Bone of Contention by
(311 Stories)

Prompted By Mealtime

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Bone of Contention 

My mother never made much of a fuss over mealtimes,   nor did she take much pride in her own cooking – although I never remember a meal at her table that wasn’t delicious.  (See My Game Mother,   Still Life)

She was a high school art teacher,   and came home every afternoon,  tied an apron over her school clothes,   and started dinner.  (I remember marveling at how she could stand at a hot stove in her girdle and stockings,  but she did!)

My father had his medical office on the first floor of our house,  and several nights a week he had office hours from 6:30 to 8:00.   (See  Fluffy, or How I Got My Dog)

Thus we ate dinner early so he could get down to his office in time,   and when it was just our family for dinner we ate in the kitchen,  my sister and I sitting on a built-in banquet covered in a cheery yellow leatherette.   And while we ate,  we listened to Lowell Thomas read the 6:00 news.  (See Kitchen Radio)

I don’t remember setting the table,  or doing the dishes,   I sure hope I did!    But I know I never helped my mother with the cooking,  I wasn’t  interested,  although my sister went on to be a wonderful cook,  so go figure.

When I married,   despite my lack of enthusiasm for the job,   by default I become chief cook and bottle washer,   and I’d often call my mother for advice and recipes.   (“What do you put on your roast chicken to make it so moist and delicious?”.   “Salt,  pepper,  and garlic.”   “Great,  let me write that down.”)

Please understand,  it’s not that I don’t love having friends and family around the table enjoying the food and the companionship,  and when the meal is especially good,  of course I savor the compliments.  And sometimes the food is really good,  as I’ve mastered a few good dishes over the years  – like my famous Hungarian stuffed peppers and my potato latkes.   (See Comfort Food for Renee , Third Degree Burn)   And I even have a secret for making great chicken soup  – add a tomato!

But the truth is I don’t like to cook,  and other than my few old  standbys,  I’m not really good at it.   (See Hermine’s Morning Joe,  Cooking with Gas)

In fact my cooking aversion has been a major bone of contention between me and my husband.  He’d often call me at work to ask   “What have you planned for dinner tonight?”,  and I never seemed to have a ready answer.   When I’d get home I’d pull something out of the freezer and throw it on the stove.

And early in our marriage on nights when my husband wouldn’t be home for dinner,  or was out-of-town on business,   I’d never cook just for myself.   At a coffee shop with a sandwich and the Times crossword puzzle or a book propped against the sugar shaker;  or at home with a bowl of cereal or a cup of yogurt suited me fine.    And after my son was born,  when my husband was away I’d feed the kid whatever was handy.

One night when he was about 5,  I made him a  baloney,  lettuce, and tomato sandwich.   He looked down at his plate and up at me and said,  “I want hot food!”   And by the way with no thanks to me,   he later became a creative and confident cook.   (See Reading with Hattie, Baking with Julia).

Then when the kid went off to college I announced to my husband that I was finished with cooking.  “Finished?”,   he said.  “You never started.”

But now after all those years,  we’ve finally overcome our mealtime bone of contention.  Now my husband asks me,  “Where do you want to go for dinner tonight?”

Dana Susan Lehrman 

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Cooking
Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    Perfect resolution, Dana. Although I did cook dinners for many, many, many years, I don’t fuss much these days. As long as we sit down together and eat something not awful, my husband and I are content.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Funny that Noah insisted on a hot meal! My kids weren’t that fussy, thank goodness. And as I describe, when Dan retired, I did too. But we both live in metropolitan areas where it is easy to go out to dinner. I’m all for it.

  3. Suzy says:

    Dana, we share having fathers with their medical offices at home. I can’t remember if my father ever had office hours in the evening. But if he had, we would have adjusted our mealtime accordingly, as your family did, so we could all eat together.

    I’m not much of a cook either, and have been fortunate to have husbands who cooked. I love that Noah said “I want hot food!” And then grew up to be a foodie and a cook. Sounds like he benefited from the experience!

    • Wow Suzy, you may be right that the best way the kid could get good food was to learn to cook himself!

      And you’re lucky indeed that your husband cooks, it’s not the case here I’m afraid except for guacamole – the one thing my husband likes to make, strangely enough!

  4. Marian says:

    I hear you, Dana, not being much of a cook either. We are fortunate that our California weather supports a lot of al fresco dining, although I like my bigger meal at lunch given the choice.

  5. Dave Ventre says:

    I think I remember more of our meals out than in!

  6. John Shutkin says:

    I am so glad that you are not defensive about your lack of cooking skills, Dana. I know a lot of our peers — yes, I’m afraid, principally women — who are. And I am equally glad that you and your husband now have a perfect resolution. It reminds me of the old joke: “What do you make for dinner?” “I make reservations.”

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    Fortunately I think the days where women are assumed to be responsible for all the cooking are fading—the resolution of eating (or ordering) out brought a smile though. Like you, I am indifferent about cooking, and left on my own resort to grazing on simple foods, but am a very appreciative eater for those who like to cook.

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