Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Make sure your husband is prepared

One of the reasons I came down to Washington was to help my friend's father learn how to cook. He's a recent widower, his wife didn't cook, his daughter is a not a great cook and hasn't got a well stocked kitchen, and he really needs someone who understands a heart-healthy, no sugar, no salt diet. That would be me.

Today I took him grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. Believe it or not, he's almost unfamiliar with how to shop in a market. He doesn't know anything about ingredients, he's limited in his choices not only due to diet, but to kashrut as well. That trip to Trader Joe's was a real eye opener for us both. I saw a man, vibrant, still working in his late 70's, who can't boil water. He is an absolute neophyte in the kitchen. We had to begin with baby steps. We chose some items for him to cook and then, after going to see the Cherry Blossoms, which were SPECTACULAR, we came back home and I showed him how to make a meal.

But they have no pots and pans! No appliances. Pretty much nothing that he can use to cook. The largest pot in the house was a 2-quart saucepan. It was a bit daunting. We used that pot to make a lovely brown and wild rice medley. I put some olive oil on the bottom of a pan, cut up half of a red bell pepper and an onion, and 1 1/2 portabello mushrooms and laid them all on the bottom the pan. Over that I laid 3 flounder fillets, some whole wheat matzo that I pounded into matzo meal, some seasonings, and the juice of one lemon. I baked it while Al made a salad. He had never made a salad before, but he did a great job.

I feel so badly for him. He's kind of bereft when it comes to the kitchen, and he can't just go out and eat. He has to learn to cook for himself. It angers me that he's been left in this situation. I worry that so many other men are in similar situations, healthy enough to care for themselves for years to come, but absolutely incapable of doing so without help.

Tomorrow we'll go and buy him some pots and pans and some other kitchen items he needs. I asked him tonight if he knew how to buy himself socks and underwear. He says he does, but he's coming to Boston for Passover and I promised I would take him shopping, just in case.

How does this happen? How does an extremely well educated man have no clue of how to care for himself? Mark this down. If you have a relative or are married to a man like this, it isn't fair to him. He needs to learn basic self-care in the kitchen. So many men (and some women) are flummoxed about making even the simplest recipes. There were some things that he was absolutely willing to try, because he thought they were too complicated or too hard. No several steps for him. He wants healthy, quick and easy.

I will make a big pot of marinara sauce that he can freeze in individual plastic containers. I got him both tempeh and tofu for veggie stir fries, and he does have a wok like pan (the ONLY frying pan in the house). I got him a turkey breast, several packages of frozen fish, chicken breasts, and some other items that he will eat. I'll leave him instructions on how to cook each one of these items so he can do it himself. I think it he has a repertoire of 10 dishes, he'll be fine.

Never did I think I'd be doing this. My kids both are good and inventive cooks. They are not afraid of the kitchen. But poor Al is so overwhelmed. Tonight I told him that I fixed the burners on his electric stove because they were all in wrong. He didn't even know that!

Please, if you do have someone you love in this situation, help him before he's alone. you own it to him!

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Blogger Jake Titus said...

I commend you on your efforts. Three quarters of my life was spent as a single man. Out of necessity I learned to cook early in life. The idea of not understanding how to cook well is foriegn to me. Many of my friends can't make toast or do laundry correctly. I'd imagine that they will end up like your friend when they get older. Again, I commend you for your efforts.

6/4/08 1:04 AM  
Blogger bethany actually said...

Margalit, you are doing a good thing in helping this man. And what great advice to share with the world.

6/4/08 2:42 AM  
Blogger Rhea said...

You are a generous person to help like this. I tend to be angry that men enjoy the fruits of sexism by living a life in which they never have to learn how to do the daily tasks of life, such as laundry and cooking.

6/4/08 7:55 AM  
Blogger Dave2 said...

I learned how to press buttons on the microwave, so I think I'm going to be okay. :-)

6/4/08 8:11 AM  
Blogger Misfit Hausfrau said...

We usually read about the widow who doesn't know how to pay bills, or find the insurance policies, etc. What you are doing is extremely kind.

6/4/08 10:38 AM  
Blogger Daisy said...

You are very generous to teach him like this. When he gest comfortable with these ten dishes, maybe he'll branch out and work on a few varieties. My brother learned to cook breakfasts when he was a bachelor; it didn't do much for his blood pressure and heart health. He was eating eggs all the time.

6/4/08 11:46 AM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

That is my Dad in ten years. My mom has COPD and her life expectancy is about 15 years from diagnosis. She was diagnosed 6 years ago. My parents were raised in an era when the wife did everything. Both my Dad and my uncle fully expect to be waited on hand and foot. My Mom worked some when we were children, so my Dad can at least make mac n cheese, spaghetti, and maybe hamburgers. But as far as meal planning, grocery shopping, budgeting, laundry, basic housekeeping....no way.

I told my mother recently that she has some work to do, because neither my sisters nor I are interested in being his maid after she goes.

You are very kind to take him under your wing. You seem like a very competent teacher.

6/4/08 12:35 PM  
Blogger Drew Kime said...

Go on Amazon and look for a book called Tough Guys Don't Dice: A cookbook for men who can't cook

My mother gave it to me when I went away to college. Within two years I was working as a cook at a local restaurant, and I just published a cookbook. (How To Cook Like Your Grandmother) So clearly I don't buy the idea that men can't figure out how to work a kitchen.

In the introduction, he says part of the inspiration was seeing how many of his friends either divorced or widowed, and had never had to feed themselves before. It's a good, fun read, even if you already know how to cook.

6/4/08 6:46 PM  

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