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The Cheese Grater as a Touchstone to How Okay I May or May Not Be

Today after summoning all of my extra energy, and I really do mean ALL of it, I tried to make bruschetta pasta for dinner. Before John died I was a great and avid cook. I saw the bruschetta recipe on a menu for $15 and knew with that simple list of ingredients I could make that no problem. But that was before I lost the cheese grater.  After finding the pot and pasta and pulling the cheese out of the refrigerator I went looking for the cheese grater. It was missing. “Where the hell is that blanketly, blankerson cheese grater”, I said out loud, “that blanketly cheese grater is always in this drawer”. After several minutes of muttering and cussing around the kitchen I gave up on the bastard cheese grater and headed to look for the other simple and staple ingredients every house has. Onions and minced garlic. But after an exhaustive search of the refrigerator-including but not limited to literally lifting up the milk gallon-I found there were no onions, “What! How can that be? I swear, truly I had four onions-four! Someone stole my onions AND my cheese grater!” my mind begins to race around as I try to figure out how this is happening. Well if I can’t have onions I’ll at least use extra garlic-the minced kind in the large jar and aha! No one has pilfered the garlic. But wait the lid is fastened on so tight it will not, WILL NOT budge. As I fight the jar swinging around the kitchen trying to use my body movement as momentum I realize that there is an expiration date on top of the jar. Expired July 2013. It’s August-“How? How I ask myself, and my now quite bewildered beagle, did THAT happen?”  This stuff lasts forever and not only that we use it so fast that we buy it in bulk.

Slowly, the fog lifts for an instant-one tiny moment of semi-sane clarity. John died 47 weeks and 4 days ago. I have not opened this jar since he died. Wait- when did I really last buy onions? Reality dawns on me. WE- John and I- never ran out of onions because he always put them on the list. Now if I make a list I can’t remember where it is even so I stopped trying to even make lists months ago. Garlic. It too was a staple, and had been part of the before John died days, because we-John and I cooked avidly and used more garlic than anyone we knew. I now graze through the refrigerator eating hunks of cheese and pickled beets out of the jar. No wonder the garlic was expired. My kitchen had finally gone the way of seven month toilet paper shortage.

My paper towel and toilet paper stash was so well stocked because John was so diligent of about keeping  a plentiful supply on hand that it wasn’t till I was resorting to Kleenex seven months after he died that I realized I hadn’t bought any toilet paper or paper towels since he died. I simply went to the basement and got it. I hadn’t thought about it in my grief fog. It was one of those things John had taken care of. That he always took care of. Another small way he always took care of me.

But now my kitchen had gone the way of the seven month toilet paper shortage-to pot. As I looked through the pantry box after box, jar after jar expired. My life has literally been passing by in a fog. Days and weeks and months till nearly a year after John died and I’m still in and out of a reality I didn’t choose, wouldn’t choose and am navigating slowly and without direction. But as all widows and widowers know there is no option, no going back and no amount of bitterness, anger, wailing or bargaining with God is going to change it. So I changed my recipe. Instead of bruschetta pasta I made provencal pasta. Olives- I had those, balsamic vinegar I had that- grated cheese- oh damn that cheese grater that by the way I never have found! But it turned out okay. I, like John did so many times in his life, improvised. I cubed the cheese and although different, although not what I planned or tried for it was okay-not great but okay and for that I am grateful. Although I really would like to know where that cheese grater is.

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Comment by my roses on September 10, 2013 at 6:21am

My roses   Sept 10th.


Oh Yes, the mess and muddle in the kitchen.  I found myself wandering around  picking up bottles and putting them down again.  Even wondering what was actually in them.Wanted some olive oil to cook some meat for dinner,  had promised myself I would cook a proper meal with fresh vegetables.  Where was the olive oil? An empty bottlegrinned at me across the bench top. I said I am sure I bought another one, youshould have been thrown out.   Hunted on the shelves, the pantry floor,  nowhere to be seen.  Along the way, more stuff  was found – why hadn’t I eaten it?  What’sthis now, in the fridge?  I glared at the cabbage now going black at the edges.

