I’ve gone from having it all to having just enough. At age 49, my life changed in a way that thirty years pior, I never would have imagined. My story is not singular: too many women have walked in my shoes. Yes, I am writing about divorce.
I loved my husband with my whole being. Upon waking each day, I asked myself, ‘What can I do to make his day good?’ At night, I went to sleep thinking how I could make his tomorrow better.
As a young bride, I delighted in finding out what he liked to eat. A cookbook collection was started. Living in rural America, we grew much of our own food: fresh vegetables from the garden, fruit from the orchard, beef from the pasutre, and eggs from the hen house. Supper planning was easy with great food literally steps from our back door. I learned to can vegetables and make jam, preserves.
I loved every minute of my life in the country. I loved him too.
Tired, hurtful details of the demise of our marriage don’t need to be shared here -partly because I don’t fully understand how something once so good could end up so wrong and partly because I’m through with him. I write only to say that even though much of my life was stolen from me, one thing remains that no one can take from me: my love of cooking and my talent for it.
As I am the youngest of three siblings and the only girl, my mother was thrilled when I showed an interest in learning to cook. I became a big help to her. She worked and I got home before she did. The first thing I’d do in the afternoons was call her at work and ask what to defrost for supper. I’d have supper started, by the time she got home and all Mama had to do was taste test and tweak the pot here or there.
Baking cookies and brownies was my favorite kind of cooking. I didn’t master Mama’s peanut butter fudge until after I was married. My husband loved sweets and I kept something good in the cookie jar at all times.
We had a big kitchen in the country. The one I cook in now is quite small. Most of my pretty dishes are in storage, seeing as this life in transition sometimes feels like being in exile and there’s simply no room for them.
It took several months after leaving my home in the country, before I even felt like eating, much less cooking. Every meal reminded me of what I use to have. Heck, every meal reminded me of my husband. We have three grown sons. He would sometimes be sent out of town with his job. I’m not proud of what I am about to admit, but when he wasn’t at the house, and it was just the boys and I, hot dogs, pizza, and chicken nuggets were on the menu. My oldest son once made the statement that when Daddy was home we ate round steak, rice and gravy, and sweet potato casserole. When Daddy wasn’t home, I didn’t really cook. He was right. I fed he and his brothers, but I cooked for their Daddy.
If you haven’t guesed, I am Southern. Quite Southern. We express our love often with food. My husband would tell me he loved me like a biscuit. Odd, I know, but to him those were words of deep affection. After all, the man adored eating. So, when he said he loved me like a biscuit I would ask, “With butter and plum jam?”
“No,” he’d reply, “with gravy.” Ah, food; the language of love.
Until late 2013. Then his love language changed. Drastically. He gave me no clue as to what it had morphed into and wouldn’t give me an oportunity to discover it. Family suppers were no longer pleasant times to catch up with each other and reconnect. He quit eating anything I cooked. This hurt me terribly. I’ve already explained how we Southerners feel about our food and loving each other with it.
So, I left. No, it wasn’t that easy. Leaving was actually quite brutal, but necessary. Months, months went by before I could stir a pot again. Grocery shopping was torture. How to plan for meals alone or why even bother? But healing came and with it my old desire to create something good in the kitchen.
I said my sons were all grown- almost. My youngest goes away to college this fall. I do cook for him. One evening after we had moved into this tiny apartment, we were eating supper, (pork chops, thin gravy over brown rice), he tells me, “I guess you’re cooking for me now, huh?”
“What?” I asked.
“You know. You always said that you fed us boys, but you cooked for Dad.”
Shame flooded me that night. I determined right then that I would start cooking on a regular basis, not just when I felt like it, if I felt like it. My husband’s delight had been my catalyst for cooking in my past, my survival in this exile would be rediscovering my girlhood passion.
Last night I came home from work and grocery shopping and roasted a whole chicken with celery, onion, carrots, and apples. Oh, and don’t forget the butter! I’ll share the recipe sometime. That recipe and the one for the Bisquick peanut butter cookies, that I made earlier in the week. They’re all gone, by the way.
Oh, yeah, a year removed from the amputation of my marriage and I’m cooking up a storm.