from the financial pages and said, "What stock?" (OK, I just added the financial pages for fun. He would only read the financial pages if there were ads in there for guns and knives - hey, not a bad idea!).

"The stock I left on the counter!"

"You mean that brown stuff in the bowls?"

"Yes, the brown stuff in the bowls! Where is it?"

"I threw it out and washed the bowls. Why?"

For a moment I was speechless (hard to imagine, I know). I looked at the gleaming, empty kitchen counters and thought of all the work I had put into that stock. What was more important, a loving husband or 20 quarts of beef stock?

And always having sensible priorities, I said, "What the f***ing f***?! That was the f***ing beef stock I've been working on all day, and you threw it out? Why would you do that?!"

He carefully set the newspaper on the table and said (slowly, and with equal care, as any sensible man must do when dealing with a loved one's psychotic break), "It was on the right side of the sink. That's where we put everything that needs to be cleaned, right? On the right hand side of the sink?"

Silence again. How could he think that those bowls brimming with fragrant, glorious, homemade beef stock were something that needed to be discarded? Was he totally witless? Or was I? Because he was right: I had put them in the Goodbye Zone. I shook my head at him ("You got me!"), wearily refilled my wine glass and retired to the living-room with two dogs who were probably thinking, "That beef stock sure would've tasted good poured over my kibble."

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I had to laugh when I read this story. Four years ago, I retired after a 35 year career of managing hotel housekeepers and hospital environmental service technicians. One thing I always told new employess was this: The first rule of custodial science is "Get it before it dries". It looks like your Aunt Jeanne and your husband were way ahead of the game.

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Horrifying & hilarious, Jean! I would have had to finish the entire bottle of wine to get over that... Thanks for sharing your story.

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