Publication:

South Shore Breaker - 2021-11-24

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They don’t call me the food whisperer for nothing

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COLLEEN LANDRY

I could never be a survivalist/ doomsday prepper. Although I admire their commitment to buying in bulk to prepare for tragedies like mudslides, hurricanes, the apocalypse and a power outage during the finale of This is Us, I'm simply no good at stockpiling. In fact, I'm a minimalist at heart. I buy just enough of everything - and food is no exception, unless of course it's chocolate or shiraz. Those I buy in bulk and store underneath my (tongue) pillow just in case I need them in a pinch at 4 a.m. When our sons were teenagers, it was hard to be a minimalist because if food was scarce, they'd slather ketchup on the couch legs and eat those. I had no choice but to try to stockpile, but they'd often trample me before I could even unload the groceries from the trunk. I was heavily sedated in my 40s so my memory might be fuzzy but I'm quite sure for the better part of that decade, all I did was buy food … and selfmedicate. Did I mention that already? After our beloved boys moved out, I missed them terribly, but worse, I missed the predictable torture of meal planning. I didn't know how much food to buy anymore. After a few grocery runs and the constant stench of rotting food, it became clear that it hadn't been me consuming 14 litres of milk, seven dozen eggs and a herd of cattle each week. Who knew? Finally, I eliminated those and other items from my list and got it down to a science— a loaf of sourdough bread, a block of cheddar cheese, a bag of individually wrapped dark chocolates, espresso and a crate of shiraz. Everything was perfect, until I noticed my husband writhing around on the floor pointing dramatically at his mouth. Shoot. In the excitement of having fewer people to feed, I'd overlooked his dietary needs and his desire to stay alive. Once again, I adjusted my grocery haul, this time to include a few staples for him - red meat and cookies. Within minutes of watching him double-fist a 45-ounce prime rib and a sleeve of Oreos, his colour and weak pulse returned. They don't call me the food whisperer for nothing! I had finally mastered meal prep again and had whittled my weekly and reviled grocery run down to 15 minutes (not to brag but I could do it blindfolded while in a light coma). Everything was right with the world. Until disaster hit. Thanks to living in a COVID-19 ‘circuit breaker', Phil couldn't leave our zone for work, which he normally does a few days each week. On a Sunday evening, long after my groceries and earmarking were done, he said, “I'm working from home next week.” It was his nonchalance that struck me — like red meat and cookies would just fall from the sky. Sure, it would be lovely to have his company, but what about meals? My head was spinning. No way was I going back to Sobeys. I'd just have to elevate my earmarking game. This called for Little House on the Prairie rationing. I knew we were in trouble on Day 1. I had packed leftovers for Phil's lunches from a turkey dinner I'd slaved over the previous day. They were supposed to last him until Wednesday. At supper time that evening, we both spied the three earmarked containers in the fridge. I suggested he proceed with caution, “Maybe just have only one tonight, k?” He ignored my advice, “Nah. I'm starving. I'll have them all. Mmmmm...this looks great, hon. Thanks!” How dare he insult me like that? I'd had the entire week's meals planned in my head and every last one of them involved turkey. On Thursday, I happened to not be home at lunch time. I knew he would be rummaging through the fridge so I sent him a text to guide his lunch choices. “Please don't eat the bonedry, moldy turkey I'm using for hot turkey sandwiches tonight. There are some OXO cubes in the pantry you can mix with water, though. Enjoy!” By Friday, he was pale, listless and slathering ketchup on the couch legs. What did I do to deserve such disrespect? As I held his weak head in my hands and wiped the ketchup and splinters from the corners of his mouth, I tried to explain, “I just wasn't expecting company this week, honey. I hope you're here next week but I need to know before I get groceries. Will you be?” He was unresponsive except for his left eyelid, which fluttered ever so slightly. I took that as a ‘yes' and hightailed it to Sobeys to get ‘just enough' food for following week. While I was there, I replenished my chocolate and shiraz stash in the event that I wake up in a cold sweat from an earmarking nightmare at 4 a.m. Colleen Landry is a high school writing teacher, author of humour book Miss Nackawic Meets Midlife and co-author of the Camelia Airheart children’s adventure series. She and her husband are empty nesters in Moncton, N.B. Their two grown sons have ditched them for wider horizons. She is filling the void with Netflix, dark chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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