 Reluctantly  got ready to go up the road to get the olive oil, milk and  tin foil.Guess what… got to the cashier and paid… at the door realised I had not got the milk.Back to the stores shelves!!!   Managed to cook a meal… and forced myself to eat…no appetite these days.

Have also had  the hunt the tissue and  toilet roll game as well.  Why am I so forgetful?   Some days too lethargic to even make a list when  I  DO REMEMBER I need  T. Rolls.   I went out  with two understanding friends on my wedding anniversary last Saturday and  I  seemed ok… but even finding  my front door key,and my reading glasses were a major effort… and they were in my handbag!!Luckily they were understanding as one was a widow and the other had lost 2 children – but I could see they were concerned  about my  ‘ability to cope.’   Yet deep down I know I am not losing my mind…It is just that it wants to concentrate on memoriesof my beautiful husband and  the special times …. Olive oil and  toilet rolls  - no way.

Comment by Joyce on August 29, 2013 at 4:54pm

Flannery, I love this story.  I'm at 22 months, so I think I've gotten rid of any expired items in my fridge, but I know there's stuff in the pantry that hasn't been touched since he died.  Tom was the main cook in our house and i haven't had much desire to do any cooking.  We also have a fish tank and while I always fed the fish it was a while before I realized there were other responsibilities besides feeding them.  One day I couldn't believe how cloudy the tank was and couldn't remember the last time  the filter had been changed. The fog lifts and reality sets in

Comment by smileanywayNJ on August 27, 2013 at 4:51pm

This is a great story! Oh the fog...the damn fog! I can totally relate to al of this from the "guy" standpoint as well as the widower view. I was the buy twice as much when it's on sale person AND the cook. I didn't cook for a while after Brenda died because there was so damn much food that people brought us while she was sick. It was about 6 months later that I had to toss all the frozen chicken and pasta dishes everyone made. I will happily mail you a cheese grater. There aren't many italian dishes that can be made with cheese cubes...:) Nice job improvising! The fog is lifting!!!

Comment by Lauralee on August 27, 2013 at 5:38am

Flannery - this is so timely - just yesterday I found a jar of unopened horseradish in the fridge that expired June 2012.  I also looked at it and thought how could that be - I guess I haven't even picked up that jar all this time.  I started going through everything in the fridge and threw out everything that has expired (a bunch) and may replace some of them. I guess I better tackle the pantry next.  I haven't had much energy for cooking these past 17 months but I did take out a pound of ground beef from the freezer yesterday and am determined to make something this week. After reading your post, I might even try something Italian! Thanks for sharing! 

Comment by Morgana (Janet) on August 27, 2013 at 4:54am

Flannery, I had to laugh when I read this.  My Jim did a lot of little things that I so miss today.  True we never realize just how many little things they did for us.  Thank you for sharing this.  Hugs. 

Comment by flannery on August 27, 2013 at 4:14am

Thank you Liz and RainSong it is a relief to know I'm not the only one that has these thoughts and feels this way-or comically that I'm not the only widow running out of supplies! When I  mention this to my married girlfriends they often react in a way that says what kind of woman are you that you don't keep up with those types of household things? But I know that if the shoe were on the other foot they too would relaize how much thier husbands do-all those little roles they quietly fill in thier lives that they simply don't realize in the day to day business of life. Hugs to you both.

Comment by RainSong on August 27, 2013 at 2:30am

Flannery, I loved this!!!  It will be seven months on Sept. 10th, and there were things that Gregg took care of buying that it took me awhile to realize I was responsible now...liquid hand soap, dish soap, laundry detergent.  Gregg loved to shop and used coupons so he always had a stash of these things, as well as toothpaste and toothbrushes.  I am a buy as I need kind of person so I had to remember that I have no back up now!!!

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