Strega Nona is an elderly lady who helps her fellow villagers out with their troubles. (I can see why perhaps Mom is opposed to this particular name for her grandmotherly moniker.) On a side note, my mother is here to help out for the weekend, as I am still very much bed-ridden. Lest anyone think this post compares my mother to a witch, note that the plot of Strega Nona revolves around a magic pasta pot; the women in my family do not cook.
This past weekend was supposed to be my baby shower. It was canceled since I could no longer attend. My mom, Aunt J and college roommate, Becca decided to keep their travel plans and come visit me anyway. Around 4 p.m., Mom and Aunt J decided my current situation needed to be remedied – dinners needed to be pre-prepared and grocery shopping needed to occur. Please re-read the last line of the first paragraph before continuing.
I suspect the initial motivation to grocery shop can be gleaned from the previous post, “One of These Things is Not Like the Others.” My mother may have bought herself a 12-cup coffeemaker, but no one had yet been struck by the urge to run out and buy the actual coffee.
Aunt J proposed a trip to Dream Dinners. According to their website, “Dream Dinners is an innovative concept in meal preparation that eliminates menu planning, shopping, prep-work and clean-up by moving the meal assembly process out of people’s kitchens and into specially equipped stores.” J had used them before, found them tasty and thought it would be fun for me to pick out some menu items. She thought she’d take my mom with her and they could enjoy some sisterly bonding while helping me out.
My mother looked aghast at this proposal. “We’d have to measure,” she noted in a very unenthusiastic manner. Instead, she proposed a trip to Trader Joe’s because of their tasty frozen food selection.
At this point Becca, the lone voice of culinary reason, provided the alternative of going to Safeway – located .48 miles from my house. Her crazy idea was to buy some actual groceries (and coffee and creamer) and prepare a real meal. “We could make Chicken Cacciatore or Kabobs,” she offered.
Mom and Aunt J both immediately adopted a facial expression most closely resembling sheer terror. “That’s WAY too much work!” they exclaimed. (Becca did point out that a kabob involves cutting meat squares, stabbing through a stick with vegetables and putting it on fire but that did not sway any opinions.)
Mom won the argument. There would be no cooking. Mom asked what food we already had (the list currently contained coffee and creamer, followed by blank space). Becca helpfully chimed in once more, noting that our fridge currently contained a pizza box and light bulb. That prompted Mom and J; they set off to find frozen food at Trader Joe’s.
I received a call about 20 minutes later asking if I liked mushroom risotto. I answered in the affirmative, but I’m not entirely sure anyone heard me. I could hear the two of them bickering in the background about what they knew I did or did not like. I hung up – assuming the conversation (with me) was over. They called back in a scant 20 minutes more. This time they left a message “You really need to call us back. We’re lost and have no idea where we are.” I called them back with a voicemail of my own – sharing that if they make it to Oregon, they’d gone to far. I thought to myself that if they’d simply gone to Safeway (remember, the store less than half a mile away) they could have walked back if necessary.
Luckily, J remembered to get the dessert. My mom leans toward the healthy (taste-free) side of the menu. Example – if you were to recommend calcium, Mom would suggest calcium tablets or supplements. J would provide the much more obvious (and correct) answer of a variety of ice cream flavors.
Guess who made dinner after this whole adventure. Yup, you guessed it – Becca. Mom and J were fascinated by the resulting salad, pasta and chicken dish (it was delicious). Mom stated that Becca had to learn to cook since she’s married to an Italian. (Note: my mother and father, the Italian immigrant, have now been married for over 30 years.)
At this point, Aunt J was ready to pour herself some margarita mix (heavy on the Jose Cuervo) and run. So when Jon arrived home, shocked that a real meal was awaiting him, Jon and J enjoyed just such a beverage while enjoying the fancy dinner – laughing over the fact that our freezer is now packed to the gills with frozen Trader Joe’s fare.