Raising three sons has been an exercise in food management. Boys are always hungry and will often return to the kitchen looking for a snack before you even finish cleaning up from the last meal. And no, they never want leftovers from that meal.
Each week I’d shove my overflowing cart through Costco, proud of the heaped contents that offered proof of my demanding brood and therefore, my achievement as a mother. That heavy cart showed I was important, needed, and since most of the contents were clearly not for me, a bit of a martyr.
I’d often hit the grocery store straight from work, my smart suit and heels further evidence of my superwoman status.
As the boys got older, we developed an evening routine: After doing the supper dishes, I would light a candle on the stove and turn off all the lights in the kitchen. This signaled to the ever hungry snack-seekers that “the cook” was off-duty. They were welcome to come and get themselves whatever they wanted to eat, as long as they cleaned up after themselves. Otherwise, the kitchen was closed for the night.
It was brilliant and worked well, at least for a while.
Eventually lighting the candle was accompanied by pouring a glass of wine as a signal to the end of my day. Then it evolved further — the cook poured herself glass of wine while cooking, and then another with the lighting of the candle.
Finally, I forgot all about the damn candle and just tucked into the wine.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying in any way that my kids are the reason I used to like the vino so much. (Actually, I still like it, I just don’t drink it.) If anything, the boys (who are now young men) are probably the main reason I didn’t drink a whole lot more than what I did.
But as I look back now, I am retracing all those small shifts that led me to where I am. What can I learn? What do I want to return to? To stay away from?
I still like the idea of the candle in the kitchen. It’s pretty and cozy that way. I can’t see the stains in the aging grout or ring of schmag around the bottom of the tap. Presumably, even my own flaws and cracks are softened in the flickering light.
I can putter through the semi-darkness and make a cup of herbal tea, which I am hating ever-so-slightly less.
Instead of saying “Kitchen closed, Cook off duty”, the lighted candle whispers, “Good job, cook. You made it through another day.”