At Least I Buy Fresh Fruit…

I’ve never thought of myself as a domestic diva, but I think I’m at least a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, between “Barely Knows How To Boil Water” and “While Homemade Bread is Baking In Perfectly Cleaned Oven, She Hand-Paints Her Own Gift Wrap And Coordinating Tags On A Table She’s Refinished All By Herself.”  I mean I did major in journalism and Home Economics.  I was in 4-H for six years as a teenager, sewing and cooking up blue ribbons at the Des Moines County Fair (seriously—stop laughing!!). Once, about a dozen years ago when hosting an Easter dinner for 10, I put 10 fuzzy, jelly bean-sized fake yellow chicks in the doorway of 10 miniature birdhouses and carefully placed a tiny strip of paper into each beak, bearing each guest’s name, as a place marker.  I know how to channel my inner Martha Stewart or Julia Child.  And yet, with a French exchange student living in our house, I’m starting to notice things that would make Julia turn over in her grave.


It started when another French AFS student came over after school one day for a visit with Cleo, our French student.  Cleo was fixing a snack and showing her friend what we call our “spray-on butter”.  “Look, they have butter spray!” Cleo remarked in her broken English, holding up the yellow plastic bottle.  The other girl marveled, but I couldn’t tell if it was in disgust or admiration.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! is neither butter nor anything else that comes from a cow, for fear they’d be disgusted for sure.  I mean, isn’t the word “gourmet” a French word? Didn’t the French invent the art of fine dining? (And isn’t real butter, lots of it, a mainstay of that dining?)


Since then, I’ve noticed other ways our domestic style might be seen as “less than fine”.  I use a wet Swiffer to mop the tile floors and disposable dust rags for the furniture.  Thanks to evening meetings for Andy and/or me, we pick up Subway’s $2.49 Sub of the Day for everyone at least one night each week, and take-out fried chicken with macaroni and cheese if there’s a second busy night.  “Your dinner’s in the fridge, just grab it whenever you’re hungry!” I tell the kids.  We each have our own “special” drinking glass that we rinse and re-use to avoid filling up the dishwasher every day with a zillion different glasses (Andy’s has a holographic image of Van Halen on it; Emmie’s is a giant lime green plastic ice cream cone…).  We scramble our eggs in the microwave.  Bake muffins from a boxed mix and scones from a refrigerated tube.  Use canned, diced tomatoes in many recipes instead of fresh.  Buy lots of quick-fix frozen foods, like Lean Pockets, vegetables, dinner rolls, pizza…

Are we just a bunch of crass Americans? No, just busy Americans. 
But at least we sit down together for a meal several nights each week, even if we don’t get started until 8 p.m. And if that means cutting corners in order to make it happen, well then bring on the instant mashed potatoes. I’d much rather be that kind of a family than the one described to me by a long-time acquaintance a couple months ago—she told me she can’t even remember what year her family was all together for a meal other than on holidays.  And I think I understood Cleo’s words enough to learn that her family members are often on their own when it comes to meals as well.  So, even though my family and I are not “gourmands”, hopefully she enjoys the camaraderie of our family dinners.


Which reminds me—I have silver napkin holders in which you can insert a photo, or name card. I need to personalize one for Cleo. And since the first day of autumn was yesterday, maybe I’ll make a table centerpiece of tiny pumpkins and dried gourds while I’m at it…with a nutmeg-scented candle…and maybe a few acorns…

One thought on “At Least I Buy Fresh Fruit…”

  1. Loved the post! It resonated with me on so many levels. I often wonder what I will fix for my children if ever Ryan’s not home to make dinner. Probably fish sticks and mac-n-cheese. A staple at my house growing up. Don’t forget the “special sauce”! (ketchup & maynaise mixed together) Such a nostalgic meal for me!

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