Otto called me over to the couch, a little while ago, and I sat down next to him for a moment or two. Then I went a little slanty and finally figured, what the hell, and lay down with my head on his leg. I’m tired, and his leg is a pretty good pillow.
“Thanks for dinner,” he said, running his fingers through my hair and making me sleepy.
“No problem,” I replied.
And then we both burst out laughing.
Yesterday we had take-out Chinese for dinner, and the night before that we ate leftover pizza. Tonight I wanted to make a nice home-cooked meal. Somehow I’d gotten it into my head last week that I wanted to make lasagna this week, so I picked up the noodles and the ricotta and a package of mozzarella. Today we had to run out for milk and juice and bread, and I bought some MORE mozzarella because I just wasn’t sure I’d bought enough, the first time.
Buying that package of cheese was the last moment wherein I believed I was going to make a lovely lasagna and dinner would be perfect.
It was the middle of the afternoon when I realized that I didn’t have enough sauce. I normally buy the stuff on sale and have jars upon jars in my pantry, so imagine my surprise to discover one lone jar wondering where everyone else went. Otto was headed out to do a few things, so I asked him to pick up another jar for me. No problem.
Then I decided that, hey, lasagna is SUCH a pain in the ass to assemble; I should probably make two and freeze one. There’s a reason I haven’t made it in years, after all. Why not capitalize on the work and the mess? Yes, good, I’ll do that. Hmmm. Ingredient check: I can make do with the sauce by adding canned, I have enough noodles and ricotta and eggs, plenty of parmesan, and… not enough mozzarella. Sonofabitch. Well let’s see here. I have some shredded cheese blend I can probably cheat with. Good. Close enough.
Shortly after the kids got home from school I went to brown the ground beef. Despite having been pulled from the freezer a day ago, it was still a frozen hunk, so I spent some time pushing it around and chiseling pieces off as it skidded around in my pan. That was delightful. Meanwhile, I boiled the noodles. When they were done I moved that pot to a back burner and left it there—water and all—figuring that if I didn’t drain the noodles, they wouldn’t get sticky.
My pot of noodles was sitting there innocently enough while I finished browning the meat, while I added the various sources of sauce, while I mixed up my gigantic bowl of ricotta/egg/spices/parmesan glop. It wasn’t until I decided to start assembling the lasagnas that I realized my fatal error.
I reached into the pot to extract the first noodle, and pulled out…
No problem! I will simply heat up this pot of water and noodles again, and the noodles will magically separate!
Hi, my name is Mir, and I am delusional when it comes to the cement-like properties of pasta.
Heating the mess was useful in that now I had justification for the profanities that began issuing forth from my mouth, because in addition to having a nasty ball of congealed starch to contend with, at least now I was burning my fingers every time I tried to handle it. FANFUCKINGTASTIC!
This was where I started slamming things around and Otto started looking sort of concerned. He offered to help and I snarled something at him about how there was NO HELP POSSIBLE and finally when I told him to PLEASE STOP LOOKING AT ME he wisely chose to spot something very interesting in the other room.
I dumped the noodle mass onto a plate and began pulling pieces apart and piecing them together in the pans as best I could. I’d managed to get a reasonably solid layer of pasta on the bottom of each of my pans when I realized I’d forgotten to put down the initial layer of sauce.
And that’s when I started throwing noodles. They stuck to everything, of course. The floors, the walls; I found one inside a clean glass after dinner. Oops.
Otto returned to talk me off the ledge, and after a bit of deep breathing I quickly assembled two of the ugliest lasagnas you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Of course, trauma struck twice while I was doing it.
First, I RAN OUT OF NOODLES. Or, to be more precise: I was down to just the wavy little edges—noodle bones, if you will—and I still needed to complete two top layers. I banged through my pantry and found a few Ronzoni “no precooking needed” noodles (see, I never use the noodles that need to be pre-boiled, hence my confusion with the whole ordeal). “THIS lasagna which we eat tonight,” I announced to no one in particular, “Shall be GOURMET with TWO KINDS of noodles!” I topped the first one with the Ronzoni noodles. “And THIS lasagna,” I continued, “Shall be very ugly!” And I sprinkled it with the wavy noodle bones and topped it with cheese.
Second, Chickadee wandered into the kitchen and began complaining about the food preparation she saw. Of course it fills any mother’s heart with joy when her offspring COMPLAIN about a nice meal which she is going to great lengths to prepare for them, anyway, but she’s my GOOD eater. It was more than I could bear, at that moment, with my singed fingers and my noodle scraps, and I don’t know what I said (other than my standard, “And what did YOU make for dinner?”) but I doubt it was nice.
As I pulled out the aluminum foil, Otto came up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. “Put that one in the oven and give me that one to put down in the freezer, and then you and I are going to go sit down and you are going to have a little quiet time to decompress,” he said. I followed directions and a minute later we were sitting in my gigantic comfy chair in the living room, in front of the Christmas tree.
“Mom! I—” Chickadee bounded into the living room and hopped up into the chair with us, but Otto interrupted her.
“No talking right now. Your Mom needs some quiet time for a minute.” I began to giggle in spite of myself.
“Why do you need quiet time? What’s so funny?”
“I’m having a time-out,” I managed, before the giggles escalated. Otto began to laugh. Chickadee grinned but wanted in on the joke.
“Why are you having a time-out?”
“I threw noodles. I need a time-out.” More giggles.
“You did not. What did you do, really?”
“Otto, did I throw noodles?”
“Yes, you most certainly did throw noodles. You need a time-out.” Chickadee perched on our legs, looking back and forth between our faces for one of us to give away the truth. Finally content that she’d heard the story, she snuggled down into my lap.
“Mama, you should not throw noodles,” she intoned.
“You’re right. I’m a bad girl.”
Later on, Chickadee felt it necessary to share this with her dad on the phone, so I had to explain to my ex that yes, I threw noodles. Not AT anyone. I’m sure he wrote it down somewhere, and should I ever need to defend my parenting in a court of law, I will have to say: Your Honor, I cannot tell a lie. I threw noodles. But they were VERY NAUGHTY. And then I had a time-out, so I think it was okay.
The lasagna wasn’t much to look at, but it tasted fine. Monkey dipped his sleeve into his, twice, and Chickadee got some in her hair. I spent most of dinner telling them to take their elbows off the table, stop talking and eat, and to please stop acting as if they’d been raised by wolves. Which is to say, it was an utterly typical dinner.
Which is why when Otto said thanks for dinner, I answered, “No problem.”